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July 7, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

China failures
Pentagon officials tell us China's government failed utterly to come through on private pledges to the Bush administration to halt North Korea's missile tests.

Worse, some officials say, it is likely Beijing deceived the United States about its efforts to dissuade North Korea from the apparent tests and that China may have tacitly backed the seven missile launches earlier this week.

"This demonstrates how impotent the Chinese are and the incredibly low level of influence they have over their North Korean brethren," one official told us.

A second official suggested that China deliberately misled the United States into thinking that it had prevailed on North Korea not to conduct the launches, which have triggered a regional crisis, led by concerns that Japan may impose sanctions.

Chinese government officials "at the highest levels" directly asked North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on several occasions during the past two weeks to turn off plans for missile launches, including the long-range Taepodong-2 that ultimately failed after 42 seconds into flight, the first official said.

"The North Koreans basically stuck their finger in the eyes of the Chinese and went ahead with the tests," this official said.

The official said the failure to stop the launches contrasts with China's efforts to take credit for negotiating the interim Sept. 19 joint statement in the six-party talks on North Korea, which the Chinese saw as a matter of "personal pride."

Now, however, the missile tests have all but scuttled any chance for resuming the stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear arms program.

Officials told us that another failure involved the staff of the White House National Security Council. Acting NSC Asia director Dennis Wilder stated in a classified assessment for President Bush and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley that China would come through and prevent the North Korean launches.

The failure highlights the continuing intelligence shortfalls on China that often are based on the wishful thinking of pro-China analysts and policy-makers who insist China is a friend of the United States and is supporting U.S. policy objectives.

Sabotage potential
We have no evidence that the U.S. was able to sabotage North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile, which malfunctioned 42 seconds into launch on Tuesday and crashed.

But we do note that special operations forces (SOF) are playing an increasing role, overt and covert, in the world under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's rule. We also note that one of the reasons that SOF procured the powerful .50- caliber Barrett's sniper rifle was to have the capability to disable ballistic missiles. It's a scenario for missile defense you won't see in any literature from the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency: insert a commando behind the lines, who positions himself within shooting range of the launchpad.

"One of the original reasons for procuring the .50-caliber sniper system was to disable missiles," a SOF source says. "A round pumped in prior to launch, or during to cover the noise, in the right place would cause a catastrophic malfunction."

Male bashing
Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness, reports in her latest newsletter that the Pentagon has rejected the idea of creating an "Office of Victim Advocate."

The Pentagon had awarded a contract to the Wellesley College Centers for Women to study the feasibility of creating an office for victims of sexual harassment and abuse.

Mrs. Donnelly said an OVA would have become the "Office of Male Bashing."

"Unlike misogyny (woman-hating), misandry or man-hating is socially acceptable and promoted by feminists who relentlessly portray women as 'victims,' " Mrs. Donnelly writes. "Hundreds of 'women studies' majors graduate every year from Wellesley and colleges nationwide. Many would flock to participate in the ultimate social experiment: 'transforming' the culture of the military from a bastion of 'masculinity' into the 'gender-free society' cherished by feminist theorists."

Young minds
We asked a senior Army officer involved in training cadets how the students view the Iraq war.

"They are very critical of our policies and our leaders, yet undeterred in their pursuit of military careers," the trainer said. "Most seem to divorce themselves from the politics when it comes to their role as officers, as they should. We carry out policy, we do not make it.

"The officers are very similar, which may explain the stoicism of the cadets since our attitudes rub off on them. We are often quite outspoken and angry among ourselves. In front of the cadets, I think most of us strive to be the devil's advocate, prodding the cadets into forming their own opinions as opposed to trying to create clones of ourselves. But, these are smart cadets they can figure out pretty easily how we feel about things.

"In the end, though, nobody seems to be defeatist and everyone seems to want to get overseas and fight. I'm sure there is a silent minority that wants nothing to do with Iraq, but I haven't seen it. Of course, our culture would tend to force people like that into the closet."

Suitcase nukes
A senior Energy Department official stated recently that nuclear weapons exist in sizes small enough to be carried by one person.

Linton Brooks, undersecretary of energy for national security affairs, told defense reporters recently that he viewed a model of a Russian nuclear artillery shell at the All Russian Institute of Technical Physics. "You've got to be kind of strong, but you can carry it," he said. Also, nuclear bombs called atomic demolition munitions that are portable enough to be moved by people have been around for 20 or 30 years. The devices are sophisticated and could not easily be produced by terrorists or criminals.

"The question is not so much is it possible," he said. "The question is, has there been any loss of control of these things?"

Mr. Brooks discussed what he called the "urban legend" that three Russian suitcase bombs are hidden someplace in the Middle East. But he dismissed recurrent reports of the suitcase bombs as not true, noting that claims about the weapons are that they have been there since the early 1990s and yet the nukes have never been used.

"The point is if it were true it would be a very big deal," he said. "That's why it's important that I spend money and time and effort helping the Russians improve their physical security."

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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