Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 9, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

VERY SERIOUS PEOPLE....As I'm sure you all know, one of the current favorite pastimes in the liberal blogosphere is to mock the Very Serious People who currently make up our foreign policy establishment. And hell, why not? They haven't exactly been covering themselves in glory for the past few years.

The problem I've got, though, is trying to figure out who's who. Obviously Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack are charter members of the VSP club, as are Tom Friedman and Michael Ignatieff. That's easy. But who else? And who are the good guys? I bring this up because Samantha Power, presumably a safe progressive, wrote a memo a few days ago defending Barack Obama's foreign policy pronouncements. Here's part of what it said:

When asked whether he would use nuclear weapons to take out terrorist targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Barack Obama gave the sensible answer that nuclear force was not necessary, and would kill too many civilians. Conventional wisdom held this up as a sign of inexperience. But if experience leads you to make gratuitous threats about nuclear use — inflaming fears at home and abroad, and signaling nuclear powers and nuclear aspirants that using nuclear weapons is acceptable behavior, it is experience that should not be relied upon.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the diplomatic convention that says it's best for presidents (and wannabes) to stay quietly ambiguous about nuclear doctrine, the point scoring here is breathtaking. None of Obama's opponents — absolutely none of them — made "gratuitous threats" about using nuclear weapons against Pakistan. Claiming otherwise might play well with the base, but overseas it sounds like confirmation from a trusted source that American presidential candidates have been talking wildly about nuking the Hindu Kush. That really might not be such a good impression to leave.

So: what should I think of Samantha Power? She has a pretty expansive view of the use of American power overseas (bad) but believes it should be harnessed to humanitarian goals (good). She kinda sorta opposed the Iraq war (good) but only because George Bush hadn't gotten the world community on board (not so good). She speaks out against the conventional wisdom (good) but makes reckless and disingenuous charges about what other presidential candidates have said (bad).

So what's the score? And while we're at it, who else is on and off the VSP list? I need a scorecard.

POSTSCRIPT: And speaking of this, what about the diplomatic convention that says it's best for presidents to stay quietly ambiguous about nuclear doctrine? There really is something to be said for it, no? After all, once you start answering hypotheticals, it's hard to stop. And when you do stop, people are going to draw conclusions about where you've apparently drawn the line. Sometimes, it turns out, diplomatic conventions really do serve a purpose.

UPDATE: Several commenters think that Power's "gratuitous threats" line was aimed at Republicans who have implied they'd use nukes against Iran. If that's true, she sure chose an oblique way of saying it. Given the context, however, I assume that her actual target was Hillary Clinton, who responded to Obama's nuclear comments merely by saying that it was unwise to talk about nuclear doctrine at all. Whether you agree or disagree, this is the farthest thing imaginable from a "gratuitous threat."

Kevin Drum 12:56 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (69)

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Comments

Diplomacy can be like collective bargaining.

Posted by: bakho on August 9, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I think the key to being a member of the Very Serious Persons club is the pretense that you're somehow above the grubby concerns of politicians and the public. VSPers self-identify themselves as elites who possess superior insight and can never be held accountable when said insight turns out to be spectacularly wrong.

Mike

Posted by: MBunge on August 9, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

seriousness = willingness to shed blood.

Posted by: benjoya on August 9, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Her quote doesn't seem so far off to me. The complaint against Obama was that he took a nuclear strike off the table for this purpose. If conventional weapons would do the job and kill fewer civilians, isn't leaving it on the table "gratuitous" in this instance?

I really don't know anything about Power, but I have no problem with this statement.

Posted by: Dave on August 9, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The only sensible, diplomatic response to a hypothetical question regarding use of nuclear weapons in a limited conflict is:

ARE YOU FUCKING NUTS?!?

Posted by: Downpuppy on August 9, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

seriousness = willingness to shed blood.

sorry, seriousness = willingness to shed blood in an abstract "war" as opposed willingness to shed blood while pursuing real, proven threats.

Posted by: benjoya on August 9, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

There's a room for ambiguity in some situations where implicit threat of nuclear is useful, countering other nuclear threats, for example, but when we're talking about bin Laden, there's no need to obscure our nuclear intentions one or another.

Also, the worry that we can't be clear in one area and ambiguous in another is "breathtakingly" stupid.

Posted by: Boronx on August 9, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I am a bit befuddled by your claim that Ms. Powers' engaged in "reckless and disingenuous charges about what other presidential candidates have said." I clicked through to the link you provided, read her statement, and see nothing in there where she suggests that other candidates have been glib in their discussions of using nuclear weapons. Indeed, she doesn't even imply that. She rhetorically says, "If BEING glib about using nuclear weapons is conventional wisdom, then it's wrong."

This is just a quibble, but I really don't think -- based just on the posting you linked to -- that you've been entirely fair to her.

Posted by: Roger Keeling on August 9, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I'm a bit confused by your post. Are you implying that no one has said/implied that Obama was naive in taking nukes off the table when going after individuals? I don't think you're saying that... so since folks are implying that Obama is naive and other dem candidates are attempting to benefit from folks calling Obama naive, what's wrong with pointing out (as Power does) that the opposite of Obama's views is the willingness to nuke willy nilly to get an individual(i.e. 'gratuitous threats').

I think most folks can agree that staying 'quietly ambiguous' about nuclear doctrine is wise, but even very serious people can realize that somethings are beyond the pale. Staying quiet about whether or not you would nuke a city of a million folks in order to get one bad guy is not staying quietly ambiguous, its fucking nuts. I therefore see nothing wrong with Obama pointing that out.

Posted by: DougMN on August 9, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

seriousness = willingness to shed blood.

Other people's blood, of course.

Posted by: jonas on August 9, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think Obama's problem is more than just saying he wouldn't be willing to use nukes against terrorists although that is a problem. After all, during the cold war, America wasn't willing to take nukes off the table against the communists so why should we take nukes off the table with the terrorists?
But also this is combined with him saying he is willing to invade the sovereign nation of Pakistan even though President Musharaff is our friend and ally in the War on Terrorism. It certainly shows Obama is too inexperienced for prime time.

Posted by: Al on August 9, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it looks like you are entirely misreading that portion of Powers's statement. She's not referring to so-called experts' willingness to call for nuclear attacks on PAKISTAN; she's referring to Iran. Granted, she doesn't do so overtly, but I think it's pretty obvious.

Get a grip, man. Or at least check your assumptions.

Posted by: vorkosigan1 on August 9, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Well, after these last 5 years or so, the idea that people would ask & answer hypotheticals about foreign policy seems like a pretty good idea. A lot of VSP, both in the meedja & gubment, took a lot of things for granted and not only didn't ask hypothetical questions, but didn't ask those questions when they left the realm of the hypothetical and became immediately relevant.

Speaking of hypotheticals, I'd also say that, while Power's comment is strong, the passage you cite states, "if experience leads you to make gratuitous threats...," not "when experience leads you to make gratuitous threats..." I'd also point out that suggesting a nuclear option be left on the table in the context referred to is a threat -- if an implied threat. And an implied nuclear threat is a serious one, indeed.

Posted by: junebug on August 9, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, George W. Bush never made any gratuitous threats. Bring it on!

You're on the VSP list, Kevin.

Posted by: lyzurgyk on August 9, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

"None of the mainstream candidates — absolutely none of them — made "gratuitous threats" about using nuclear weapons against Pakistan."

Ms. Powers point was that gratuitous threats about nuclear use against ANYONE is a bad idea. While you are correct that none of the mainstream candidates made nuclear threats specifically against Pakistan, in a recent debate, all four republican candidates that were asked agreed nukes were an appropriate option for Iran, our President insists that the nuclear option against Iran must remain on the table, and Rep. Tancredo has recently revived his threats about nuking Mecca.

Your counter-argument is non-responsive.

Posted by: Peter on August 9, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

When did it become standard doctrine that the US not speak about the use of nuclear weapons? MAD does not seem to leave a whole lot of ambiguity, and I cannot think of any other scenario that would lead to the use of a nuclear weapon, given the number of certain civilian casualties.

The US is the only country to adopt a first strike doctrine, the only country to use a nuclear weapon. I don't see the downside in saying that nuclear weapons would only be used in response to a direct, massive conventional attack by another state on the US or a NATO ally, or in response to a nuclear attack on the US or a NATO ally.

That was the doctrine during containment. I don't see what is changed, other than that nukes are a lot farther off the table. It is bizarre to think that in a world with no credible enemies, the US has to take the destabilizing and pro-lif encouraging position that nuking Iran or anyone else is on the table.

That wasn't the doctrine during the Clinton years, nor the Reagan years. Carter never threatened to nuke Iran over the hostage crisis. This notion that nukes are ordinary, if extra effective, weapons is a neo-con construction.


Posted by: jayackroyd on August 9, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Power was not saying what you think she said. She was extrapolating, inartfully. She was wrong to make it an either-or proposition: Obama's critics could have been saying (and a few were) that he was naive even to address the question, not to say that nukes were off the table in that instance. Those critics obviously would not be issuing "gratuitous threats."

I agree that some diplomatic conventions do serve a valuable purpose, and in general, not discussing nuclear options is a good thing. In many circumstances, not discussing hypotheticals with specifics is also a good thing.

But bin Laden and al Qaida reforming, rearming, and growing stronger in the safety of Pakistan is not a hypothetical. Obama was right to underscore how miserably Bush has failed in this regard, especially given his many specific and direct promises to bring them to justice.

Posted by: along on August 9, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary: You can't talk about this stuff in public. = Business as usual. Bush/Cheney Lite.

Obama: I say what I think, we should have honest public debate. = Real Change.

- -
We didn't talk about Saddam's WMD. We made assumptions. We trusted. We didn't talk about the invasion plan. We made assumptions. We trusted. We didn't talk about Medicare Part D. We made assumptions. We trusted.

It's time to stop taking slimy politicians' word at face value. It's time to stop being squeamish about "scary topics" or things that might "embolden enemies" or "frighten allies". It's time to put on our big-boy pants, and engage in honest public debate.

If we say we're going to smoke them out wherever they're hiding - and then let them hide in Pakistan for 6 years because we're afraid for poor Mushty's safety (instead of justice for the 3000 Americans who died on 9/11) - then we'd better effing mean it.

Or I'm taking away your damn credit-card.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 9, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Her book about genocide, with it's "never again" theme, could go either way.

- As an indictment against Clinton for not taking much stronger action in Rwanda, it's a "good thing".

- But I've also seen the theme used, by belligerent conservatives and "liberal"-hawk-neo-con wankers, as post hoc justification for intervention in Iraq on humanitarian grounds - to save the Shiites, or Marsh Arabs, or whatnot. A genocide which was not imminent (had already happened) and which was not necessarily solvable with a targeted application of force (as Rwanda, arguably, was).

She's on NPR, in the NYT, TNR would probably run her articles: ergo, she's in the "liberal" hawk wanker category IMO, a "serious" deep-thinking, proponent of unprovoked wars.

Posted by: luci on August 9, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - In this post and in a lot of comments you've made recently, it sounds like you're trying to convince yourself that there's really not a difference between Hillary and Obama on foreign policy. I wish it were so, because it looks like it's going to be Hillary.

But if HRC is the nominee, it means that there never will be an accountability moment in EITHER party for the grotesque misjudgments of the national interest that got us into Iraq. We'll all continue to be stuck with the VSP and all their pernicious assumptions about the use of force and America's role in the world.

There's no guarantee that electing Obama will rid us of the job-seeking, conventional-wisdom-mouthing, group-thinking parasites who constitute the nation's foreign policy elite. But at least it holds out some hope that we can free ourselves from their grip.

With Hillary, we get them all back again. Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, Richard Holbrooke and all the people who got Iraq so wrong will be back in the inner circle, and all the foreign policy positions will be staffed out with their proteges.

Posted by: Frances on August 9, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

After all, during the cold war, America wasn't willing to take nukes off the table against the communists so why should we take nukes off the table with the terrorists?

Because during the Cold War a state, called the Soviet Union, had lined up a whole bunch of tanks on the German border. Nukes are a last resort when all else fails. Moreover, deterrence doesn't work on terrorists. The idea of having nukes is to keep them from being used. The notion of a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iraq is absolute nuts. The idea of nuking part of Pakistan to get one guy is unthinkable. Hell, Clinton couldn't get his government to attack bin Ladan with a conventional missile because some Qatari sheiks were near by.

Nukes are big firecrackers, you should know.

Posted by: jayackroyd on August 9, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

If Power was talking about Republican threats against Iran, she was sure being damn oblique about it. Her context here was clearly Afghanistan and Pakistan, and her wording, though artful, seemed clearly aimed at Hillary Clinton. A lot of you guys are letting her off the hook way too easily. She knew what she was doing.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on August 9, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

As for the update I think the better convention is not feeling bound by previous hypothetical answers if the facts indicate a change is prudent.

Posted by: crack on August 9, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

..."expansive view of the use of American power overseas (bad) but believes it should be harnessed to humanitarian goals (good)..."

Well that's easily dealt with when you realize that the expansive use of American power overseas is diametrically opposed to any and all humanitarian goals.

Posted by: Adam P on August 9, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with the comments that find Kevin a little off base--with his emphasis if not with his main point. I think that this morning Josh Marshall does a much better job of explaining what is really at work between Obama and the rest of the Democratic pro-establishment field (i.e., Clinton, Dodd, Biden).

Posted by: David on August 9, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

The US has not used its power for good since the Marshall Plan. A very serious person could not make any other conclusion about the use of American power unless they were on the payroll of a defense contractor or hoped to be invloved with the planning of a nuclear strike for personal glory. A really serious person would have to conclude that the military buildup after WW II by the US has cost so much, that it now threatens the very existence of our Republic, not to mention millions of lives.

Posted by: Brojo on August 9, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I agree with those who read Powers' statement differently than you do. Obama said that nuclear weapons were “not on the table” for the wilds near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Clinton said, “Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrents to keep the peace, and I don’t believe any president should make blanket statements with the regard to use or nonuse.” When a US president or presidential candidates says that using nuclear weapons is not off the table, it is a threat that they may be used. A veiled threat, perhaps, but hardly more veiled than, say, a mafia type sauntering into your shop and saying, “Nice store you have here. Pity if something happened to it.”

I would go beyond Powers and Obama, and insist that the US live up to its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Are there any candidates who have this position?

Nuclear proliferation is one of the foremost threats to world security. As the number of states with nuclear weapons grows, the likelihood increases that one of them will be headed by someone reckless enough to kill a hundred thousand people or more with a nuclear weapon. The US, along with the other nuclear weapons states that signed onto it, agreed in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to move to nuclear disarmament. I would love to see a candidate who says he or she takes non-proliferation seriously enough to uphold the US end of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and pressure other countries to uphold theirs. Otherwise, we’re likely to see more countries like North Korea and Iran, pursuing nuclear weapons to keep invaders from the US (or other nuclear states) at bay.

Posted by: Carl in East Montpelier on August 9, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I read her statement a bit differently. I don't think she was implying that others had been making such threats per se but rather that the convential wisdom's view of what constitutes experience and inexperience is out of whack. Her point was not that others were making reckless nuke charges but that others foolishly follow the convential wisdom.

Posted by: dresday on August 9, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

"... her actual target was Hillary Clinton, who responded to Obama's nuclear comments merely by saying that it was unwise to talk about nuclear doctrine at all. Whether you agree or disagree, this is the farthest thing imaginable from a "gratuitous threat.""

Of course that was her target, but you're being naïve if you think that Clinton's point was simply that it's unwise to talk about a nuclear option. Her comment sends the clear message that, as regards terrorists holed up within Pakistani provinces or elsewhere, Clinton refuses to rule out the possibility of nuclear weapons. If this isn't threatening, I don't know what is. I don't think, though, that she would do such a thing. Her point really wasn't so much to make any veiled threats as it was to find something about which to disagree with Obama in an attempt to make herself seem more presidential. The irony, of course, is that this comes on the heels of her having lambasted Obama for comments she claims were provocative of Pakistan. So a surgical, non-nuclear missile strike against Al Qaeda within Pakistan's borders is unacceptable, but scoring political points by discussing the possibility of a nuclear strike to do the exact same thing is perfectly okay? There is absolutely nothing out of bounds about what Power said.

Posted by: junebug on August 9, 2007 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

The question is: does the explicit refusal to take nuclear weapons "off the table" at least suggest that they may be used? Isn't this a threat, if by omission if not by direct statement? And isn't it gratuitous, in that we would have to be insane to nuke... really, anywhere?

Posted by: Lee Hartmann on August 9, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

No, I think that Powers quote is good all the way through. I don't read it as her accusing any of Obama's primary opponents as making gratuitous threats, but truly, many politicians actually do. Granted, they're Republican politicians, but if any of Obama's Democratic rivals have even hinted that Obama's perfect response was a misstep, or "foreign policy inexperience", then they're pandering to the gratuitous crowd.

It does no good to protest that they are not themselves beating their chests (though it seems to me that Clinton actually is) if they stand around tutting at a colleague who wasn't as cowed by right wing threats as they are.

This is how Republicans have always had a 75:25 advantage over progressives: 50% of Democrats can always be relied on to join in the dogpiling on a Democrat who isn't Republican enough. You'd think Clinton herself would remember when that happened to her and her family.

Posted by: derek on August 9, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

kevin

i think your outrage is really misplaced. to me the really reckless move here was the other campaigns going after obama for making the entirely correct statement that nuking pakistan in an effort to get at OBL was insane.

to me, this is good judgment, and, a tough political counter-attack from an obama advisor. it's, actually, one of the better things i've seen from the campaign.

Posted by: josh bivens on August 9, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute, who says there is a diplomatic convention to remain silent about nukes? Were we coy about nukes during the Cold War? I think not. We had a very clear policy of deterence, you nuke me, I nuke you. And this policy appeared to continue after the cold war. An important component of this policy was that it was clear and express, that is what provided its deterrent effect: everyone knew that if they nuked us we would nuke them back.

We didn't start playing coy with nukes until Bush and the gang started toying with the potential use of strategic or battlefield nukes, and then started talking up a low yield development program. Since then, the Bush administration has tossed out the possibility of using nukes on terrorist targets and buried Iranian nuclear facilities (a bit ironic).

So if the NEW convention is to play coy with the nukes, maybe we should ask ourselves for what purpose? Are we trying to appear as the crazy neighborhood pitbull who might go nuke at any moment? Does that enhance our security in any way? Is this another counterproductive policy foisted onto us by the Very Serious People?

Posted by: Cramer on August 9, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

All this talk about nukes makes me sizzle like an isotope.

Posted by: Sid2id on August 9, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like HRC's cover has been blown on this one. See the recent AP article reminding us all about HRC's willingness to affirmatively take nukes off the table with respect to Iran.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070809/ap_on_el_pr/clinton_nuclear_weapons_2

Posted by: keith on August 9, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Like others, I read Power's comments to be aimed at the answer that Obama did not give (and that those criticizing him seem to have wish he had), not at any particular answer given by any particular candidate. I have not followed her writings on the Iraq war closely, but she has a lot of cred with me for her writings on Rwanda and genocide in general. In the area of Human Rights, I'd say she's a VSP.

Posted by: sc on August 9, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

As for who else belongs in the "VSP" club, you have to have David Broder as a charter member and one of the more obnoxious bad guys. Add in anyone who praises bipartisanship for its own sake, as if compromise between sane and insane makes good policy.

Posted by: CA Pol Junkie on August 9, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Bad guys:
Bernard Lewis (interesting history, along with insane rants about politics)
http://name99.org/blog99/?p=10

Goood guys:
William Langewiesche (_The Atomic Bazaar_ sane attitudes on nuclear weapons)
http://name99.org/blog99/?p=127
William Schulz (US Executive Director of Amnesty International)
http://name99.org/blog99/?p=121
P W Singer (the mercenerization of the US military)
http://name99.org/blog99/?p=109

That's enough for now.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on August 9, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

After all, once you start answering hypotheticals, it's hard to stop. And when you do stop, people are going to draw conclusions about where you've apparently drawn the line. Sometimes, it turns out, diplomatic conventions really do serve a purpose.

—Kevin Drum

When, where, and under what conditions a candidate would use nuclear weapons, and whether he or she would take actions to destroy terrorists in a country that would not or could not cooperate with us in doing so can ONLY be discerned by asking hypotheticals. Allowing candidates -- like HRC -- to duck the two most important foreign policy questions of our time by simply saying "Presidential candidates shouldn't answer hypotheticals" is complete nonsense.

Obama is giving the right answer to both hypotheticals: we should rule out use of nuclear weapons UNLESS our own survival is imminently threatened; and we MUST destroy terrorists wherever we find them -- preferably with the cooperation of the harboring country, but unilaterally if necessary.

I predict HRC will have to move to these positions not only to be nominated but to be elected president as well.


Posted by: Econobuzz on August 9, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

The purpose of ambiguity is to use American power to strike a balance between two opposing, unstable forces. Our ambiguous first strike stance attempted to check Soviet aggression but avoid Soviet panic.

Our Taiwan defense policy tries to protect the Island without giving them the leeway to slip free of the One China policy.

I don't see any value in being ambiguous about nuking the hinterland caves. It's more valuable to reassure Pakistan.

Note that Obama wouldn't have to reassure Pakistan if people were speculating stupidly about nuking it.

Posted by: Boronx on August 9, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Can Obama or Hillary overcome the handicap of at least 20-30% of the voters who will never vote for him/her?

Posted by: gregor on August 9, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Bad guys:
Bernard Lewis (interesting history, along with insane rants about politics)

Goood guys:
William Langewiesche (_The Atomic Bazaar_ sane attitudes on nuclear weapons)
William Schulz (US Executive Director of Amnesty International)
P W Singer (the mercenerization of the US military)

(If you care, there are details on all of these on my blog. Embedding the URLs directly seems to get my comment routed to spam.)

That's enough for now.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on August 9, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Powers is a VSP, in that it's hard to distinguish her from a neocon, except that she has unimpeachable motives and is not wedded to controlling oil supplies. The consequences of her desired foreign policy might be just as catastrophic. It's hard to know how much apparent (though apparently fragile) successes in Bosnia or Kosovo could be replicated in other places. I've heard arguments that France's willingness to intercede 20 or 30 years ago in its former African colonies probably kept the lid on ethnic violence, but this might seem like a lot of wishful thinking.

Posted by: Barbara on August 9, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Key graf:

"I have said publicly no option should be off the table, but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table," Clinton said. "This administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven't seen since the dawn of a nuclear age. I think that's a terrible mistake."

And this was in April of '06. All of a sudden, the word "gratuitous" is beginning to seem more & more appropriate -- albeit in a different context.

Posted by: junebug on August 9, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

"...but makes reckless and disingenuous charges about what other presidential candidates have said"

In this case, I'd call it tit for tat. Hillary's trying to score big points on what is mostly semantic differences, and, as other posters have noted, wanting to claim Obama is reckless re his Al Quaeda in Pakistan comments, yet insufficiently willing to threaten Pakistan with nukes. Hillary, basically, is full of shit and playing political games.

My vote for her in the general will be the least enthusiastic in my thirty years of voting for Democrats. If the Republicans weren't insane, she would be one. Unfortunately, I'd like to vote for a Democrat for a reason other than she's a Republican, just not an insane Republican.

Posted by: brewmn on August 9, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

My take on the ambiguity about nuclear weapons: it made sense when the opponent was the Soviet Union. This was a roughly equal opponent with a nuclear arsenal of its own. I think it also makes sense to be strategically ambiguous about what the response would be to a smaller country that managed to detonate a nuclear weapon. In either case, the ambiguity contributes to deterrence.

But to be "strategically ambiguous" about whether nuclear weapons might be used to attack a weak, non-nuclear opponent is just an incentive for countries that oppose the US to get their own nuke as quickly as possible. Besides, it isn't taken seriously, as the threat is clearly empty. If the US were to attack, say, Iran with nuclear weapons (even to attack some research nuclear facility buried deep underground) it would kill more people than 9/11 did, cause permanent contamination, and reduce the US to the moral level of Nazi Germany (sorry, Mr. Godwin). Nothing is given up by taking such empty threats off the table, and a declaration that nuclear weapons are for use only against nuclear-weapon-armed opponents could contribute to nonproliferation.

Posted by: Joe Buck on August 9, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK
And speaking of this, what about the diplomatic convention that says it's best for presidents to stay quietly ambiguous about nuclear doctrine? There really is something to be said for it, no? After all, once you start answering hypotheticals, it's hard to stop. And when you do stop, people are going to draw conclusions about where you've apparently drawn the line. Sometimes, it turns out, diplomatic conventions really do serve a purpose.

Just fyi, that's in the context of the deterrence rationale, which doesn't apply to terrorists. So making a public statement that you're not going to use nukes on terrorists isn't violating even that highly questionable "wisdom" about nukes, as terrorists would probably invite just such an attack if they could for the inflammatory effects it would have.

Posted by: Xanthippas on August 9, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

"She's on NPR, in the NYT, TNR would probably run her articles: ergo, she's in the "liberal" hawk wanker category IMO, a "serious" deep-thinking, proponent of unprovoked wars."

Thus does the "left" expend itself. Sad really. First of all she was against regime change in Iraq. But anyway, I take it you would consider any sort of military intervention in Darfur as "unprovoked." To me this kind of thinking is conservative.

Power is a disciple of Ignatieff, so maybe she is seen to deserve excommunication by the right-thinking crowd. Sad.

Posted by: Peter K. on August 9, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK


Gratuitous: Unnecessary or unwarranted

If you believe you can respond to a threat with conventional weapons leaving nukes "on the table" vis-a-vis that threat is gratuitous.

Kevin's post appears to be some sort of Ju-jitsu smack-down attempt on those who mock Very Serious People.

Posted by: lyzurgyk on August 9, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what Hillary's spokesman said about her utterances regarding Iran and nukes:

Her campaign spokesman, Phil Singer, said the circumstances for her remarks last year were different than the situation Obama faced.
"She was asked to respond to specific reports that the Bush-Cheney administration was actively considering nuclear strikes on Iran even as it refused to engage diplomatically," he said. "She wasn't talking about a broad hypothetical nor was she speaking as a presidential candidate. Given the saber-rattling that was coming from the Bush White House at the time, it was totally appropriate and necessary to respond to that report and call it the wrong policy."

Now mostly that seems fair. To my mind, the single most important thing that differs between the two contexts is that Hillary was obliged to push back against an explicit mention by the Bush WH of the possible use of nukes in Iran. In fact, of course, that explicit mention is itself a violation of the general rule that one should not engage in hypotheticals with regard to the use of nukes. This was clearly a case in which failing to push back on that possibility in that particular instance could itself help enable a reckless act.

I won't say that Hillary chose her words very well here -- I don't think she did. She could have made the same point in a less categorical manner, and without deviating from her own stated refusal to discuss which options were on the table. She could have said something like, "I think that there is absolutely no reason to bring up the possibility of using nuclear weapons at this stage. Doing so is reckless and out-of-control and belligerent."

But I'd have to say her blunder was a lot less significant than Obama's. Obama made his blanket assertion without any important provocation. Doing so was all downside.

Posted by: frankly0 on August 9, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

. Our ambiguous first strike stance attempted to check Soviet aggression but avoid Soviet panic.

There was no ambiguity. The US nuclear forces were explicitly in place a deterrent to attacks on Germany by Soviet conventional forces.

It's part and parcel with how we got into this war, that the US is not an aggressive military power in the world. Only the US has used a nuclear weapon. Only the US has adopted an official policy of first use in response to massive conventional attacks. And now, apparently, the US is adopting a doctrine of first use whenever the president thinks it appropriate--and that he or she will not even hint on when it is considered okay to kill millions of civilians.

Unbelievable. Is there some way the US can jettison sole superpower status?

Posted by: jayackroyd on August 9, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK
Regardless of whether or not you agree with the diplomatic convention that says it's best for presidents (and wannabes) to stay quietly ambiguous about nuclear doctrine, the point scoring here is breathtaking. None of Obama's opponents — absolutely none of them — made "gratuitous threats" about using nuclear weapons against Pakistan.

No, but the criticism of Obama's position is incoherent without accepting the premise that, given the circumstances Obama was presented with, he should have made (explicit or implicit) gratuitous threats about using nuclear weapons.

Since Power's piece is directed at the criticism of Obama's piece, it is not inappropriate to criticize, in it, what the criticism requires, even if the critics issuing that criticism are also hypocrites in criticizing Obama for failing to make the threat while not making the threat themselves.


Posted by: cmdicely on August 9, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

jayackroyd: Only the US has adopted an official policy of first use in response to massive conventional attacks.

While US policy appears to allow for more conditions under which nukes may be used, or used first, it is not the only country to allow for first use. The only countries to have unconditional no first use policies are China and India.

Posted by: has407 on August 9, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Er Kevin, maybe your post should have mentioned that you quoted a *campaign memo* written by Samantha Power.

In that capacity, she wasn't writing her opinion: she was providing talking points.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on August 9, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

"I won't say that Hillary chose her words very well here -- I don't think she did. She could have made the same point in a less categorical manner, and without deviating from her own stated refusal to discuss which options were on the table. She could have said something like, "I think that there is absolutely no reason to bring up the possibility of using nuclear weapons at this stage. Doing so is reckless and out-of-control and belligerent." "

But she didn't. She stated a very reasonable position that made sense in terms of its policy & politics, then turned around and tried to beat a political opponent over the head for saying essentially the same thing she did. The point isn't that she thinks it's a good idea to use nukes to go after Al Qaeda in Pakistan or Afghanistan or any other -stan. She doesn't. You pretty much have to be batshit crazy to think it's a good idea. Even the most surgical nuclear strike would be a diplomatic nightmare. Her point was to score politically, but she's now been shown to be extraordinarily flexible in her reasoning. Or hypocritical.

Posted by: junebug on August 9, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

No, but the criticism of Obama's position is incoherent without accepting the premise that, given the circumstances Obama was presented with, he should have made (explicit or implicit) gratuitous threats about using nuclear weapons. Since Power's piece is directed at the criticism of Obama's piece, it is not inappropriate to criticize, in it, what the criticism requires, even if the critics issuing that criticism are also hypocrites in criticizing Obama for failing to make the threat while not making the threat themselves.

I have absolutely no idea what you're trying to say here.

The basic point of criticism of Obama was that he, as a Presidential candidate, shouldn't be making commitments one way or the other about hypotheticals regarding use of nukes. It's not that the other candidates actually disagree about whether, in fact, nukes would be the correct response against terrorists in Pakistan. It's about what one should say as President or Presidential candidate. Obama claims its a very good thing to discuss every aspect of this openly -- pretending, of course that only the American people are in on that conversation, and not the entire world including our enemies.

Why this point is so hard to grasp simply escapes me.

And while others are drawing large distinctions between the world of the Cold War and today, they can't really come up with good reasons that the fundamental principles about what should be spoken about have changed. In fact, all the same reasons would seem to apply, just to a different set of people.

Just for example, why is it not better to keep it ambiguous whether we might use, say, tactical nukes in Pakistan against terrorist camps? Don't you think that having that possibility hanging over the heads of potential civilian supporters, collaborators, or even mere tolerators of Osama might actually serve as a deterrent for them to allow him to hole up in their region? Why would it be good to let them know for a certainty upfront that they, personally, will never suffer for helping him or turning a blind eye to his presence?

Posted by: frankly0 on August 9, 2007 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0: And while others are drawing large distinctions between the world of the Cold War and today, they can't really come up with good reasons that the fundamental principles about what should be spoken about have changed. In fact, all the same reasons would seem to apply, just to a different set of people.

Disagree. The landscape has changed enormously over the last 20 years. The primary nuclear issue today is proliferation, not flexible response, deterrence, and MAD. The US's unwillingness to take a firm stance on limiting nuclear weapons use and related issues has impeded non-proliferation efforts.

Posted by: has407 on August 9, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Just for example, why is it not better to keep it ambiguous whether we might use, say, tactical nukes in Pakistan against terrorist camps?"

Maybe because the location we're talking about is dangerously close to three nuclear powers who might get a little touchy if we start playing this ridiculous "maybe we will, maybe we won't" game.

"Don't you think that having that possibility hanging over the heads of potential civilian supporters, collaborators, or even mere tolerators of Osama might actually serve as a deterrent for them to allow him to hole up in their region?"

Yes. That's the way we win hearts & minds. Veiled nuclear threats against civilian populations. Regular missiles kill plenty good, and in case you haven't noticed, Afghanistan is already less than happy about the collateral damage we've been inflicting. Even the British are taking issue with these strikes:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/09/world/asia/09casualties.html?ref=todayspaper

What you're talking about is downright Strangelovean.

"Why would it be good to let them know for a certainty upfront that they, personally, will never suffer for helping him or turning a blind eye to his presence?"

Newsflash: they're already suffering. If you think this will turn them around, you have an inadequate grasp of what motivates religiously fundamentalist terrorists & their supporters.

Posted by: junebug on August 9, 2007 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

"There was no ambiguity. The US nuclear forces were explicitly in place a deterrent to attacks on Germany by Soviet conventional forces."

The promise of a nuclear response to conventional invasion of Western Europe was not ambiguous, but I don't believe that First Strike was unambiguously taken off the table for lesser provocations.

Posted by: Boronx on August 9, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin-

I think you're still in error. I just reread Powers's piece for the third time, and it's clear that she's talking about the foreign policy elite's predisposition to keep nuclear attacks on the table.

It's not about HRC; it's about whether presidential candidates--in particular Obama--are willing to speak sense rather than platitudes.

"Given the context"? The context was that Obama was being attacked for what he said. This was a forceful response to those attacks, rather than an attack itself.

Serious overinterpretation on your part, Kevin, IMHO.

Posted by: vorkosigan1 on August 10, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Veiled nuclear threats against civilian populations.

Please, for once in your life, try to be honest. Not addressing a hypothetical is NOT equivalent to a "veiled nuclear threat". Making it known publicly that you're considering such an attack, as did the Bush administration with regard to Iran, would be so. Simply refusing to engage the hypothetical is many orders of magnitude less threatening -- yet it may introduce real enough uncertainties in those who might harbor terrorists.

Listen, ObamaBorg, there are ALL KINDS of nuances out there when it comes to diplomatic speech. I'm very sorry for you that neither your man nor you yourselves seem to possess any capability of grasping them. But your sad intellectual limitation should not be allowed to turn American diplomacy into a simple-minded joke.

Sometimes I think that the real distinguishing characteristic of the Obama campaign and its supporters is their simple-mindedness. It's a no-nuance zone on the left, just as stupid in its way as the large no-nuance zone on the right.

Posted by: frankly0 on August 10, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

has407:Disagree. The landscape has changed enormously over the last 20 years. The primary nuclear issue today is proliferation, not flexible response, deterrence, and MAD. The US's unwillingness to take a firm stance on limiting nuclear weapons use and related issues has impeded non-proliferation efforts.

I don't disagree that many things have changed. I was simply addressing the issue about what is right to be spoken about publicly, and with regard to using nuclear weapons in particular. I claim that the same reasons that it was good not to address hypotheticals before are reasons not to do it now. Revealing one's intentions to the enemy is as counterproductive when it's Osama as when it's the Soviet Union.

The point is, simply observing that things have more generally changed after the Cold War does not in any way address whether things have changed with respect to what should be spoken about publicly.

Posted by: frankly0 on August 10, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

franklyO: "Not addressing a hypothetical is NOT equivalent to a "veiled nuclear threat""

This is a distinction without a difference. Introducing the uncertainty of a first-strike nuclear attack as a means of changing an enemy's behavior is a threat, the subtlety of which can be debated. Regardless, it's veiled, indirect, what have you. In any event, introducing the uncertainty of a first-strike nuclear attack against a civilian population is sick.

The rest of your post is distortion, generalization, & ad hominems. It's telling that you spend more time on name-calling than your argument.

Posted by: junebug on August 10, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I was under the impresiion that our stated public policy, and the stated public policy of all the other major nuclear powers was that nuclear power would never be used against a non-nuclear power, or first against a nuclear power. This policy has been used for 50 years to encourage non-proliferation among non-nuclear countries.

The Bush administration starts babbling more or less casually about pre-emptive strikes against Iran.

So now Obama is considered naive for hypothetical speculation that actually just restates what had been the US position from the end of WWII until Bush 43.

I'm not an Obama supporter, but let's at least let the facts and the history straight. We were never reticent about the no-first-nuclear-strike policy until Bush/Cheney decided to announce that it's over.

Posted by: sab on August 10, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0: I was simply addressing the issue about what is right to be spoken about publicly, and with regard to using nuclear weapons in particular. I claim that the same reasons that it was good not to address hypotheticals before are reasons not to do it now. Revealing one's intentions to the enemy is as counterproductive when it's Osama as when it's the Soviet Union.

I agree that telegraphing intentions is not good. I also agree that there will always be a certain ambiguity, in fact if not in appearance, when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons. (E.g., should China or India face an existential threat, their no first use policy will likely be worth the paper it's written on.)

That said, I believe the landscape has changed sufficiently over the last 20+ years that the taboos which previously constrained public debate and declarations of nuclear use policy do more harm than good. It is precisely because Osama--or any other nuclear wannabes--are a far cry from the cold war Soviet Union that we need to reconsider those taboos.

Posted by: has407 on August 10, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

p.s. I should add a caveat that, while "telegraphing intentions is not good" in war, the precise telegraphing of intentions in diplomacy is often critical to avoiding misunderstandings, and war.

Posted by: has407 on August 10, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

"And who are the good guys?"

How about Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, William Blum, Gabriel Kolko, for starters...

Posted by: Kevin Carson on August 16, 2007 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Letter to the editor
LET THE SCIENTIST BE FREE FROM POLITICAL COMPULSION
Dear Sir,
The scientist is an honest fellow. Honest and Sincere. Sincere and sympathetic and deserving the heart-felt gratitude of entire mankind for risking his health and life in his endeavour to render atomic energy safe for utility. His views might be erroneous. His hopes might prove false. Yet his right to gratitude could not be denied him. This case of atomic energy has involved him in a situation most perilous and has thrown on him a responsibility that is heavier than death itself. The consequences of his endeavour in the field of atomic energy might place him in a situation so unpleasant, so irksome, even abominable as may hardly show a precedent in history. He is not all praises for atomic energy. We know. In the heart of hearts he seems to be well aware of the extreme precariousness of this situation. But he is in a fix. He finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. His inner urge to render atomic energy safe for use is irresistible. But more than that he has at present been rendered into a mere servile instrument in the hands of national and international politics. And a mere slave to procure means of gratifying he appetite of mankind. Let humanity therefore help him out of this situation for the sake of his past and present services to mankind in general. How it could be done is the question? Thats easy. It could be done by relieving him from the political and industrial compulsion. Let him be made once more a free man to think by his own mind and to see by his own sight. How this could be done is the next question? This too is equally easy. Let the knowledge of atomic energy and the nuclear science be disseminated throughout the world. When the people themselves have gained the knowledge of the subject sufficient to weigh for themselves the pros and the cons they can give their opinion for or against it. when once the opinion of the entire public of the world has been moulded, then their political agencies that at present are forced by the circumstances to adopt and develop atomic energy in a compulsory spirit of competition and rivalry will be relived of the tension, and the scientist then in that atmosphere will be able to decide the issue in the true perspective and do what could be deemed safe and good.

Allama Muhammad Yousuf Gabriel,
Idara Tasnifate Gabriel,
Nawababad wah Cantt.
Distt Rawalpindi. Pakistan
www.oqasa.org.
oqasaorg@ gmail.com


Posted by: on August 15, 2008 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Sir, I am sending an article entitled {{ Quran and Science of Metrology}} for your kind attention.This may kindly be published in your magazine please. Thanks for cooperation.
Sincerely Yours
Shaukatawan@rocketmail.com

QURAN AND SCIENCE OF METEOROLOGY
Quran Treats the phenonomenon of Rain and Hail
By
Allama Muhammad Yousuf Gabriel
www.oqasa.org
shaukatawan@rocketmail.com

The Quran has claimed not once but twice in most explicit terms to contain all knowledge that concerned humanity. And has challenged the world to bring a chapter like it, when I was asked that Quran was not the book of science, it was only the book of religion. How therefore, the treatment of the subjects like atomic science, the atomic bombs and atomic radiations could be expected in a book of religion. My answer to this was and is that the Quran is a book of a religion indeed, but it is the book of a religion that is perfect and complete and may be expected to provide answer to every question that was concerned with the humanity. If the destruction of the habitations of Sodom and Gomorrah received a mention in it, while these habitations were no larger than a negligible part of a modern city, how then the mention of a destroyer which would not leave so much as a blade of grass unburnt from one end of the world to the other, could be ignored without damaging the claim to universality. The Quran must be expected to give an answer to the question of atomic annihilation of the world. Again it may be asked whether the Quran contains the outcome of the research of modern science of meteorology. The answer to this question is yes it does. Quran shows this in one sign (Ayat) of about forty words. Read the following from the Quran regarding the phenomenon of rain and hail:-
" Hast thou not seen that Allah gently driveth forward the clouds and gathereth them together, and then layeth them in heaps? Thou also seeth the rain which falleth from the midst thereof, and Allah sendeth down from heaven, from mountains wherein there is hail, He striketh therewith whom he pleaseth, and turneth the same from whom He pleaseth, the brightness of His lightening wanteth but little of taking away the sight".
( Quran XXIV - 43 )
" Have you not seen that God drives the clouds, then joins them together and puts them fold on fold. Then you see the rain fall through them; and He sends down hail from the sky where there are mountains of it, and strikes those with it whom. He will, and wards it off from whomsoever He pleaseth. His lightning could snatch away their eyes".
(Quran - An-Nur-43 The Light)
You have read it now, or you have heard it. And if you pen to be a meteorologist, how much of the science of modern meteorology you have discerned in it, so that after we have explained it, you might compare. To most of the readers of the Quran it is merely a matter of common observation which has been mentioned by the Quran ; whether in the translation or in the original Arabic text of the Quran. Let this be remembered, however, that the mysteries are revealed only in the original Arabic text and never in the translations. It is the Arabic text of the Quran that reveals the essence of the modern science of meteorology about the phenomenon of rain and hail. Read the Quran -An Noor-43 )
In the first sight there appears to be no scientific facts of the modern research, but by the grace of Al-mighty Allah there are scientific facts to be revealed to those possessed of knowledge, and sincere in their faith in the Quran. The original Arabic text of the Quran has miracles to reveal. Most complex, intricate and perplexing facts of science and philosophy may be found in the words and mysteries discovered. To a knowledgeable reader the world of the Quran appears like kaleidoscopic world. The words changing their forms and clows and assuming new forms and colours, astonishing and perplexing the poor human intellect. During my forty-year long research in the Quran more than once I went to sleep with satisfaction that I had exhausted the meanings of a certain sign. But next morning to my surprise I saw the same sign blossoming with fresh flowers that had exchanging colours and delightful fragrance.
Let it be remembered that the modern science of meteorology is of recent origin, while the Quran was revealed fourteen centuries ago. If therefore the discoveries of the mo dern meteorology are found in the Quran, there remains no doubt about the divine original of the Quran, and the Quran deserves to assume a unique place among the divine scriptures.
We will now interpret the sign (Ayat) of the Quran in the light of all the latest discoveries of science in the field of meteorology. It is generally observed by the Non-Muslims, that whenever a discovery of science appears, the Muslims prop up the Quran saying, Lo! here is it written in the Quran, why the Muslims cannot find these facts from the Quran before the discovery is declared by science. The answer to this objection is, that firstly the Quran is not the text book of science to teach the people the technique of producing the things that are produced by the science, rather the Quran observes and regulates the entire life of humanity, every aspect of it. Therefore the Quran has its own style of treating the subject of pure science. Secondly, the Quran would not like the appearance of certain things or their wrong use in order to keep the humanity safe from the noxious effects thereof. Therefore the Quran treats such subjects of science in its peculiar manner. For instance the Quran has treated the atomic science, the entire essence of the subject, but has not taught to build the atomic bombs. Thirdly, if the Quran had explained the inventions of science as we see them today and had used the terms as we hear them today, it is not difficult to imagine that the hearers of that time, would have stampeded away thrusting their fingers in their ears, yelling, " How impossible, how nonsensical, away, away to your rational creed, the creed of our fathers". The fate of Islam was thus no hidden secret. And it was a miracle of the Quran, to say a thing comprehensible and appealing to its first hearers, and conceal within the same language that could answer all that was to come in time in any form, scientific, philosophic, economical, social. Yet let it be understood that the corroboration of the Quran and science is a topic fraught with imminent dangers. Science changes while the Quran is constant. Once said, for-ever said. The corroborator therefore must have thorough knowledge of science, to discern the established facts from more theories and hypotheses, and should at the same time have the thorough knowledge of the Quran to its real mind. Otherwise there is a great possibility of wrecking the reputation of the Quran, and making this word of God about of ridicule, unrecking at the same time the doom of the corroborator himself. I have seen many a corroborator that blundered in this field and fell from the cliffs to the vale of ignominy. God save us from such a doom. I myself am a corroborator, but I weigh a thing a hundred times and pass many a sleepless nights before I find courage to pen a single fact or to bring it on record. Yet I pray to Allah, the Merciful to guide me aright in this hazardous field and let me have no personal or other consideration, and forgive any slip of fall. I am obliged to take to this field for no other reason than that it has become the inevitable necessity of these days. Otherwise the early authentic commentators of the Quran have left no point unambiguous.
Now let us revert to our topic in the name of Allah the Benign, the Merciful. Allah says:-
"(Alam Tara). Has thou not seen?" This question was first posed to the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) and his contemporary Arabs. Now it could be posed to the meteorologist. This is the marvellous feature of the All-time and eternal Quran.
Then :-
"(Annallaha Yuzji). That is God drives". It is to contradict the view of those who think that the laws of nature work on their own, or that the whole affair of creation is accidental only. Here the God asserts his complete control of the Phenomenon.
Then (Yuzji Sahaban). (Sahab) means a cloud, but the derivatives formed on its root (sahaba) give the meanings as, to drive along, to drag along, to withdraw, to recall, to retract etc. The modern meteorological science on this point says, " Previous to a thunderstorm, the clouds are in great commotion. Great masses being torn asunder, others uniting together. These clouds being electrified, some more some less strongly, act inductively on one another, and if a piece happens to be torn away with more than its fair share of electricity that has been induced into it, it may soar away intensely electrified, several such pieces may unite to form a big cloud".
Then The Quran says:-
" (Thumma Yuallifu Bainahu). That is thereafter affects between the different parts of the cloud a harmony and achieves affinity between them. Generally it is translated as " and gathereth them together". In order to know what sort of harmony and affinity is affected and achieved between the various parts of the cloud, let us read the following from the science of meteorology.
" To achieve the coalescence of the minute spherules of water into fallable rain drops, a proper electrical affinity, between a particle and a particle within the cloud and further, within the cloud and the earth has to be achieved. In the presence of a strong positive charge in the cloud the SPHERULES WOULD TEND TOWARDS SEPARATION, EXCLUDING ANY POSSIBILITY OF THEIR COALESCENCE. A charge of milder sort in the vicinity has been found to be helpful for the desired coalescence for the spherules into rain drops. The necessity of the ELECTRIC POTENTIAL and hence the electricity itself, having thus been established a slight ACIDIFICATION of the cloud water is to be UNDERSTOOD as a means to impart conductivity to the water, which in a state of its purity is a bad conductor of electricity".
Let the great masters of Chemistry read these chemical processes explained by the Quran.
Then the Quran says:-
" (Thumma Yajaluhu rukaaman)". That is then "layeth them in heaps". Let us read what the modern meteorological science says about the heaping up of the cloud. It says:-
" When the vapour in the air is condensed not through contact with cold bodies, but through the cooling of a mass of vapour -ladden air, then a cloud is formed. A cloud consists of fine drops of water. if it be near the ground it is called mist or fog. It would at the outset seem impossible to classify or account for the myriads of forms of the cloud, but when we come to observe and watch them closely, two main types of cloud-forms assert themselves. Those which appear in fillowy well-defined shapes, and those which spread over the heavens in a layer thick or thin, partial or complete. The former of these is called CUMULUS, a Latin word meaning HEAP, the latter STRATUS, a Latin word meaning A LAYER. These names are due to LUKE HORWARD (1802) and have been used by all cloud observers since his time. The meteorological science is of recent origin. It developed within the centuries of this modern age. Luke Horward (1802) first used the Terms CUMULUS and STRATUS".
The Quran has anticipated him by centuries. The word Rukaaman which the Quran has used means exactly the CUMULUS. So far as the Term STRATUS is concerned, the Quran has used it in another sign (verse) about the very same topic. The sign is as follows:
That is : " Allah is He who sendeth the wind so that they raise clouds, and spreadeth them along the sky as pleaseth Him. And forms them in layers, and thou seest the rain downpouring from within them".
( Quran XXX - 48 )
" It is God who sends the breezes that raise clouds, then spreads them over the sky as He please, fold on fold, then you see the drops of rain issue from between them. When He sends it down to those of His creatures as He will, they are filled with joy".
(Quran The Romans, 48)
The actual word is (Kisafan) which means to lay in layers, to stratify, to lay layer upon layer. It is exactly the term STRATUS, the term of Luke Horward. Though generally it is translated as, "causeth them to break". It is surprising to note, that the Quran anticipated Luke Horward (1802) by centuries. The words of the Quran thus are not only scientific but also prophetic.
Then the Quran says:-
(Fataral Wadaqa Yakhruju min khilaalihi). That is : Thou seest the rain which falleth from the midst thereof. Actual word is (Min Khilaalihi), that is the rain is pouring from the (khilal) of the cloud. The meaning of this word is pin, skewer, spit. The root of this word is (khallala) which means to acetify. "Khal" means vinegar. Now the necessity of the acidification of the cloud water we have already narrated in the previous pages. A charge of milder sort is essential to achieve the coalescence of the spherules. The charge necessitates electricity. But pure water is a bad conductor of electricity. It is necessary therefore to acetify the water to endue water with the quality of conductivity. Thus the role of the word (khilal ) in the phenomenon becomes clear, to mean that no (khilal) meant no rain, and therefore no life on earth.
The Quran further says:-
(wa yunazzilu min assamaae min jibaalin fiha min bardin). That is:- " And Allah sendeth down from heaven, from mountains wherein there is hail". First imagine a cloud like a mountain of hail. How beautiful is the mountain of white pearls and how exact but novel is the simile. But the point which attracts our attention is hidden in the word (jibaal) which means mountains. The root of this word is (jabala) which means to kneed. Perhaps the most astonishing discovery of the modern meteorological science is that no mist nor fog could be formed, unless there were present in the vapour-laden air particles of dust or sand to act as the nucleus for the spherules of water that constitute the fog. This has been proved, since air filtered through cotton wool, has no tendency towards fog formation. The hail pellets likewise have been found to have been built around a spec of dust acting as their Nucleus, a process in distinction from that of the formation of snow. Now let us see the word (jibaal) that is mountains used by the Quran. The word Jibaal has been derived from the root-verb (jabala) which means to kneed. Then imagine a cloud of rain or of hail, wherein every spherule has a spec of dust or sand though invisible to naked eye. Certainly the cloud appears like a mountain made of dust particles kneeded with water. Remarkable also is the role of mountains in the formation of rain.
Now in the end it may be asked that the Quran in this phenomenon has made no mention of the great role played by the air. It is the air that carries the moisture, and it is the air that wafts the clouds. without the air no rain would have been possible. The question takes our thought to another sign (Ayat) of the Quran which is identical with the sign which we are discussing, and has mentioned the role of air. In the previous pages we have alluded to sing just read:-
(Quran-Alarum -48)
(Allah-u-lazi yursilu-arriaha fatuseeru sahaban). That is, " He is Allah who sendeth the winds, so that they raise clouds".
( Quran XXX-48 )
The Quran's challenge, "Bring ye a chapter like unto it" stands good for every age, including this age of science. The knowledge of science shown by the Qruan is such that no scientist will ever think of being an equal to or like the Quran, the amazing word of Allah, the God of the worlds.

Posted by: Shaukat awan on September 1, 2008 at 5:23 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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