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Belmont Club

Deterrence and Bouncing Checks

April 8th, 2014 - 2:36 pm

James Perkovich writes in the National Interest that president Obama’s plan for a Nuclear Zero may even be more attractive after the Crimea.  While conventional wisdom holds that America’s retreat in the Crimea may induce other countries to arm themselves with nuclear weapons out of doubt for the American deterrent, Perkovich says that the crisis shows how subtly prescient Obama’s policy is. Aren’t we glad there are no sabers to rattle? he asks. For saber rattling must eventually mean the sabers will be crossed; just because deterrence worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the future. He writes:

unlike many of his opponents, the president and his supporters remember that deterrence is not fail-proof—otherwise it would not work. The weapons deter because they could be used, and any use could escalate to mass destruction. Even if deterrence is stable between the U.S. and Russia, it may have a higher probability of failure between less experienced pairs or, more ominously, groups of nuclear-armed states. As the eminent nuclear strategist Sir Lawrence Freedman put it several years ago: “The case for abolition…is that it is hard to believe that the past 60 years of self-restraint can continue for the next 60 years.”

But at least one group of allies may disagree with the case for abolition. The New York Times writes that Japanese are worried about the US response in Crimea.

When President Bill Clinton signed a 1994 agreement promising to “respect” the territorial integrity of Ukraine if it gave up its nuclear weapons, there was little thought then of how that obscure diplomatic pact – called the Budapest Memorandum – might affect the long-running defense partnership between the United States and Japan.

But now, as American officials have distanced themselves from the Budapest Memorandum in light of Russia’s takeover of Crimea, calling promises made in Budapest “nonbinding,” the United States is being forced at the same time to make reassurances in Asia. Japanese officials, a senior American military official said, “keep asking, ‘Are you going to do the same thing to us when something happens?’

The other group of people who seem to disagree with Perkovich are the Russians. The Washington Free Beacon reports that the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) warned Congress that Russia has been engaged in a nuclear buildup for more than a decade.  If the nukes are so useless then why is Putin building more of them even as Obama builds down?

“Russia has maintained and continues to modernize their strategic deterrent capability,” Adm. Cecil Haney, the Stratcom commander told the House Armed Services Committee. …

State Department cables sent to Washington earlier this year included dire warnings that Russia is vastly increasing its nuclear arsenal under policies similar to those Moscow followed during the Soviet era.

The cables, according to officials familiar with them, also stated that the Russian strategic nuclear forces buildup appears aimed at achieving nuclear superiority over the United States and not nuclear parity.

The nuclear modernization has been “continuous” and includes adding fixed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and mobile ICBMs, along with a new class of strategic missile submarines, Haney said in testimony….

By contrast, Haney testified to the committee that U.S. nuclear forces are in urgent need of modernization to update aging nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and support and production infrastructure, most of which were made decades ago.

“Under budget sequestration, which could be re-imposed in 2016, U.S. nuclear force modernization will be undermined,” the Free Beacon added.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
The number of nuclear weapons and launchers we need to have is a combination of factors.

1) There are a number of targeting strategies that we have to execute. Are we going to just go for destroying their targets of value? That takes a certain number. However, there is also the matter of their launch silos, and their nature. We "hot launch". You fire the missile in the silo, it takes months of rebuilding before it can be used again because the engine ignites in the silo. The Russians "cold launch" from their silos using a blast of gas to launch the missile out of the silo before the engine ignites. They can be reloaded and relaunched in the time between their first launch, the impact of their attack, and the launch and flight time of our retaliatory strike from amongst our surviving missiles. We have watched them do it.

2) Our doctrine is not to launch on warning, but only to launch on attack. We have had too many false alarms that could have led to WW-III if we did launch on warning. That means that the Russian silos are legitimate targets to limit the number of warheads heading for our country. That affects the number that constitutes "enough".

3) Add in that both of our countries have defensive systems. We do not know how effective they will be, but the Russians were working on SDI before we were. So we have to have enough to account for that, and we don't know which of our missiles, aimed at which target, will be intercepted. This requires multiple warheads for the critical targets.

4) Then there is the matter of the possibility of having to deal with China simultaneously. Similar factors, albeit their SDI is behind ours; aggravated by the fact that their missiles are on TEL's dug into tunnels in the mountains. There very well could be more than one TEL, or reload missiles, in those tunnels.

There certainly is a number that we can consider to be sufficient, given those factors. The calculation of such is for other venues than this. The fact is that both Russia and China have been building steadily [and Russia never really has followed the terms of the arms control agreements]. We have been cutting steadily. Which carries a pretty strong implication that we are well below that number, and further cuts may not be the best of ideas.

YMMV

Subotai Bahadur
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
"unlike many of his opponents, the president and his supporters remember that deterrence is not fail-proof—otherwise it would not work. The weapons deter because they could be used, and any use could escalate to mass destruction." - James Perkovich

"fail-proof": This is a simple logical fallacy (straw man). No one ever claimed that Nuclear deterrent was infallible. Moreover, the fallibility of any deterrent is the reason for "defense in depth". Tactical and Strategic systems are interlocking rings. Reducing America's nuclear arsenal reduces the design margin of ALL defensive system.

When Obama downsizes anything defensive, he's exposed America to greater risk of external attack, and with nukes, the loss of the entire American civilization.

I don't want to bother looking up Mr. Perkovich, but I suspect that he is the quality of intellect now standard in the Obama White House. Therein lies America's foremost national security threat.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Even absent the Obama-era wobbliness of US assurances of protection and friendship, it would appear to be sensible for the Japanese to develop their own nuclear capability.

They already have the ability to defend themselves conventionally against China and other likely threats (North Korea) or, probably, Russia. They could in fact throttle China and subject it to blockade -- their blue water navy is probably the 2nd most powerful in the world. Its only conventional weakness is a relatively easily remedied lack of real carriers, (the Izumo class is progress, though). Still, all of the aforementioned powers have nuclear escalation dominance, and the American umbrella (likely to be folded in a crisis involving Japan only) simply cannot be counted on.

In any case, I don't see how they can reasonably delay going nuclear much longer.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (89)
All Comments   (89)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
‘Are you going to do the same thing to us when something happens?’

Yes.
20 weeks ago
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Miraculous survival after being sucked into an A-6!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GF3Iz7b95-8
20 weeks ago
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That's a code in the new IC-10 too - "Sucked into a Jet Engine."
20 weeks ago
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The discussion below about Japan needing to nuke up raises an interesting question about the nature of deterrence: the credibility of the threat to pull the trigger.

The Cold War was essentially what was called in happier, less Politically Correct times a Mexican Stand-Off -- two guys pointing loaded guns at each other's heads. Not a happy situation, but it is stable as long as each of the guys believes (1) that the other guy really does have a loaded gun pointed at him and is willing to use it, and (2) that he himself must maintain an obvious very high state of readiness to pull the trigger if there is a twitch from the other side.

OK -- so a nuke goes off in East Side of New York. We all know what Barry Soetero's response will be -- reschedule his fund-raisers away from New York to Los Angeles. That is it. The Fascist Political Class in the US does not have the balls to react.

What about the Japanese? Even if Japan had a nuclear aresenal (which we all agree is well within their technical capability), what would be their response if the Chinese dropped a nuke on Hiroshima as a warning and demand that the Japanese disarm and submit to Chinese rule? Probably the modern Japanese would fall into line. It is doubtful that the modern Japanese have any more will to stand up than the Fascist Obaminoids.

Modern Germans are so devoid of backbone that a tsunami in Japan led them to close down perfectly safe nuclear power plants in Germany -- a country which has not seen a tsunami since the great Ice Sheets retreated. Germany too has the same self-indulgent Fascist Political Class which lacks the gumption for credible deterence, event though Germany has the technical capability to nuke up at any point.

Bottom line - deterrence is no longer a credible option for the West. We are living in a very risky period of history. Time is not on anyone's side -- with China & Russia facing demographic decline, and most governments around the world imminently facing the consequences of their financial idiocy. It is unfortunate that we face this with Europe being worthlessly useless and the US Fascist Political Class desperately aping the EUnuchs.
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20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
A classic Mexican Standoff us a three player game. Each is armed the same and wants to kill the other two. It that scenario whomever fires will lose because the third player will kill the shooter leaving him the only survivor.

The Cold War was a two player game. It is possible to kill the enemy and win the game by firing first, in theory. What happened was a system whereby neither side could do that with enough assurance.

20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Cold War was a two player game. It is possible to kill the enemy and win the game by firing first, in theory.

It's not that simple. You also need MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) in your metaphor, especially if you are reluctant to take the first shot as the USA always was.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is interesting that in America, the cream rises to the top. You ought to read My Share of the Task by Gen. Stanley McChrystal

http://www.amazon.com/Share-Task-General-Stanley-McChrystal/dp/159184682X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397073987&sr=1-1&keywords=stanley+mcchrystal

I saw him talk about it on Pritzker Military Library Presents. And of course, the late Osama bin Laden would recognize his name.
20 weeks ago
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It is interesting that in America, the cream rises to the top.

Not always. Case in point: Obama. Only a Marxist would consider HIM to be cream.
20 weeks ago
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So cynical.
Why must you dwell in reality?
20 weeks ago
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Regarding the top rated comments above, reading RWE's description of not only the weapons decommissioned, but all the related infrastructure including demolishing the silos brought to mind a picture of an anxious child going out of it's way trying to please a feared authority figure.

Calling Buddy: I've forgotten the "it's" rule already, which make me anxious.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Calling Buddy: I've forgotten the "it's" rule already, which make me anxious.

I'm not Buddy so forgive me for jumping in but I may be able to explain this in a way that you will remember. "It's" ALWAYS means "It is". If you write "it's" and could replace it with "it is" and the sentence would still make sense, you've done it correctly. Examples:

"It's Thursday today." => "It is Thursday today". => Bingo, you've done it correctly.

"A tree is known by it's fruit" => "A tree is known by it is fruit." => Oops, that doesn't make sense so you need "its", not "it's" in that case. The correct sentence is "A tree is known by its fruit".

20 weeks ago
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Check. Maybe Doug will retain your lesson better than he did mine. Your example would be more effective, tho, if you said "A tree is known by it is coconut", et cetera and so forth.
20 weeks ago
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One thing I never thought about until reading something recently is the massive skill and knowledge base the US Navy has accumulated over time regarding Aircraft Carrier Operations, which the Chinese lack except for all the info they've stolen.

Any comments on this subject by anyone knowledgeable in this field would be appreciated.
20 weeks ago
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They don't know how to do this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOgrcuJVy-s

P.S. Always use 'its' without the apostrophe, unless you mean "it is". If you mean "it is", spell it all the way out. Then you will never need to use "it's" again.
20 weeks ago
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What are the disadvantages of the upturned decks on Russian Carriers?
20 weeks ago
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Retrieval flexibility
20 weeks ago
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Wow, that video is incredible!
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the helpful suggestion, I'll revisit it when I'm sober and will remember.

...if this is a repeat post, blame the Great PJ Robot God, not me.
I'm not totally disabled.
yet
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
The crippled genius of the internets:

"The pilot was cheeting on the cat launchers wife, so when the carryer was going down a wave, he fired him hoping it would kill him, will did dint and he came out the other side and the cat launcher was emedetly evacuated because the pilot radeoed, get his ass out of here befor i land and kill him."

20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Back when I was working at Grumman, we had a weekly meeting of all the newbies with the various departments. So one week it was Thermodynamics (my department). The Thermo guys got all the oddball assignments. One of them was ejection seats. So the Big Guys told us about the drag truck they had built to test the seats at takeoff velocity. It had two engines, one for torque and the other a Chrysler Hemi for speed. They'd take it out to the Calverton runway and send it down the strip like a giant sized Little Red Wagon (Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC5A-WgUKLE&feature=youtu.be&t=1m ) except it shot off the seat as it crossed the finish line! How's that for a show??

They also talked about a plane crew chief who forgot to lock down the ejection seat in an A-6. So they got a partial ejection.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6DQEPIWLFc

The plane's crew had a serious discussion with that crew chief when they landed back aboard! Your quotation is close to fact, "get his ass out of here befor i land and kill him."
20 weeks ago
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Good thing Gallagher was a hardy sort.

http://www.gallagher.com/ejection_seat/

Parachute deployed and wrapped around the tail!
20 weeks ago
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"At 200 knots I saw his arms pulled up in front of his face and he was clawing behind his head. For a moment, I thought he was going to manage to pull the handle and get clear of the plane. I was mentally cheering for him. His arms got yanked down by the blast and I cursed as I checked my radio selector switch to radio 1.

"Mayday, Mayday, this is 515. My BN has partially ejected. I need an emergency pull-forward!"

The reply was an immediate, "Roger, switch button six." I switched freqs and said (or maybe yelled), "Boss (Air Officer), this is 515. My BN has partially ejected. I need an emergency pull-forward!"

First Radio Communication - LT Baden and the Boss (mp3 file, 14 seconds)

I slapped the gear handle down and turned all my dumps on (in an effort to get slower, max trap never crossed my mind).

The Boss came back in his ever-calm voice and said, "Bring it on in."
"
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Aircraft Geek Gold (although a bit heavy and long in "production value":
The 10 best fighter aircraft:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IudSJE-TLxk

...although I don't see how they rated the Mig-15 as a tie with the F-86.

I was surprised to learn the P-51 did not enter service until 1944!
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/357th_Fighter_Group

in combat Feb '44 thru April '45.

Nicknamed ''The Yoxford Boys'' --by Lord Haw-Haw, the Nazi Brit broadcasting from Germany across England.

125 P-51s, 1000 personnel --mission, 'air superiority/Europe'

Credited with 595 enemy aircraft downed air-to-air, 106 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
The reason you build a drag truck to certify the ejection seats at takeoff speed is so if you get a cold cat shot on an EA-6B, four men will survive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeZKyGDo5Io

China won't invest the money in their people like the USA will. To them, life is cheap.
20 weeks ago
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They should have a female Kamikaze Corps.

...or Corpse in SoetoroSpeak.
20 weeks ago
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Several informative comments, one sad:

"I was there also, I was with VAQ-135. that was one of our planes that took the cold cat. EA6B's don't have RIO's, they had ECMO's (electronic countermeasure officer) it was the pilot who died LT Mike Debart. the went into ECMO's 1 seat, partially decapitating him"

I did not know they had 4 crew...
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
O/T - Wretchard, you have good contacts with the Australian military. It seems that the AMSA may be getting close to finding the wreck of MH370.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/04/09/malaysia-plane-search-teams-relocate-signals-in-indian-ocean/

Duncan Steel has been doing great work on his website.

http://www.duncansteel.com/archives/621

You really ought to encourage them to contact him directly. He has some excellent questions in mind.

I don't know if they have reached out to informed civilians, such as Duncan Steel. There seems to be a lot of cloak and dagger insider hubris.

Then again, maybe there is too much skepticism on our part. After participating in the comments on his site, I got a strange text to call a woman with an Ascension Island phone number. It has the feel of a honey trap, and with all the scams on the internet, it seems fishy.

But then again, wouldn't the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) be the kind of outfit to have people on a lonely island in the middle of the South Atlantic? And aren't they the filter between Inmarsat and the AMSA investigation?

Does she work at Wideawake Airfield http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascension_Island_Base or Cat Hill http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_Hill,_Ascension_Island perhaps?

Does she want to talk about the differences between great circle routes and rhumb lines? Who knows? Not me.

I will say this, if they have found the wreck, it is a near miracle, due to a lot of hard work.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here are some questions from Duncan Steel.

"If you would like to alert media (in Australia and elsewhere) to this website (plus other good ones like http://www.aqqa.org/ ) then that would be useful, perhaps, in getting appropriate questions asked.

For example, the media might be asking Houston:

(1) Why has there been no withdrawal of the definitive statement that the aircraft must have flown south and into the Indian Ocean now that it has been demonstrated that there is no leverage in the Inmarsat data to favour one direction over the other?

[Note, again, I am NOT saying that it went north; I am simply saying that the analysis that led to the announcement made by the Malaysian Government on 24/25 March was flawed]

2) Does any part of the Australian Government have direct access to the raw data from Inmarsat-3F1, or is it privy directly to the analysis done by Inmarsat’s engineers?

(3) Given that none of the analysis of the satellite-derived information has been done within Australia, why do you continue to work on the basis of the crumbs of information made available to you by your overseas sources (the UK AAIB and the US NTSB) rather than attempt your (Australia’s) own analysis of the satellite information?

(4) Why do you ignore the crowdsourced analyses of the possible aircraft routes, given that the people involved have demonstrated that they are able both to duplicate the Inmarsat results, and also have demonstrated that Inmarsat made errors in some aspects of their analyses?"

20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Japan will go nuclear in a weekend if they choose to do so. The Chinese have already noted their excess of plutonium from their nuclear power industry, a little tritium here and a little deuterium there and they will have no problem recreating a now 70 year-old science experiment. They have an independent space program, if you can orbit (and de-orbit) a several-hundred pound payload you have a Fractional-Orbit Bombardment System right now. The MIRVs and re-entry countermeasures will take a little longer, and solid-fuel missiles will take some testing, but they are on the nuclear board when they decide to be.

The only real impediment to Japan going nuclear is the same sort of impediment that keeps Israel from "taking care of" the Palestinian problem in the most direct means possible: once your people have been on the receiving end of the worst the 20th Century can dish out there seem to be social impediments to taking that path. The Israeli consciousness is shaped by the Holocaust, and to a similar extent the Japanese consciousness is shaped from being the host country for the first and only two nuclear weapons used in war.

Demographically, Japan may have no real option, it's not as if they have excess manpower in the military-aged male category to throw at an expansionist China. Call it the nuclear Maginot strategy if you will, but an Israel-sized nuclear deterrent force can wreck coastal China in the space of minutes. If they use IRBMs as an intermediate step and then go straight to hypersonic cruise missiles for delivery vehicles, they are a serious threat to China and Russia's Pacific assets, not to mention a serious deterrent to North Korean misadventures.

To CharlesWhite's point, they need to announce a nuclear force as a fait accompli or not at all, to do less is to invite a Chinese preemption. Whether they can do this in secret, during peacetime, in a democracy, in a country with a history of strong anti-nuclear sentiment is probably the most difficult hurdle to climb.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
"To Charles White's point, they need to announce a nuclear force as a fait accompli or not at all, to do less is to invite a Chinese preemption. Whether they can do this in secret, during peacetime, in a democracy, in a country with a history of strong anti-nuclear sentiment is probably the most difficult hurdle to climb."
---

Fukushima struck at an inopportune time. Not too hard to imagine a perhaps irrational prejudice against anything Nuclear in the Land of the Rising Sun.

A bit ironic given that historically their very mythic essence is Nuclear:

"Both Nippon and Nihon literally mean "the sun's origin", that is, where the sun originates,[1] and are often translated as the Land of the Rising Sun. This nomenclature comes from Imperial correspondence with the Chinese Sui Dynasty and refers to Japan's eastward position relative to China. Before Nihon came into official use, Japan was known as Wa (倭?) or Wakoku (倭国?).[2] Wa was a name early China used to refer to an ethnic group living in Japan around the time of the Three Kingdoms Period."
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've always found Japanese rituals of respect and modesty endearing, just as I enjoyed whoring our 6 year old son around back in the day when Japanese swarmed Hawaii.
They didn't hide their appreciation for his adorable little self much like we perhaps less openly appreciate adorable little Japanese.

Entertaining reading:
"prevalent proposals for Wa's etymology ranging from feasible (transcribing Japanese first-person pronouns waga 我が "my; our" and ware 我 "I; oneself; thou") to shameful (writing Japanese Wa as 倭 implying "dwarf"), and summarizes interpretations for *ʼWâ "Japanese" into variations on two etymologies: "behaviorally 'submissive' or physically 'short'." The first "submissive; obedient" explanation began with the (121 CE) Shuowen Jiezi dictionary. It defines 倭 as shùnmào 順皃 "obedient/submissive/docile appearance", graphically explains the "person; human" radical with a wěi 委 "bent" phonetic, and quotes the above Shi Jing poem. "Conceivably, when Chinese first met Japanese," Carr (1992:9) suggests "they transcribed Wa as *ʼWâ 'bent back' signifying 'compliant' bowing/obeisance. Bowing is noted in early historical references to Japan." Examples include "Respect is shown by squatting" (Hou Han Shu, tr. Tsunoda 1951:2), and "they either squat or kneel, with both hands on the ground. This is the way they show respect." (Wei Zhi, tr. Tsunoda 1951:13)."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_Japan
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Putin and China no longer have worries with 0bama in power! They both fully understand what 0bama is and his willingness to leave America a toothless paper tiger. Timing is everything now for both, time is now for Russia because they have less on the (demographic) clock then China, China has more time to make its move and conditions are still favorable for China to use soft power and other non-frontal methods to grind down their current adversaries.
I think both will accelerate their plans if Republicans gain overwhelming majorities in the Congress but still can rely on 0bama to fudge any attempts by the Rubs to rebuild or confront them… come 2016 if it looks like a Patriotic American might ascend into office and there is a strong Patriotic Congress then Both Russia and China will go for the Gold.
Look for many of the warm Allies to flee America in the coming months and Strong possibilities Japan and Korea announce their nuclear intentions after the 2014 elections if the Rubs don’t come out with veto proof majority.
If China is smart they will commence hostilities with Japan the day Japan crows its intentions, not striking any US areas and sacrificing anything American defenses may destroy, once Japanese forces are severally destroyed China will offer Peace (to 0bama) that leaves Japan a vassal of China. NoRKs will likely light up South Korea right after (during) China jumps Japan, NoRKs will stream roll (they think like they did in the 1950) China sweetens the Peace pipe with NoRks stopping their slaughter too...
20 weeks ago
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You believe the Un and only has a Death Wish?
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
On the one hand I worry for the Europeans and the Asians. On the other hand I remember how so many of them wished for (and some paid for!) the election of Obama.

Be careful what you wish for, for you may get it.

Now I'm going to the refrigerator for a quart of rich, cold schadenfreude to savor.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama can use the still-potent strength of his chiseled pecs to throw his Nobel Peace Prize at Putin's Head.

That'll show'im.
20 weeks ago
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