Horses, Bayonnets, Aircraft Carriers, and Centrifuges

When Romney mentioned needing more ships and airplanes in last night’s debate, here’s the image that flashed on and off in my mind:

Here’s the deal. We may have fewer of certain types of ships and planes than we once did, but we’re by no means lacking on the weapons of war front.

When it comes to aircraft carriers, the United States has 11 currently deployed, and 3 under construction. How many does the rest of the world have?

  • United Kingdom, 1 (2 under construction)
  • Japan, 0 (0 under construction)
  • Russia, 1 (0 under construction)
  • Spain & Italy, 2 each (0 under construction)

China has 1, with 2 under construction. By the time they finish theirs, and we finish ours, we’ll still have almost five times more than they do.

It shouldn’t scare you that we might have fewer pieces of certain types of equipment. Trust me, we’re doing just fine compared to anyone we need to be concerned about on the equipment front.

Speaking of construction, Romney claimed a couple of times that Iran has 10,000 nuclear centrifuges spinning up trouble. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s August report, however, that number is roughly 2,100, not 10,000. And while I’ll be the first to say we absolutely need to trust but verify when it comes to Iran and uranium enrichment, it must be noted that enriched uranium does have a perfectly legitimate purpose as reactor fuel.

In other words, the number of centrifuges does not matter as much as how the Iranians are using the enriched uranium.

I suppose Mitt Romney has taken Bill Clinton’s criticism to heart, but missed the point. Yes, math counts. But foreign policy is about much, much more than adding up numbers. It is about diplomacy, nuance, intelligence, analysis, and, when you factor in the irrationality and instability of leaders and institutions like Ahmadinejad and Al Qaeda, foreign policy is about measured responses designed to end crises instead of provoke them.

Romney sounded like a blunderbuss in the debate, another weapon we’ve got fewer of today, and for which we have no need. And one which, as Wikipedia points out, may be accurate at short range, but useless over longer distances.

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1 Response to Horses, Bayonnets, Aircraft Carriers, and Centrifuges

  1. bshirley says:

    Also, fuel-grade and weapons-grade uranium require different amounts of enrichment.

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