Just before the shambolic collapse of the American position in Kabul, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) produced its report "What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction".
An earlier report had a line that would be familiar to many people who've worked in a bureaucracy: “The…key finding is that…monitoring and evaluation (M&E) created the risk of doing the wrong thing perfectly. That is, programs could be deemed “successful” even if they had not achieved or contributed to broader, more important goals…”
There's been a flurry of Think Tank articles on modernisation/maintenance of the US nuclear arsenal: For example:
William Hartung: 'Inside the ICBM Lobby: Special Interests Or the National Interest?'
Kingston Reif & Mandy Smithberger, '500,000,000,000 reasons to scrutinize the US plan for nuclear weapons'
SIPRI has just published an informative article on world military expenditure. It includes interesting charts and graphs.
Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda have published their latest analyses of the US and Russian nuclear arsenals. Perhaps the best publicly available and readily accessible information on the topic.
The UK's "Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy" has just been published. Of particular interest to me is a reversal of the previous policy of gradual reduction of nuclear weapons down to 180 warheads. There will now be a gradual increase, with a new ceiling of 260 warheads (pp. 76-78). The strategy surrounding these weapons is marked, in part, by an official emphasis on "deliberate ambiguity".
All this is, of course, accompanied by a ritualistic, politically necessary and perhaps laughable affirmation of the goal of "a world without nuclear weapons" and "full implementation of the NPT in all its aspects, including nuclear disarmament..."
Hans Kristensen has published a critical commentary. For a more pro-nuclear opinion piece which looks at aspects of the US-UK nuclear relationship, see Linton Brooks et al.
For a sense of just how speculative some of the commentary has been, see the article by Mathew Harries in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. As Harries notes, we just don't know what, exactly, is behind the UK adjustment to nuclear weapons policy.
My thoughts on the nuclear weapons aspect of the transition from President Trump to President Biden, from Inside Story.
President Trump's unhinged behaviour, especially on January 6th, prompted concern about, and a flurry of interest in, how the so-called 'nuclear button' works. Here are some of the expert articles used in the media:
* Amy Woolf, for the Congressional Research Service, 2020, Defense Primer: Command and Control of Nuclear Forces.
* William Perry, Politico, 2021, Trump Still Has His Finger on the Nuclear Button. This Must Change.
* Jeffrey Lewis & Bruno Tertrais, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 2019, The Finger on the Button: The Authority to Use Nuclear Weapons in Nuclear-Armed States.
The assassination of leading Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh generated considerable speculation. Here's some of the better informed and/or more considered examples:
Something to take your mind off the COVID disaster... A gloomy article by Paul Sonne, in The Washington Post.