Author: Drew Beggs

Reframing the Energy Discussion: Cubic Miles of Oil

Courtesy of Shutterstock. In 2006, the world finally surpassed an enormous benchmark: the consumption of one cubic mile of oil each year. That’s equivalent to 1.1. trillion gallons or 26 billion barrels of oil. In the conversation surrounding energy consumption, it can be hard to keep interest and sustain any meaningful dialogue as commentators must often wade through various units and conversions in discussing new energy sources. How does a Btu compare to a kWh? How many barrels of oil does it take to produce the same amount of energy as a ton of coal?

Read more

USIP Investigates the Dynamics of Iranian Politics

 The United States Institute of Peace held a conference Wednesday, June 27, 2012 in Washington, D.C., to present a series of commissioned papers on the changing and static elements of Iranian politics. The papers focused on topics such as  the effects of welfare on Iranian society, the presence or lack of the rule of law, and how the Supreme Leader should be read as an institution rather than a personality. One of the editors, Dan Brumberg, Senior Advisor to Center for the Conflict Analysis and Prevention, explained that reformists and liberals face hardliners who reject all reform as the first step on the slippery slope to oblivion.

Read more

The History and New Directions of Biodefense

Dr. Matthew Meselson, a Harvard biologist and longtime advocate for biological disarmament, (and a  member of FAS’s Board of Sponsors) spoke Tuesday, June 26th  at a briefing hosted by FAS in Washington, D.C. on the recent history of biodefense and the need for oversight on biodefense efforts. “Infective agents don’t stop at frontiers. They don’t have passports,” Meselson said. A biological attack against any nation, or a virulent disease outbreak can threaten the entire world. Though President Richard Nixon renounced biological weapons on November 25, 1969, the decision had begun several years earlier, notably in 1963 when Secretary of State Dean Rusk began asking about  the potential for banning biological weapons. In 1968, the Department of Defense looked deeper into the nation’s biodefense and BW programs and at first proposed a stronger BW and chemical weapon programs. At the time, the U.S.’s BCW programs were too small to be viable. “Why would you want something that was small and not very good? The likely thing is that you would want something that is good,” Meselson said. At about the same time, DoD officials in the Office of Systems Analysis investigated the strategic use of biological weapons and the threat of proliferation. They found there were no potential applications of lethal biological weapons that were preferred to the use of nuclear weapons. And the scenario for non-lethal biological weapons was so unlikely that non-lethal biological weapons were not worth it.

Read more

Modernization Progress of Nuclear Arsenal Proves Contentious

United States Capitol (Credit: Allen Dodson) While the New START Treaty provides an unprecedented exchange of information between the United States and Russia, in a hearing on June 21 some senators aired their concern with the Obama administration’s commitment to fulfill its promise to modernize the U.S. arsenal. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee analyzed the Treaty’s implementation since February 2011. Massachusetts Senator and Committee Chair John Kerry and committee ranking member Richard Lugarof Indiana presided over the hearing. The panel of witnesses included Thomas D’Agostino, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration; Rose Gottemoeller, acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; and Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense of Global Strategic Affairs.

Read more

Reintegrating “Outlier States” into International Community

  In 2007, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote “In the world of ideas, to name something is to own it.” On June 20, 2012, Robert Litwak investigated a similar idea regarding the relationship between terminology and United States policy. The event, called the National Conversation, was the first of a series produced by the Wilson Center and National Public Radio. Litwak, the Vice President for Scholars and Director of International Security Studies at the Wilson Center, presented his new book Outlier States about the United States’ policy dealing with states like Iran and North Korea, though the discussion focused on Iran. Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winner, discussed points with Litwak, while Steve Inskeep, the host of Morning Edition on NPR, moderated.

Read more

AEI panel: U.S. must intervene in Syria

President Bashar al-Assad has left the United States with no option other than military intervention, according to a panel hosted by the American Enterprise Institute on June 25, 2012. Arizona Senator John McCain spoke to a room of about 100 people. He argued that given Assad’s military domination of the opposition, Assad had little reason to consent to diplomatic efforts by the international community. Regarding the violence “the clear trend is toward escalation,” McCain said.

Read more

Subcomittee Investigates Nonproliferation Metrics for Defense, Energy

On Tuesday, June 12, the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities investigated the determining metrics for nonproliferation programs. The meeting, which was led by Senators Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio, featured testimonies from Madelyn Creedon, the assistant secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, Anne Harrington, the deputy administrator for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation with the National Nuclear Security Administration at the Department of Energy, and Kenneth Myers, the director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and of the U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Read more

Joseph Rotblat and the Pugwash

  On Tuesday, the Atomic Heritage Foundation hosted a panel of speakers at the Elliott School of International Affairs to present on physicist Joseph Rotblat and the Pugwash Conferences he helped run. Andrew Brown, an author and radiation oncologist, spoke on Rotblat’s formative years before his involvement with the Pugwash Conferences. From his childhood spent in occupied Warsaw during World War I to his leaving the Manhattan Project, Brown detailed Rotblat’s transition from nuclear physicist to the “Keeper of the Nuclear Conscience,” as Brown names him in his recently published biography.

Read more

Revolution in Nuclear Detection Affairs

FAS held a briefing Tuesday about the new strategies and technologies being used in nuclear detection. Dr. Huban Gowadia, Deputy Director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at the Department of Homeland Security, gave the presentation and described the “revolution” taking place. Throughout history, various technologies have redefined the way wars have been fought, e.g. the long bow, gunpowder, tanks and eventually nuclear weapons. There is a gap, however, between the development of technology and when it becomes operationally and strategically effective. After all, it was centuries after gun powder’s invention that the use of muskets and cannon drastically changed warfare. In the case of nuclear detection, the technology, which once took up an entire room and required a trained physicist to analyze, has been compressed into a handheld device that any trained law enforcement officer can use.

Read more