Thinking about Nuclear Missiles
Jude Wanniski
March 9, 1999


CHINA: Almost without a doubt, the story in the Saturday NYTimes about Chinese spies in the New Mexico nuclear laboratories was cooked up by the anti-China wing of the Republican Party -- the folks who want China to fail, not succeed. It clearly was spoon-fed to Jeff Gerth of the Times, with no evidence that any spying was done, in order to set the stage for the visit of Premier Zhu Rongji next month. The intent of the spooners is to poison the waters between the U.S. and China, setting up a confrontation that will provide the U.S. with a new, permanent enemy instead of the strategic partner the Administration has in mind. The Clinton administration is on the right side of this issue, the GOP leadership in the Senate and House sucked in by the right-wing coalition that acts on the assumption we are bound to go to war with China in the next decade or two, so why help them get stronger now? Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who blunders from pillar to post on these foreign policy issues, told "FoxNewsSunday" that this spy scandal should end any plans our government has to approve China’s membership in the World Trade Organization!! Bad China!! The story dredged out of the dusty files of the CIA and FBI says a nationalized Chinese-American who was born in Taiwan shared technical information with PRC scientists in the 1980s. This, though, is what the lab-to-lab program is designed to do. If Harry Truman were alive, he would see this as a “red herring.” 

RUSSIA: The biggest security threat to the United States and the world is the disposition of the fissionable material becoming available as Moscow downsizes its nuclear force to 750 or 1000 missiles from 30,000. All the plutonium and enriched uranium from 29,000 warheads is destined for nuclear power plants in Russia, but so much chemical weaponry has already disappeared from the Russian arsenal that our nuclear experts are afraid of any temptation by the politicians to crack down on our lab-to-lab cooperation with the Russians. How scary it would be if we lost track of the fissionable material and had to assume it had fallen into the hands of the rogue nations, which know how to make nukes if only they had the material. The fact is, our Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories have been pushed into more and more cooperation with the Chinese labs, because this is the easiest way to make sure they are as benign as they wish to appear. Through the labs, we are able to tell that China’s nuclear missiles are not only NOT pointed at us but are not armed. This is especially nice to know going into Y2K. 

IRAQ: Jack Kemp has gotten an unofficial invitation from Baghdad to visit at his convenience. Kemp had taken the lead more than a year ago in trying to break the diplomatic gridlock between Washington and Baghdad -- recommending a lifting of the now eight-year economic embargo in exchange for a new UNSCOM inspection process under the direction of the General Secretary, Kofi Annan. The invitation obviously indicates a willingness by President Saddam Hussein to have Kemp serve as the icebreaker, which becomes more credible now that Kemp has taken himself out of the 2000 presidential race. We know that Iraq could have nuclear weapons in a very short period if it could get its hands on fissionable material. An end to the current policy of bombing Iraq to contain it, whatever that means, makes more sense than ever, as a trio of experts indicated in the Jan-Feb issue of Foreign Affairs, “Can Saddam Hussein be Toppled?” Answering no, not without massive loss of life and a destabilization of the Middle East, putting Israel more at risk than ever. Kemp also has received official invitations from the Russian and Chinese governments, suggesting he may be racking up as many frequent-flier miles as Madeleine Albright.