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Friday, May 16, 2003

Krugman On Terror

Prof. Krugman echoes Sen Graham's complaint that Bush is losing the war on terror.

How is the war on terror going? You know about the Riyadh bombings. But something else happened this week: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, a respected British think tank with no discernible anti-Bush animus, declared that Al Qaeda is "more insidious and just as dangerous" as it was before Sept. 11. So much for claims that we had terrorists on the run.

Busy as we are this weekend, we just have time to check out the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Here is a Guardian story describing the study on terror which Prof. Krugman cites.

And this same respected group prepared a report on the Iraqi WMD program last September. Let's check the summary:

Our objective has been to assess, as accurately and dispassionately as possible, Iraq’s current WMD capacities.

...Nuclear Weapons:

Our net assessment of the current situation is that:

Iraq does not possess facilities to produce fissile material in sufficient amounts for nuclear weapons.

It would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to build such fissile material production facilities.

It could, however, assemble nuclear weapons within months if fissile material from foreign sources were obtained.

It could divert domestic civil-use radioisotopes or seek to obtain foreign material for a crude radiological device.

...Biological Weapons:

Our net assessment of the current situation is that:

Iraq has probably retained substantial growth media and BW agent (perhaps thousands of litres of anthrax) from pre 1991 stocks.

The regime is capable of resuming BW Agent production on short notice (in weeks) from existing civilian facilities. It could have produced thousands of litres of anthrax, botulinum toxin and other agents since 1998. Actual stocks cannot be known.

Iraqi production of viral agents is unknown as is the question of whether the regime possesses small pox.

...Chemical Weapons

Our net assessment of the current situation is that:

Iraq has probably retained a few hundred tonnes of mustard and precursors for a few hundred tonnes of sarin/cyclosarin and perhaps similar amounts of VX from pre-1991 stocks.

It is capable of resuming CW production on short notice (months) from existing civilian facilities. It could have produced hundreds of tonnes of agent (mustard and nerve agents) since 1998. In these circumstances, it is not possible accurately to estimate present stocks.

Fascinating. Is it credible? One presumes that Prof. Krugman believes so.

So, if I am following correctly, the Earnest Professor will not decry future terror alerts as cheap political stunts designed to scare the electorate into voting Republican. The issue is real!

Further, the Earnest Professor seems to be saying, albeit indirectly, that the threat of Saddam's WMD program was also real, or at least that the threat assessment was credible.

Quite an odd day for Krugman readers.

UPDATE: Has Krugman ever suggested that terror alerts are, or might be, cheap political stunts? Good question? How about this, from what seems to be June 25, 2002:

Clearly, George W. Bush's people believe that real-world problems will solve themselves, or at least won't make the evening news, because by pure coincidence they will be pre-empted by terror alerts.

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