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Your “Oh Shit” Moment for a Saturday Morning

Posted by on November 5th, 2011

From our partners at

By BJ Bjornson

There’s just so much to love about this story:

Pakistan is taking nuclear paranoia to a horrifying new low. And it’s making the world a vastly more dangerous place in the process.

Freaked out about the insecurity of its nuclear arsenal, the Pakistani military’s Strategic Plans Division has begun carting the nukes around in clandestine ways. That might make some sense on the surface: no military wants to let others know exactly where its most powerful weapons are at any given moment. But Pakistan is going to an extreme.

The nukes travel “in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic,” according to a blockbuster story on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship in The Atlantic. Marc Ambinder and Jeffrey Goldberg write that tactical nuclear weapons travel down the streets in “vans with a modest security profile.” Somewhere on a highway around, say, Karachi, is the world’s most dangerous 1-800-FLOWERS truck

According to the report, the Pakistani military is looking to safeguard the nukes from possible special forces raids by the U.S., which admittedly does apparently have plans to seize the weapons in the case of a coup or other disturbance they feel might jeopardize the security of Pakistan’s arsenal. You have to wonder if this counts.

Two caveats to the fear-mongering: One, shipping these weapons in such a unobtrusive way is certainly part of the plan to keep anyone, including Islamists, from being able to track them. When the shipment could be in any of the thousands of trucks trundling along the roadway, picking the right one to hit becomes much harder than if they advertise its special cargo with all sorts of special vehicles and security measures.

Two, no noticeable defenses does not equal no actual defenses. Being unobtrusive is not the same as being unprepared for trouble. Still, it is hard not to be a little concerned by this report, or disagree with Wired’s concluding paragraph.

Which sinks the U.S. into the nadir of absurdity. It funds a terrorist-sponsoring state while conducting a massive undeclared war on part of that state’s territory. It wants that state’s assistance to end the Afghanistan war while that state’s soldiers help insurgents wage it. And seeking a world without nuclear weapons while its “Major Non-NATO Ally” drastically increases the probability that terrorists will acquire a the most dangerous weapon of all.

I will note my disagreement with part of that last point. The U.S. has no issue with its other "Major Non-NATO Ally" Israel having nuclear weapons, or with the U.S. having them, or even apparently with Pakistan's neighbour India having them, to go by the selling of civilian nuclear technology to said nation without much guarantee that said technology won't end up in its weapons program as well. As with many other things, the U.S.'s commitment to a nuclear-free world looks entirely different depending on who they are talking about.

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