Friday, January 20, 2006

Iran Goes Nuclear

So everybody's talking about Iran's recent decision to continue their nuclear research. They do this under the pretext of developing a nuclear power industry. They are probably lying. I say this not because they are an Islamofascist state, but because their leaders are politicians, just like ours. Lying seems to be simply a part of the business. So we can safely assume they are developing nuclear weapons.

Why now? It's obvious. Military force isn't really an option for us right now. Between our financial debt and the public's anxiety to get out of the Iraq war sometime soon (not necessarily now, but when we, and they, are ready for it), I can't really see us staging another invasion any time soon. And I suspect Iran would be a much harder nut to crack. Iraq was a loosely collected group of enslaved peoples groaning under the opression of a ruthless dictator. Iran is a one-party republic presently ruled by a popular nationalist president. Many, many people would die, and I doubt we'd accomplish much in the process. Unless the Eurpeans, the Russians, the Chinese, and others are willing to come forth with significant forces, I doubt it can be done.

Then there's the option of diplomacy. I sincerely doubt diplomacy is going to work on a popular nationalistic president with greater ambitions. It'll probably be about as effective as the diplomacy France and Britain did with Nazi Germany before the start of World War 2. Indeed, we may well be seeing the beginnings of World War 3 on our hands, if we don't do something.

We do have one card up our sleave, a card we didn't have before World War 2: the card that ended it. Jacque Chirac showed unusal good sense for a Frenchman last Wednesday; ironically enough, he did it with the very same sort of sabre rattling the French are famous for hating the Americans for. I think it's pretty much inevitable at this point that the Iranians are going to get nukes sometime soon, and we're going to have to find a way to deal with it. Heck, it's pretty much inevitable that the whole world will have nukes someday. With the advance of knowledge, I fully expect that someday, high school students will be capable of building nuklear reactors in their garages--if only they can acquire the necessary raw materials. I believe the raw materials exist in abundance in many places.

So we can't stop them from going nuclear. What we can do is attempt to ensure that their weapons remain weapons of national defense

I would start with the UN. I believe that France and Russia are scared enough of Iran to go along with us this time, if not actually lead the charge. I don't see how obstructing the entire security council could benefit the Chinese, though they may require some kind of concession in some other area. What I would have the UN do is basically set up a sort of UN sponsored spying effort, kind of a system of nuclear inspections, whether they like it or not. The goal is to keep track of their nuclear materials, and do our best to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands. We'll do it openly secretly: yes there will be spies. No, we won't tell them who they are or where they'll be. And we'll expect them to repatriate any spies they catch, with the full Genoeva compliant treatment prior. This will all be justified under the rhubric "nonproliferation violation."

The second component will be the reiteration of the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction to the new generation of rogue states. We'll let the Iranians know that if they decide, for example, to wipe Israel off the map, Israel won't be the only country wiped off the map. We'll let them (and the North Koreans) know that if a nuclear bomb is set off by an Islamist terrorist in any country under our nuclear umbrella, we WILL NOT give them the benefit of the doubt; absolute nuclear obliteration will commense. While there are plenty of radicals in Iran who might say, "so what?" I don't believe every man, woman, and child in Iran is prepared to be a suicide bomber. If their leaders are truly insane enough to start a nuclear war, I fully expect the Iranian people to hand us their heads.

As to conventional threats, for this to work, we need to stay on the defensive, and off the ground in Iran. If they start shelling Israel, call in airstrikes. If we lack air supremacy, bomb their airbases. Hit military targets only. Iran is a republic. We need their dissenters on our side. If they position military hardware in civilian areas, send in advance notice, give the civilians time to get out, then hit it hard. Never mind the ones who stay to be "martyrs." Forget about "collateral damage;" those are the breaks in war. And I don't believe American occupation is an option, in this case. I'm not sure sending in Russian troops would be much smarter. But I am certain that even a nuclear Iran can be contained. Indeed, now that they're part of the "MAD Club," it might even be easier.


Cranky Weasel said...

The problem here is that in order to perform the actions you mention you must convince the government, the military, and the people of the United States to abandon their self-image as a morally superior nation.

A decision to make a devastating attack on a military presence in a populated civilian area is one made with the understanding that innocents will die. Thus the attacker moves into very questionable territory. Nobility, honour and caring are exchanged for sterile expediency, and ruthlessness.

The U.S. is not prepared to engage in the obliteration of another nation as retaliation for the harming of some third entity. I suspect that it is a psychological impossibility, unless they are faced with the prospect of their own extermination.

But if the U.S. can simply become a expansionist nation, damn the opinion of the world, then there are far more options to them. That will take a great deal of time, or a series of damaging crises - perhaps of the energy variety.


Tarvok said...

First off, my "hit it hard" isn't quite the same as a "devastating attack." It's more along the lines of "incapacatating attack" wherin we attempt to achieve the mission (elimination of long-range attack machinery) with a minimum of damage to the surrounding areas. Nevertheless, nearby people will die. That is why I suggest abandoning the advantage of surprise in favor of the advantage of being seen as being opposed only to the actions of the government, and not the entire nation of Iran. It's a difficult proposition, given we've got a small but vocal minority in this country that would see "all them Islams" converted at swordpoint.

I object to your last paragraph, about our being unprepared to engage in the obliteration of another nation. We honor our alliances. Had Canada (for example) been hit with a nuclear weapon during the Cold War, perhaps lobbed from Siberia, MAD would have been inexorably triggered. It would have been very bad for everybody involved. That is the whole point--no sane man will risk it by being the first to fire, and no sane people will permit an insane man (or, at least, a man with that particular insanity) to have his finger on the button.

I would suggest that to maintain credibility, we would have to spread that "nuclear umbrella" as far and wide as possible, denying states membership based only upon extremely bad violations of human rights (I'm talking about things like Genocide, not a failure to respect total religious freedom, here). And the nuclear option is taken only as a response in kind--no nuking countries that are doing a regular old invasion.