Archive for April 8th, 2013

Pacifism Is Easy, Peace Harder

April 8, 2013

I knew I was going to get flak for advocating no more concession to the 29 year old hereditary king of North Korea, while making clear that crushing his tyranny was worth a war.

In the last few years, outrages of North Korea have included sinking a South Korean ship and submitting South Koreans to an artillery barrage, killing dozens. The worst offense: violating UN Security Council orders about NOT becoming a nuclear ICBM armed state. This is the densest problem. Contemplate the Plutonium ring below:

Eleven centimeters (4") across. Explosive power: more than 100,000 tons TNT.

Eleven centimeters (4″) across. Explosive power: more than 100,000 tons TNT.

Yes, if it could be made magically into a ball, around five centimeters in diameter, this innocent looking ring, with neutron reflectors all around, would explode with the power of 100,000 tons of TNT. It baffles the mind. (In a so called thermonuclear bomb, much of the power can come from fission efficiently boosted by thermonuclear tricks.) 

Plutonium is the densest naturally occurring element. Plutonium is pyrophoric: it spontaneously ignites when exposed to moist air. Mr Kim Jong Un has just officially restarted one of his Plutonium making machines.

Using a Plutonium bomb as match, one can release enormous amounts of power rather easily from a mix of other elements such as deuterium, tritium, lithium deuteride and Uranium 238. (The tricks are pretty much known by all: fill the void at the center with deuterium-tritium gas,  compress lithium deuteride  around a fissionable core, within a Uranium temper, with extremely hard radiation, etc.)

Some commenters suggested I was a war monger, “over the top“. My answer:

Sorry if I left the impression that I believed Kim Jong Un was a “new Hitler”. That is not what I tried to say. My main point was otherwise subtle. It was about worldwide moods. I could have been more direct.

Kim will have 300 nuclear tipped ICBMs in ten years or so. Then what? Democracies will want to keep the overwhelming military advantage over North Korea they have now, to make sure they will not be attacked. So Japan may have 6,000 nuclear tipped rockets, South Korea, 3,000. The Nuclear Proliferation Treaty will be out of the window. China will try to have even more nukes than Korea and Japan put together.

And if you think that 100 million Vietnamese will not get nuclear armed if China is crawling with nukes, you don’t know military history. And part of India is presently occupied by China, the South China Sea is claimed by many powers, etc. Fortress USA will be projecting forward its defense lines, as it is, correctly, already doing, making China uncomfortable.

In other words, considering all the local animosities about who owns what islet in the region, nuclear war of all against all will pretty much be insured, should North Korea become a bit more of a nuclear armed power (say when it can annihilate Tokyo, as it is basically capable of doing already).

What will one say then? Those who talked about it should not have been “over the top“? (A precedent exists: Nietzsche, for condemning loud and clear what came to be known as “Nazism”, 50 years later, was himself called a Nazi, when he was in truth the enemy of the herd instinct especially around what would become the main themes of Nazism.)

Around 300 nukes in ten years for Kim Jung Un, I say. Some will sneer that I am exaggerating. Well, they need a course in (recent) physics. OK, let’s go.

***

NUCLEAR ENERGY GENESIS:

In January 1938, when, and because, war with Adolf Hitler seemed unavoidable, young Nobel Laureate Irene Curie explained to the French Ministre de la Guerre that immensely powerful nuclear bombs could be made. France hid immediately all patents related to nuclear energy.

Irene Curie had found that neutrons made Uranium 235 nuclei fission in a nuclear chain reaction. When slowed by heavy water. In June 1940, the French heavy water was loaded on a cargo ship, with some prominent nuclear physicists involved in the bomb program. The French army sank the ship during a Nazi air attack. The Nazis were satisfied.

Little did they know that everything and everybody had  been transferred secretly to another cargo ship.  The program was transferred soon to the USA. It was discovered that, one could slow down the neurons using only Boron and graphite. By nuclear transmutation (Irene’s Nobel discovery), an element could be created in nuclear reactors, Plutonium.

If one gathers enough Plutonium (isotopes 239, 240, 241) or Uranium 235 in one place, the fissioning of nuclei will create more than one neutron in the average, and thus generate ever more neurons: that’s the chain reaction, Irene’s discovery (deliberately falsely attributed to Otto Hahn by the enemies of France, and friends of sexism).

Assemble lots of this material together quickly, and a giant explosion will result. How quickly to assemble Pu239 or U235 was the trick question.

It was quickly discovered that Plutonium (especially Pu240) creates so many neutrons that the nuclear chain reaction starts too fast, before the entire material can be exposed to a full chain reaction, resulting in a fizzle.

***

NEW NUKE ARM RACE, THANKS TO CHEAP HEU:

Because Plutonium so readily explodes, a Plutonium bomb requires the implosion of a sphere of Plutonium. To realize that, in turn, requires very complicated math, and specialized very fast electronics, to fabricate lenses of high explosives and slow explosives shock waves to concentrate the Plutonium in a tight ball so suddenly that the entire material can bathe in the neutrons it generates all over before it predetonates in a sub-volume.

Uranium 235 is less reactive, so one has much more time to assemble a super critical mass. A simple gun, where a mass of U235 is fired deep into another U235 mass will do. This is EXTREMELY EASY to do.

However, producing enough U235 by separating it from naturally occurring U238/233 mix was an extremely time, space, energy, capital, and effort consuming process.

One made a gas, Uranium hexafluoride, and then passed it through thousands of filters, progressively leaving the U238 behind. The plants were gigantic, as big as a kilometer across, and used giant amounts of electricity.

Fabricating Plutonium in nuclear reactors by transmutation was much easier. It was much simpler, and cheaper to extract Plutonium from nuclear reactors, where it is made from the sort of nuclear transmutation process demonstrated by Irene Curie.

This is why nuclear bombs were made with imploding Plutonium spheres since 1945. Yet, the engineering looked so far-fetched, that the U.S. military required a test of the design before using it (@ Alamagordo).

Indeed, the military wanted to make sure that the first bomb used against Japan worked. The military wanted shock and awe, not  apathetic fizzle. So the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was an Uranium gun device. Even the military was sure that it would certainly work: the Hiroshima bomb was a prototype.

Uranium 235 was too expensive to make to waste it in bombs. It was much more economical to enrich natural Uranium with the U235 isotope, by a few percent, then use that in nuclear reactors and make Plutonium there. 

Nowadays, though, things are changing. This process of ENRICHMENT has become much easier with ultracentrifuges. Ultracentrifuged gas containing more of the denser U238 tends to stick to the outside. Enrichment promises to get even easier with an even newer process, laser separation.

One knows laser enrichment works, because the USA loud and clear announced to the world it was building such a plant. Talk about talking too much.

If one can produce lots of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), cheaply, one does not need Plutonium to make bombs.

The next mystery is how rich needs to be the mix U238/U235 to make a bomb? 98% certainly works. But what about 50-50? Nobody knows. I fear that it works (using thermonuclear tricks one can fission usually placid U238; making thus not just a “H bomb” of a sort, up to megatons powerful, but also a very dirty one)…

We have therefore attained an extremely dangerous situation with the proliferation of nukes. Billions of pacifists praying the other way will not change that. The giant plants of old fashion enrichment were easy to spot. Small underground chambers with lasers will be nearly impossible to spot and destroy.

***

ANTI-WAR JIHAD REQUIRED:

One thing the Qur’an got right is that the concept of Jihad is part of core humanism. Jihad means “struggle, contest, effort,” from the infinitive of jahada “he waged war, he applied himself to.”

Kim Jong Un commands the fourth largest army in the world. However its power is quickly waning. But for the nukes.

Kim’s differences with Hitler are many: Kim was always pampered, a man of wealth, taste and vast appetite, an hereditary plutocrat, Hitler was dirt poor, and shot at by the French for four years. Kim is an overweight smoker, Hitler was a lean vegetarian, who neither drank, nor smoked. Kim has a charming wife, whereas Hitler got married at the last hour (OK, last 5 hours). Hitler was also in his forties when he got to responsibilities. Whereas Kim Jong Un is only 29 year old. Kim Jong Un also does not have a racist agenda, to my knowledge.

I was not making an analogy between Kim and Hitler, but between the way this crisis ought to be treated and the way the Hitler problem was treated… All too late. Now, of course, to this day, some are whining about the cruelty of Britain and France, coming to the rescue of Poland. Such people fondly remember Nazism. They are frequently found in the USA, a country where, when the mother of Obama got married to a Kenyan, such a depravity was unlawful in many states.

If France and Britain had not intervened, not only would the Nazis have killed all the Jews, and many other minorities, but also they would have killed all the Poles, maybe all the Slaves, etc.  The Nazis did organized the holocaust of the Poles, even setting up Auschwitz for them. But the pressures of the world war distracted the Nazis from that task, and, in spite of a good start in 1939-1940, they killed only six millions Poles in the end.

The racist, fascist MOOD that arose in Europe, starting before 1914, was not barred until August 1939. Nietzsche pointed out that crazy militaristic racist fascism was well started in Germany by 1880. There was, especially in the 1930s, an infection of fascism, worldwide. Japan, Germany, Spain, among others, fell to fascism in the 1930s. In the USA, the country nearly did fall into fascism, and then its plutocrats took command in lots of countries, including Italy, Germany and Spain.

Ultimately, fascism had to blocked, with ultimate violence. This is what Poland, France and Britain did in August 1939. They refused to give another inch to Hitler.

Right now we are facing the potential rise of something similar. The rise of a MOOD OF NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL. Worldwide. That was my main point. To pretend that I said: Hitler = Kim, frankly is a smokescreen masking my main idea.

If Kim Jong Un is not struck down, nuclear blackmail will be rewarded. Other fascist regimes will be inspired. China, right now, is opposed to what North Korea is doing.

Said Xi, the new Chinese president, April 6 2013: “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains. While pursuing its own interests, a country should accommodate the legitimate interests of others.”

Yet, if leaders see that nuclear blackmail is rewarded, some are bound to feel that it works.

Kim Jung Un is a typical plutocrat: he speaks several languages, and has two billion dollars stashed in Swiss banks alone.

He thinks he knows his fellow plutocrats well, just as Hitler did. Hitler had been told by his hyper wealthy advisers that democracies would never find the will to block him. He came to believe that deeply. There is little doubt that Kim Jung Un believes something similar.

The worldwide plutocracy has actually NO interest to a full blown war with North Korea. Be it only because, when the mood of blowing up a few plutocrats has been adopted, it may prove persistent, and they may be the next ones to be blown. Something like that happened after WWII in Europe, and the USA.

Indeed, a full blown (world, or not) war would probably lead to a great equalitarian wave, as happened, in Europe or the USA, after WWII.

The question of tax avoiding hyper rich corporations and individuals is indeed related. it can only come from those to whom jihad is natural. 

After World War Two eleven million GIs required to be served. The government could not argue with the 7% of the population, the war ready young men, who had just been trained to kill, in the name of civilization. So taxes on the hyper rich were brought up to 92.5% in the following decade. In the USA.

This why, when Roman plutocracy grew, it tended to employ foreign troops. They were unlikely to require a revolution at home, and if they did, it did not matter, as their home was out there. 

The Romans used to say that, if you want peace, prepare for war (Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum). But the truth is even worse. When maximizing peace, do not prioritize the minimization of war.

Nobody said life was not tough. But there is nothing like it.

***

Patrice Ayme


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Skulls in the Stars

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Footnotes to Plato

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