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Joshua H. Pollack @Joshua_Pollack
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Good morning. I've got a few things to say about North Korea, the analysis of commercial satellite imagery, the news media, the Trump White House, and whether we are all going to die horribly. Just the usual light chit-chat. nknews.org/2018/12/whos-d…
Let's start with commercial satellite imagery. It's good, and it's getting really, really good. But to do anything useful with it, you need money to buy the pictures, and committed people who know what they are doing with them.
It matters, though. Overhead imagery analysis is a very powerful tool for understanding the world. That's why governments have invested so much in it. The question, as always: can the public rely on what their government tells them?
If you're old enough, you will remember how we got into the war in Iraq. You might recall, in particular, what the Bush White House did with raw intelligence about weapons of mass destruction programs. If you don't: it wasn't pretty. 2001-2009.state.gov/p/nea/disarm/
Once the troops were in Iraq and it was starting to become apparent just how hollow the original rationale for war truly was, people started to grasp at straws. This document, memorably, was hustled out the door and set before the public: cia.gov/library/report…
If you don't remember how that turned out, let me recommend a book by Bob Drogin: Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War. amazon.com/Curveball-Spie…
Americans were misled. Untold numbers of Iraqis died, and their country is still just putting the pieces back together. It's a disgraceful story from start to... well, it hasn't even finished.
Some of the self-inflicted wounds along the way included the trashing of at least one distinguished journalistic brand. Reporters who should have known better were enlisted in the confidence game. nytimes.com/2004/05/26/wor…
Now, imagine that in 2002, American civil society had been equipped with its own powerful WMD intelligence apparatus. Would it have made any difference? It's hard to say. Were there any relevant indicators? Would anyone have listened if they were found?
It's now the end of 2018. We have a White House whose habitual mendacity is unlike anything in living memory. We also have a president who doesn't scruple at making nuclear threats, even against nuclear-armed opponents like North Korea:
When it comes to North Korea, though, the Trump administration's falsehoods are unlike the Bush administration's about Iraq. They're lies for peace, not war, and it's tempting to accept them. 2018 has been a lot less frightening than 2017, after all. But that would be a mistake.
As discussed in my @nknewsorg article, civil society has the tools to see through today's lies - both textual and imagery analysis. The picture is pretty clear. Kim Jong Un has no intention of disarming. He continues to build up his missile capabilities. nknews.org/2018/12/whos-d…
I'm especially proud of the groundbreaking work done by my colleagues at @MIIS @CNS_Updates, picking out new or expanded missile-related sites, like this: armscontrolwonk.com/archive/120555…
But why rock the boat, you may ask? If Trump wants to believe he has gotten an agreement to disarm whose fulfillment is just a matter of time, why try to disillusion him? And indeed, a humiliated Trump is a dangerous Trump.
That's the lesson of the April 2018 cruise missile strikes on Syria. When the failure of his earlier policy - the cruise missile strikes of April 2017 - was broadcast on global television, he lashed out: nbcnews.com/politics/natio…
The problem is twofold. First, Kim Jong Un might take a step at any time that has a similar effect. Second, Trump has surrounded himself with advisers who believe that Kim can only deceive and diplomacy can only fail. video.foxnews.com/v/574878493600…
When their moment comes, then it will be a relief if they only press for intensified sanctions. wsj.com/articles/the-m…
Before that happens, it's important that Congress and the public already be inoculated against the false belief that Kim Jong Un cheated on an agreement to disarm. Expectations should be brought back down to earth.
One thing that won't help - anybody listening at @nytimes? - is grossly misleading news coverage like this. nytimes.com/2018/11/12/us/…
Being at the top of the news media heap is a public trust. As somebody once said, these sorts of failures aren't individual, but institutional. cc: @BumillerNYT @deanbaquet nytimes.com/2004/05/30/wee…
Let's conclude. Kim didn't agree to disarm, either at Panmunjom or at Singapore. He isn't trying to deceive us on that point, either. He publicly announced a nuclear buildup this January 1! kcnawatch.co/newstream/2848…
When Kim announced the end of nuclear testing in North Korea and the renewed pursuit of economic development, he "clarified" that these steps could be taken precisely because North Korea has the bomb and plans to keep it. kcnawatch.co/newstream/1524…
Shortly before the Singapore summit, a senior North Korean diplomat publicly warned Washington not to expect unilateral nuclear disarmament. kcnawatch.co/newstream/1526…
That's what the satellite photos, show, too: it's business as usual in North Korea. There was never much reason to think otherwise. Those of us who treasure the calm of 2018 - thank you, @TheBlueHouseENG - should not deceive ourselves about its fragility. (End thread)
PS. You should also read this new article from my colleague @ArmsControlWonk. Be certain to click through the "interactive coloring book." nti.org/analysis/artic…
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