Monday, June 04, 2007

The Pokhran test of 1974 and other issues

I was surfing the disreputable forum and I found a reference to the first test of the PNE at Pokhran in 1974.

The PNE was an implosion device made with Pu separated from research reactors at Trombay.

We did not "enrich" Plutonium, i.e. separate Pu-239 from Pu-240. This was technologically beyond our (or anyone else's) capability at the time.

The American anger over India's actions stems mostly from the manner in which India defies American authority in a highly studied fashion.

It is vital that all Indians understand that Americans want to be on top of the world. They have trouble conceptualising America as "just another nation".

One of the things that sets the US apart in the community of nations, tragically is that it is the only nation that has actually used nuclear weapons. At the time that American policymakers decided to use the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were keen to end the war with Japan on their terms. In a rush of short term thinking they neglected to fully comprehend the long term consequences of their action.

There were two unavoidable consequences of the American decision to use the nuclear bomb.

Firstly, the Americans showed the world that the power of the Atom could be repeatably unleashed to cause destruction on an unimaginable scale. This was the biggest and greatest of secrets and releasing it to mankind meant that everyone across the world would see attempt to duplicate it. Proliferation was born on that terrible instant.

Secondly, the Americans proved that you could actually use Atomic weapons. You could actually come up with a set of justifications and quite naturally convince even the sanest of men and women that the use of such a terrible weapon was inevitable.

After 1945, the American national security psyche was dominated by an invisible fear: the fear that the aforementioned realities that they had themselves demonstrated would be used to harm America.

To hedge against the possibility of a nuclear armed state using the weapon on a US target, the US invested heavily in the philosophy of deterrence. Using its access to carbon fuels, it refined large quantities of Uranium and Plutonium and made them into bombs. Any nation that threatened to use these weapons against the US would face the prospect of assured and unacceptable retaliation.

The American idea of assured and unacceptable retaliation relied on a numerical calculation. This was understandable as technology was primitive and one could not guarentee that a bomb would actually make to the target and there was always some possibility of failure and the US had to be able to project nuclear force in numbers that the adversary would find sufficiently scary. In order to deter a nation with 10 nuclear weapons the US would require atleast 100 of its own. If there were a 100 nations with 10 nuclear weapons each, the US would need atleast a 10000 weapons to deter them all. This automatically generated a cap on the number of nations that would have nuclear weapons as the US could not be expected to economically sustain an ever expanding arsenal.

The only way to effectively build a barrier to states weaponising was to control the flow of nuclear technology itself - even the peaceful variety as all technology is essentially fungible. The only way to control the size of the arsenals of percieved adversaries was to push for control over fissile material.

It is impossible to craft such a global order without a systematic effort to seize the moral leadership of the world.

However, if you use nuclear weapons to destory a city (a "mixed target" as the committee called it), to kill innocent women and children as they sleep in their beds, it becomes nearly impossible for your claim of moral leadership to have any credibility.

In order to make your claim seem credible you have to put on an elaborate show of how you are serious about being the moral leaders of this world. You have to put on a fairly loud racket that makes people forget what you really did in the past and focus on what you want them to do in the future.

People like Mahatma Gandhi, the masters of "moralpolitik", saw through this show instantly and they weren't going to forget anything.

It is this aspect of India, the way in which it very delicately and implicitly with the barest of exertions holds out a challenge to the US's claims of moral leadership in the nuclear arena, that angers the US the most.

All the economic justifications of this matter are completely orthogonal to the moral aspects of this. I would even argue that the almost unbearable dependence on carbon fuels is a consequence of the single minded pursuit of this moral agenda.


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