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October 6, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Bolton fallback
Some congressional staffers are talking up a fallback position in the event that John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is not confirmed by the Senate in his current post.

President Bush made a recess appointment in August 2005, after Democrats and one Republican blocked his confirmation. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, wants another committee vote. But now Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island Republican, who is in a tight re-election battle in a liberal-leaning state, is balking.

With confirmation prospects looking dim, Mr. Bolton's recess appointment will expire when a new Congress convenes Jan. 3.

The fallback: Mr. Bush could name Mr. Bolton as a deputy U.N. representative, a non-confirmable position, and then name him "acting" U.N. ambassador. Such a move would require some musical chairs of current deputies in the U.S. representative office in New York.

During a meeting at The Washington Times this week, we asked R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, about such a deal. "We want confirmation," he said. "We do not discuss fallback positions."

Iran option
A former Navy intelligence officer weighs in on how the world will stop Iran from building nuclear bombs:

"I really believe the Israelis are going to strike [Iran's] several uranium processing factories soon. They cannot survive a first strike. This time, unlike when they sent eight F-16s to destroy the Iraqi reactor Osirak, I think they will use the Jericho missiles and the submarine-launched, nuclear-tipped Tomahawks to do nuclear strikes. Most of the factories are 150 meters underground and too deep for bunker busters."

Boeing recently conducted a successful flight test of the Navy's extremely accurate Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response, known by the appropriate acronym, SLAM-ER. The test was against a simulated Iranian Shahab-3 mobile missile and a Russian-made SA-10 air defense missile.

The SLAM-ER scored a direct hit against the moving SA-10 target at the Navy's China Lake, Calif., air warfare test center on Sept. 13, the company said.

That test followed a June 1 flight test missile attack against a Shahab-3 missile launcher mock-up.

"SLAM-ER now has the flexibility to engage both fixed and moving land targets," said Jan Browne, Boeing's naval weapons director. "This demonstrated capability greatly enhances the Navy's ability to engage high-interest mobile targets in today's varied threat environment." The latest test-firing was carried out from a Navy F/A-18 jet, which was able to relay targeting data to the SLAM-ER after it was launched.

The next test will involve firing the missile at a SA-3 missile launcher, and the SLAM-ER will attempt to hit the target as it changes speed and maneuvers.

The satellite-guided missile has a range of up to 155 miles and is extremely accurate.

Rummy on war
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told journalist Bob Woodward that the global war on terrorism will be won like the Cold War, without a final traditional military battle.

"The Cold War was won not by some buildup to a crescendo of a military battle," Mr. Rumsfeld said July 7. "It was won economic, political and military. And the war on terror, the struggle against violent extremists, is going to be won the same way, over an sustained period of time."

Viewing the war as purely a military battle is wrong and winning will take "patience and persistence."

"And ultimately it will take what helped us prevail in the Cold War, and that is the fact that through successive administrations of both political parties, people recognized the threat and they were willing to invest and persevere, and they were willing to work with other countries in Western Europe, in this case, and make tough decisions."

Mr. Rumsfeld also expressed his doubts about the reliability of U.S. intelligence assessments.

Asked about a May intelligence assessment that the Sunni insurgency in Iraq was gaining strength, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "I read so many of those intelligence reports and they are all over the lot.

"In a given day, you can see one from one agency, and one from another agency, and then I'll ask Casey or Abizaid what they think about it or Pete Pace, 'Is that your view?' and trying to triangulate and see what people think, but it changes from month to month. I'm not going to get tied to saying I agree or don't agree with something like that."

He was referring to Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq; Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command; and Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs chairman.

Mr. Rumsfeld last week told reporters he is a not a fan of Mr. Woodward and has not read his earlier books, "so I wouldn't hold your breath on this one."

USS Bush
The Navy tomorrow will christen its new Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, at a ceremony in Newport News, Va.

President Bush will speak at the ceremony for the ship named after his father, former President George Bush.

The USS George H.W. Bush will be the last of the Navy's Nimitz-class carriers and will honor the former World War II naval aviator. Mr. Bush was shot down while flying an Avenger torpedo during an attack on enemy installations near Chichi Jima in September 1944.

"Although the plane was on fire and heavily damaged, he completed a strafing run on the target before bailing out of the doomed aircraft," the Navy said in announcing the christening. Mr. Bush parachuted into the sea and later was rescued by the Navy submarine USS Finback. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.

The 97,000-ton ship, when commissioned and operational, will carry 5,000 crew members and about 75 warplanes.

  • 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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