Who has the bomb: off topic
If one were to take the headlines seriously one might forgivably get the impression that there is some interest in whether Iran has the atom bomb.  Let’s see … we have placed and pressured others to place punitive sanctions against Iran to try to force her not to get the bomb.  President Obama seemed to be making some sort of progress but the senate decided to have the Israeli prime minister address them without informing the president.  They then sent a letter to Iran saying in effect, don’t trust Obama; he won’t be there forever.  A lot of us are feeling embarrassed by our own government.  So I looked up some numbers.  In 1950, by which time obviously the US had the bomb, our population was 152 million and our Gross domestic product was 300 billion.  Without allowing for changes in the value of the dollar or the composition of populations I did the same thing for North Korea, which has the bomb, for Israel that in 1966 when it got the bomb, for Pakistan in 1998 when it got the bomb and for Iran now.

US 1950
Population 152 million
GDP 300 billion

North Korea
Population 24 million
GDP 12 billion

Israel 1966
Population 2.6 million
GDP 4 billion

Pakistan 1998
Population 137 million
GDP 62 billion

Population 77 million
GDP 367 billion

Then I did a rough graph to see how they look together.

It appears that North Korea and Israel are jammed in the lower right corner, tiny countries with tiny resources, subject to instant annihilation in any nuclear exchange and presumably with better things to spend their money on.  Pakistan got the bomb at about the same population size as the US, but their wealth is still so low that it just doesn’t make sense for them.

There is the US, big and rich, the world superpower even in 1950 and frankly since 1800 or thereabouts.  At the time of the cold war, the money was available and the US could have taken quite a wallop and still survived.  I think our nuclear arsenal has always been regrettable, but as you see, utter madness though it might be, there is some sort of numeric support.

Now look at Iran.  It has a substantial population.  And it is even richer than the US was in 1950.  If they are having a quarrel with a nuclear power, they have at least as much justification for having the bomb as we have ever had.  They can afford it.

In fact they are so rich that short of conquering and occupying the place there is no way we or anybody else is going to stop them.  Nobody says they have the bomb.  I don’t believe they do.  But the only reason they don’t have it is that they don’t want it. 

I saw a brief debate the other day.  It was said that president Bush was offered a deal that Iran would freeze the number of centrifuges they use to process uranium at 162, dilute their over concentrated uranium and turn it into fuel rods.  Bush balked.  That was ten years ago.  Iran now has 16,000 centrifuges.  Funny what you can do with money. 

A couple or three years ago we noticed an object outside the Iranian nuclear facility.  We decided it was a containment vessel for explosions.  (We’re pretty good when we make an honest attempt at something.)  An A bomb of course has to be started by a device that includes a conventional explosive.  To test the detonation device a containment vessel would be very useful.  In short they by now have the bomb minus its uranium charge, they have lots of uranium and a serious investment in processing ability.  How far are they from having the bomb?  I would say hours. 

The first test of an A bomb was the trinity test.  It was a plutonium bomb.  We dropped one of those on Japan.  We also had a uranium bomb, which we dropped on Japan.  It didn’t have to be tested.  They knew it would work.  As I said, Iran is hours away from the bomb.  

So why in the world would they want the bomb?  As far as deterrence, they already have the same deterrence as if they had stuck the uranium in.  So they get the only benefit of the bomb – its deterrent value – without having the bomb and the obvious risks that would entail.  Somebody might steal the dern thing. 

So it would be nice to have some sort of a deal with them, but it really isn’t going to change anything except let us have a better relationship with a major power in an area that seems chronically beset by troubles. 

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