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The Military

Submission + - Could Terrorists Get Hold of a Nuclear Bomb? 2

Hugh Pickens writes: "BBC reports that Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former investigator with the CIA and the DOE who led US efforts to determine whether al-Qaeda possessed a nuclear bomb in the wake of 9/11, says there are three headlines that keep him awake at night: Pakistani 'loose nukes' in the hands of terrorists, North Korea supplies terrorists with nuclear bombs, and Al-Qaeda launches nuclear attack. While the good news is that Mowatt-Larssen thinks "the odds are stacked against" terrorists acquiring a nuclear bomb, the low probability has to be weighed against the awfulness of the consequences. In Mowatt-Larssen's view, there is "a greater possibility of a nuclear meltdown in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world" because the region has more violent extremists than any other, the country is unstable, and its arsenal of nuclear weapons is expanding. While Mowatt-Larssen says the possibility of a Taliban takeover is a "worst-case scenario," Al-Qaeda's experience on the nuclear black market has taught its planners that its best chance lies in constructing an "improvised nuclear device (IND)," using a quantity of plutonium or 25kg- to 50kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU), the size of one or two grapefruits. HEU is held in hundreds of buildings in dozens of countries. "Security measures for many of these stocks are excellent, but security for others is appalling," according to a report published in 2008 by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and there is no global inventory of either material, so no-one can be sure how much has gone missing over the years. "It is a stark and worrying fact, therefore, that nuclear materials and weapons around the world are not as secure as they should be," writes Ian Kearns, Research Director of the British-American Security Information Council, adding that the future of nuclear security hangs on this week's summit in Washington."

Comment Re:The fun is in the simplicity (Score 1) 322

When you're playing competitively, the moment you have a significant skill imbalance the fun disappears.

Not necessarily. In fact, in many online games, I quite enjoy playing against "the pros" every once in a while. Sure, I may get blown to pieces, but by carefully watching how my enemy manages to outskill me, I learn, and that's easily one of the most important aspects of competitive gaming.

Comment Re:Largest Nuclear Disaster? (Score 1) 413

In any case, both cities are off limits to non-Muslims, so it's not like any innocent people would be killed.

I'm not exactly someone with a positive conception of Islam, but to say all Muslims are guilty of the acts committed by a few is as much as a fallacy as calling all Christians responsible for the acts of the Branch Davidians, the Lord's Resistance Army or various Irish terrorist groups.

Comment Re:If not China, why US? (Score 1) 445

Perhaps it's because the US isn't bent on bent on eliminating every kind of internal resistance? You know, US operatives might be employing morally questionable methods every now and then, and there may be accounts of US soldiers breaking the law - but their intent is still to fight terrorism, not to smash peaceful, democratic dissent.

Comment Re:Video (Score 1) 1671

A better solution, given that they did have ground assets in the area at the time (as evidenced by the arrival of a group of IFVs shortly after the engagement) would have been to let the ground forces intercept the van. They have the option of stopping it without killing the people inside.

Remember though, this incident occurred 3 years ago - back then, intercepting the van might not have been possible without seriously endangering the lives of allied troops or civilian. I generally agree with you, but if trying to deal with it peacefully places more lives at risk than those of the presumed insurgents, finishing the job might be a better idea.

Comment Re:1 American life 100 non-Americans (Score 1) 1671

And remote drone stuff is basically video games turned real - you are not in the shit so it doesn't affect you *nearly* as much.

On the other hand, UAVs also have their benefits. You know you won't die if your drone gets shot down, so you can take a risk and identify your targets instead of engaging everything that looks hostile just to make sure they won't engage you first.

Comment Re:Video (Score 1) 1671

Then they were wrong - but then again, what can you expect from conscript training.

The types of .50 BMG fired by anti-materiel rifles tend to be outlawed by the St. Petersburg Declaration, which restricts the use of incendiary and explosive ammunition below a certain size against human targets. Your country might have signed it, but the US hasn't, so for them, it's perfectly legal to use their M82s against human targets.

Comment Re:Video (Score 1) 1671

And there was no excuse for blowing away the minivan trying to carry off the wounded survivor.

Yes, there was. "Better safe than sorry" - once recovered, the guy would likely have been fighting US troops once again. This isn't a regular war where professional soldiers are fighting each other; this is a group of terrorists and insurgents targeting lawful combatants as well as civilians with everything they've got, at every opportunity.

Comment Re:Video (Score 1) 1671

There are also maximum calibers on guns allowed to fire on human targets, above which the gun is classified supposed to be fired at vehicles and equipment.

Wrong.

The controversy over certain types of anti-materiel rounds occurs due to the fact that some of them contain explosive and incendiary components, which are outlawed under the St. Petersburg Declaration (which deals with explosive and incendiary ammunition - and which the US did not sign). It's perfectly legit to fire ammunition of any size at human targets.

Comment Re:Video (Score 1) 1671

[Citation please]?

30mm rounds are perfectly legit to use against human targets. So are .50 BMG and other types of anti-materiel ammunition. The Geneva Convention (which, by the way, only is in effect in conflicts in which both parties have signed it - and the insurgents certainly haven't) does not outlaw using disproportionate force, and neither does it limit the size of bullets.

Comment Re:Video (Score 1) 1671

Strangely though, I don't see anything wrong with the video (and yes, I've watched it).

The video shows a group of clearly armed men (don't just look at the people with the arrows pointing at them) apparently being accompanied by two guys carrying unidentified black objects (which later turned out to be cameras). One of them was setting up an RPG launcher. The soldiers did exactly what they were supposed to do - they engaged the insurgents. It may be a tragedy that the two journalists got killed, but remember, they weren't held hostage - they were voluntarily accompanying insurgents, and that they got shot was solely their fault. War's a dirty business, there's nothing you can do against that.

I agree though that the treatment of both Reuters and the Wikileaks editor wasn't right - they should have taken responsibility for the two dead journalists and approved the FIA request. It's not like national security's on the line, here.

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