Monday, April 10, 2006

"Completely nuts"

Last night, I read Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece about The Iran Plans, which suggests that the Bush Administration is drinking the NeoCon Kool-Aid again, and is not just wanting to bomb Iran to bring about "regime change", but is planning to use nuclear weapons. This morning, I heard Jack Straw's response: that there was as yet no case for military action against Iran, and that the idea of using nukes was "completely nuts". I agree on both counts - but I'm not sure that that will stop them from doing it. Cheap shots about dispensationalists who want the world to end so they can go to heaven aside, they invaded Iraq, didn't they?

Bombing Iran would be grossly counterproductive and likely unsuccessful. Grossly counterproductive because it would push ordinary Iranians - who seem quite keen on democracy and modernisation - towards a nationalist response, just as calling them part of the "Axis of Evil" did. Likely unsuccessful because the US simply doesn't know enough about Iran's nuclear program to know where to bomb. Oh, they have some ideas - but not enough, and any bombing will simply delay rather than prevent Iran from getting a weapon, at the cost of giving them every incentive to use it when they have one. An article in Atlantic Monthly in 2004 went over the pitfalls of any bombing campaign and concluded that there was no military solution. If we want Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, we have to persuade them - and the constant sabre-rattling from the US is guaranteed to push them in the opposite direction.

As for the nuclear option, I think that would evaporate support for America's "war on terror" quicker than you can say "full-body radiation burns". Any country which uses nuclear weapons marks themselves as hostis humani generis - the common enemy of all humanity - and I really can't imagine the citizens of western democracies stomaching continued cooperation with the US if it commits that sort of monstrous atrocity.

On the plus side, the US military - the people who know what these weapons do and think about the practicalities and consequences of military intervention in the way that NeoCons don't - are reportedly vehemently against any use of nuclear weapons. I guess we just have to hope that Bush listens to them...


"...the constant sabre-rattling from the US is guaranteed to push them in the opposite direction."

Not quite "guranteed", many believe that the reason Iran has negotiated at all with the Europeans and Russians is becasue of fear of US millitary action.

But it will be an interesting test for the international community.

And like to now what the critics of the US would do if negotiations did not work.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/10/2006 03:55:00 PM

And many also believe that it is pushing the public away from a pro-western stance and into the hands of the rabid nationalist nutbars.

As for long-term solutions, I think deterrance worked perfectly well against the USSR - people the crazies in the US also liked to characterise as insane and untrustworthy. I don't see any reason why it can't work against Iran either.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/10/2006 04:28:00 PM

So, Opposing US military action, how does the left propose stopping a fundamentalist psychotic like the current Iranian president from acquiring Nuclear weapons? Will we see the European Union approch that worked so well in Bosnia? How about the UN/multilateral muscle-flexing that has so decisively stopped the genocide in Sudan? I await an answer.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/10/2006 04:39:00 PM

What exactly does Iran need to be stopped from? Engaging in viriolic and offensive rhetoric? They haven't actually invaded or going to war with anyone, nor show any signs of intention to.
Despite the anti-Israel posturing, they've worked fine with Israel in the past, and Israel is perfectly capable of defending itself (hence unlikely to get attacked) given it's estimated arsenal of 200+ nukes, or it's active chemical and biological research program.
As Fisk has talked himself hoarse pointing out, Pakistan is an infinitely greater threat, given it's support for Islamic terrorism and role in nuclear proliferation. The whole thing is so stupid it wouldn't even merit discussion if it hadn't been randomly selected for the Axis of Evil role.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2006 08:35:00 AM

The situation with the USSR was a bit different - there it was a matter of dealing with an authoritarian regime that already had nuclear weapons. With Iran it is a matter of stopping an authoritarian regime acquiring them - something that the UN through the IAEA is trying to do.

But if the best that the critics of the US can do is accept the inevitabilty of nulcear proliferation and the consequent impotence of the UN then that just goes ot show that for them being a critic of the US is primary, not nulcear non-proliferation.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2006 09:09:00 AM

The mere fact that people are taking seriously the suggestion that the current US administration is considering the use of nuclear weapons speaks volumes for how the Bushites are viewed in the wider international community - namely, a bunch of loose cannons with a warped world view that is capable of rationalising almost any delusional act. Its now 61 years since Nagasaki and Hiroshima. What makes the world so different now from 1955, or 1965, or 1985 that demands the use of atomic weapons? These devices are not just bombs that have a bigger 'BOOM." They exist more in the realm of politics that the realm of the military. The point of nuclear weapons is you have them NOT to use them. The very act of using your nuclear weapons defines failure. This nuclear arms race is the chickens coming home to roost for arrogant and unilateralist neo-cons in Washington. There is no military option for the United States in Iran - the reckless military adventurism of the US administration is the cause of the problem and simply indulging in more war making will not make the problem go away. There is only one solution. The Busites will have to swallow their pride and and search for a multi-lateral diplomatic solution involving China, the E.U. and Russia.

Posted by Sanctuary : 4/11/2006 10:07:00 AM

Neil, there is no doubt it would be preferable for Iran not to acquire nukes, but the idea it would be such a number 1 dramatic calamity as justifies a unilateral strike by anyone is utter absurdity.
Yes, it is hard to place much faith in the UN, when all permanent members of the security council derive so much of their revenue from arms sales. It's hard to escape the conclusion all of the permanent members would much prefer to foster continuous low-grade conventional-weapons conflicts (in any country other than their own) so they can continue to profit from them. Nuclear weapons do seem to rather place some restraints on conventional conflict (not that I'm advocating them) that are contrary to their financial interests.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2006 11:57:00 AM

So it wouldn't be a calamity for a man who has declared he will 'wipe Israel off the map' to develop the means to do so? I'd imagine you'd feel differently if you lived in Tel Aviv. What would you propose doing then, Huskynutcase? Or would you just pretend it isn't happening?

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2006 02:15:00 PM

It isn't necessary to resort to verbal abuse, thanks Adrien.

If I were president of Israel, with the 4th largest army on the planet at my diposal, 200+ nuclear weapons of my own, an active chemical and biological warfare program, and military sponsorship to the tune of billions from the world's dominant country, then I'd consider the likelihood of Iran choosing to use it's nuclear weapon on me to be negligible. Unless I happened to be paranoid, which I'm not, or a politician for whom it was politically expedient to fake hyperventilation before the media.

What you are describing is presumably how every arab nation feels about Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, despite it also possessing a vast overwhelming conventional military superiority to it's neighbours, renedering them unnecessary.
And unles I've missed something, the Iranian poseur hasn't declared he will wipe Israel off the map, he's declared that it should be wiped off the map. A vile statement in itself, but in no way a declaration of intent.

Willfully confusing words with actions is how this nonsense escalates. Comparing and contrasting Iran and the US, one of the two has been involved in dozens of wars over the past recent decades, killing millions of people and has invaded multiple countries. One has military bases girdling the entire planet, an incredibly vast collection of nuclear weapons, and a stated desire to develop tactical nuclear weapons that can be used on a conventional battlefield. The other has been involved in one external war, to defend itself when it was invaded by it's neighbour, a war which was encouraged and sponsored by the other country in question above.
It takes a certain wilful blindness to cast Iran as the number one dangerous baddie in that comparison.

Though I'm no bible-basher, the proverb about removing the beam from one's own eye before pointing out the mote in the other's does seem rather apt.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2006 03:07:00 PM

Adrien: "how does the left propose stopping a fundamentalist psychotic like the current Iranian president from acquiring Nuclear weapons?"

What business is it of "the left" (as if "the left" was a single monolithic entity)? After all, the world has survived a fundamentalist psychotic like the current U.S. president having his finger on the nuclear button for the last five years...

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2006 05:47:00 PM