Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Very, Very Disastrous

The news out of Iran is bad. The German Foreign Minister called it, "very, very disastrous." Defying the international community, Iran is reopening their uranium enrichment complexes (closed over a year ago). Like North Korea, they are breaking an international agreement not to proceed with their nuclear activities--an agreement which promised them a package of economic benefits.

We've tried diplomacy. We've tried bribes. We'll probably try economic sanctions. But I doubt anything will work. Is there anything short of military action that we can do to prevent Iran or North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons? And might such an option be a worse option than reconciling ourselves to dealing with rogue nuclear states?

Maybe we will just have to go back to deterrence. How about we establish a new treaty with one simple rule: if you nuke anyone else for any reason whatsoever (except in fulfilling your treaty obligations) then every other nuclear state will be compelled by treaty to drop a nuke on you. Mandatory massive retaliation.

Yeah, yeah, I know--it would never get ratified by anyone, and it is kind of immoral--but I think we need to start thinking of some alternative approach, because as far as I can see, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is dead.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

At this point, I am afraid that we will not prevent Iran from obtaining the bomb. They want to use it to counterbalance the U.S. and Israel. And it ties to a previous post I wrote on Iraq. Iran will covertly control large portions of Iraq once the U.S. leaves.

We unfortunately lost a chance to re-engage with Iran by going to war in Iraq. And the Iraq war, and U.S. saber rattling is, I believe, partly responsible for the election of a very conservative president. We are lucky (if such a thing is possible in Iran) in that the radical Iranian president is still largely controlled by the religious establishment in Iran.

Again, it is a fine example of where patient diplomacy may have won the day. But instead, we decided to start shocking and awing people. I think we would be wise to start try and integrate Iran into the international community. Try to reform it by forcing it act like a responsible International citizen. Sanctions will just enflame anger in the region and create greater poverty, leading to another Iraq situation. Iran will turn even more toward China and North Korea. At the moment, it is feeling isolated and bullied. It will respond to that by playing the nuclear card.

If things continue as they are, we will see a new global order where the world is divided between the two economic superpowers of China and the U.S. The battle of oil will be the new root cause rather than political philosophy.
 

// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

The harsh reality is that to get Iran to give up nukes, we have to offer it the very thing it is seeking nukes to obtain: a serious guarantee that the USA will not screw with them militarily. We cannot keep military options on the table but ask Iran to give up the only weapons program that could defend themselves against us. If Iraq had possessed nuclear weapons, we would not have invaded.

I would give that guarantee. Why not? We would have a hell of a time occupying Iran by military force anyway.  

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG says, "we have to offer [Iran] the very thing it is seeking nukes to obtain: a serious guarantee that the USA will not screw with them militarily."

I am not convinced that this is the sole reason, or even the primary reason, why Iran wants nuclear weapons. I think it wants to be able to bully its neighbors (including Iraq, which it will already control much of, as USWest points out.) I think Iran understands that even the neo-cons aren't foolish enough to believe U.S. marines would be greeted with rose petals in Tehran.

Anonymous said...

LTG's option is foolhardy. We cannot take military options off the table and expect the Iranians to A) trust that no future government will go back on our end and B) live up to their end of the deal in the first place.

I agree with Dr. Strangelove. Deterrance is the key here. Iran can be dettered. Their having nukes restricts our policies only in as much as we wished to invade them (a likely wish given Bush's pattern of behavior). Iran is a tyrranical government but they are deterrable. If Hitler, Hussein, and Khadafi can be dettered so can the Iranian theocracy.

I'm not a phyisicist but I think I've heard that we have the ability to determine the reactor that was source of any bomb that explodes. So if the Iranian's give a nuke to some terrorist group and they use it on us, we can trace it back to Iran and retaliate. I think we should make it clear to Iran that that would be our reaction - if you give a nuke to a maniac, we'll hold you responsible.

The problem is all the missing Russian material. But Iran's nuclear capabilities don't change that and Bush has done very little to deal with that very real threat. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's foolhardy at all. First, accept that wee can take military options off the table. A serious guarantee for Iran is not a matter of a mere promise that we won't invade. First, other words are required, such as solemn promises in the United Nations and other public places. Then signing a treaty with Iran. We can do many things to significantly raise the cost of breaking our word, such that Iran will believe it to be valuable.

I don't understand the deterrence argument at all. Of course we intend to deter Iran from using nuclear weapons, as we intend to deter Israel. So what? Deterrence continues despite our guarantees to Iran. It's not an either/or situation.

Here's more: Iran's motivation to build nuclear weapons to defend themselves against the USA is very high. Its motivation to bullying neighbors is far lower. Take the first one off the table, then the second is much easier to buy off.

RBR - when was Hitler deterred? I suppose this is an argument about chemical weapons in WWII? It's tough to prove why Germany did not use those weapons, but one can hardly call WWII an example of deterring German aggression in any other sense.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Yes, "foolhardy" was too strong a word. However, given Bush's radical departures from past US foreign policy practice, what assurance would Iran have that any such promise by the US would be followed? If they can't trust us, we would be taking a big risk trusting them.

Promises would be effective if they could be made to stick. I'm just not convinced they can be made to stick by any means other than mutual deterrance. It's not either or, it's that I think detterance pre-empts promise keeping. 

// posted by Raised by Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

1. The U.S. cannot guarantee Iran's security.

Even if one believes that Iran's desire for nuclear weaponry is primarily defensive, the U.S. certainly is not the only threat to Iran. LTG may underestimate Iran's concern with regional affairs. LTG mentions Israel, and that's a good place to start. Would Israel pledge never to pre-emptively strike Iran? And even if they did so, would Iran believe them? How can Israel's opposition to proliferation be credible when Israel won't even 'fess up to its own nuclear program?

2. No U.S. guarantee would be credible enough anyhow.

LTG is right that we can take steps to make our pledge more firm, but in an era when events like September 11th can rewrite the rules of foreign policy, I think eveyrone understands that no guarantee of future restraint is good enough. For example, suppose Clinton had made a firm security pledge to Iran, of the kind LTG envisions... but then suppose the CIA had discovered in the wake of 9/11 that Al Qaeda terrorists were being harbored by Iran, or had been materially supported by Iran. (This is hardly a farfetched scenario.)

Would Bush would have felt himself constrained by Clinton's security pledge not to take military action against Iran? Would the rest of the world have blamed Bush for construing 9/11 as a breach of Iran's reciprocal promise not to attack the U.S.? And even if the rest of the world did not accept Bush's interpretation, what would they do about it?

3. Obtaining nuclear weapons is still Iran's dominant strategy.

No matter what security guarantees the U.S. or other nations may make, Iran would feel safer if it also had the bomb. As LTG pointed out, deterrence and security guarantees are not an either/or situation.

4. Regulation works better than prohibition.

In the end, I believe USWest is right that trying to bully Iran with sanctions or other pressures will isolate them and inflame the situation. The best answer is to integrate them into the international community, and that means welcoming them as a legitimate member of the nuclear club. If we could get Iran to agree to allow the IAEA to make adequate inspections to ensure no fissile materials are "misplaced", we might do much better at preventing weapons from falling into the hands of undeterrable fanatics. As with alcohol and drugs, I think we may discover that prohibition is doomed to failure and the only viable approach to controlling the misuse of nuclear weapons is an open regulatory program.

US West said...

The other thing to consider is that Iran is using the Iraq situation to its own benefit. By having our troops there, we have 150K targets. I don't think it is any coincidence that since Iran announced it was going to restart its enrichment programs that you see the death toll rise in Iraq. As I have said before, Iran has sleepers in Iraq, lots of them. I speculate that part of the reason for the increase in current attacks is Iraq is an attempt to bait Bush into halting the phased withdrawal plan that he has, or maybe sending more troops. Iran has said flat out that it has 150K hostages in Iraq. So long as we are there, Iran can flout the demands of the International community.

Letting Iran have nukes is dangerous- more so than the Koreans in many ways. North Korea saber rattles. But the Iranians actually take actions. With the Soviets, you could sustain a Cold War because the argument was political and the Soviets had fear and a sense of moral imperative. Islamic Extremists don't have any fear, and a very different sense of moral imperative demonstrated by the long queue of suicide bombers waiting in the wings. A leader who has fear and a twisted notion of destany wouldn’t say the things that Mahmoud Ahmadineja says.

Let's say we really wanted to screw Iran over,(and I am not a proponent of this as I am a multilateralist. But for the sake of discussion . . . . ) So, we'd quickly and totally pull up stakes in Iraq. Then we would partner with our frustrated European Allies and Israel and strike Iran. In fact you can let the Israel's do it for you.

Of course, you’d risk WWIII, but hey, you'd use that high tech military that we've been talking about! And you’d expand the battle field why having the allies to help you. Of course, you might set off a way with China while you are at it. In fact the more I consider all of this, the more frightened I become.

Sound crazy? You better believe they've talked about it . Having the Israeli’s hit Iran’s nuclear facilities would have the same effect, I think, as an all out war.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is saying similar things: nothing seems like a good option when dealing with Iran. A few questions present themselves:
1. Can Iran be forcibly stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons? If so, by whom, how, and at what cost?
2. Can Iran be deterred from acquiring nuclear weapons? If so, by whom, how, and at what cost?
3. Can Iran be persuaded not to acuire nuclear weapons? If so, by whom, how, and at what cost?
4. Can Iran be deterred from using nuclear weapons once it acquires them?

The last one is the only one we have any good experience with, during the Cold War, and makes us hopeful it might be yes.

What's the solution? Well, one common thread is clear. There is no chance of preventing any of these things unless we draw the international community together on this issue. The right wing response is, as always, to use force. That sounds like a very bad idea. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest says Iran has wields great influence in Iraq, and Iran has said "flat out" that our troops in Iraq are effectively their hostages. Has Iran truly said this??

Dr. Strangelove said...

If LTG would read the previous comments in more detail, he will find his four questions have already been discussed and we have not all said the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I think it is near impossible (short of a 15 year long bombing campaign combined with massive economic sanctions and intrusive inspections bracketed by two invasions) to keep a state from acquiring nuclear weapons if they want them.

However, states make great big targets and the US (because of the military r&d advantage that we've talked about ad naseum in previous posts) can hit Iran with nukes without leaving our the comfort of our own little hemisphere. Iran knows that.

Through MAD there is hope. Just look at India and Pakistan. They've gone to war over seemingly trivial things. But after the both got nukes, they made peace even though a Pakistani funded terrorist group shot up India's parliament and killed several MPs. Pakistan backed off and India let them. Why? MAD. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Iranian Defense Minister Shamkhani is reported to have said, "The U.S. military presence will not become an element of strength at our expense. The opposite is true because their forces would turn into a hostage."

He is then reported by the Wasthington Times  to have said,"American soldiers in the region, tied down and bleeding daily to guerrilla attacks, were now "hostages" to Iran." 

// posted by USWest

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest... wow, what a quote from Iran. Thanks so much for digging it out. It really makes me think. (Makes Bush sound like a dove, too.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks US West. That quote is all the more interesting because it shows that Iran can be a threat to our interests without nukes. Obsessing about whether Iran has nukes or not is missing the point. They have the ability (especially through influence in Iraq) to make our lives difficult and they are pressing their advantage.

At the same time, consider if Iran had nukes. Assume for the moment that Israel has no ability to retaliate (they do but play with me for a second). Could Iran settle the "Palestinian-Israeli Problem" through nuclear means? I don't doubt that their Psycho-in-Chief wants to see genocide in Israel. But can they achieve that goal with nukes? Sure they could nuke Isreali cities but what would the Palestinians gain from it? That's assuming they'd even survive a nuclear attack on Israel (the distances in Israel/Palestine are not great). Nukes are no good for taking territory away from the other guy.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

That quote was meant to scare you. Seymour Hersh wrote in great detail about the potential for Iran to rise as a power and the steps that the US and Israel were taking. (See New Yorker, Jan 24th edition, 2005)

As many if not more Palestinians than Israelis would be killed in the event of a nuclear attack. To say the distances aren't great is an understatement from what I hear from both Israelis and Palestinians.

That said, RBR is correct that nuking wouldn't correct the problem. And he is right that we should be concern about more than just nukes. The nukes are not the issue at all.

Iran has aspirations. It wants to be a regional power. The nukes do for Iran exactly what defiance did for Saddam and success did for Bin Laden. It turns Iran into a power to be admired by average Arabs who are resentful of Western interference in their affairs. Radical Islam is frightening to the average Arab, but not as frightening as it is to the average American. So long as someone rises up and pokes a stick in the Anglo-Saxon eye, many in the Arab world are happy. Witness the glee of average Palestinians when the WTC came down. After years of getting showered with bullets that had "made in the USA" written on the casings, the U.S. got theirs. It is callous, but a fact of life in the Arab world.

Iran doesn't want the nukes to use them so much as it wants a deterrent to Israel. And do not assume that leaders in the region are interested in solving the Palestinian problem. They aren't. In fact, the only country that has been remotely helpful to the Palestinians has been Jordan. The others like to use the Palestinians as an excuse to demonize Israel and by extension the U.S.. It helps Arab rulers sound righteous and provides a cause celeb  for the Islamists. And we should be worried that Hamas may displace Fatah in Palestinian elections. Hezbollah already controls parts of Lebanon and Syria. And we know that Iran has supplied both groups with assistance. It has been a quiet, long term strategy whereby Iran used Arab tribalism/sectarianism and Islam to its own strategic advantage. You have to respect that kind of planning.

Jordan's King Abdullah has warned that if the U.S. were to fail in Iraq, we would see the development of what he calls the "Shia Crescent" where the influence of Iran will stretch around Jordan via Syria to Lebanon.

I remember laughing at the Iraqi Information minister for his bombastic, almost childish bravado. Well, when you start reading Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, you see the same kind of mentality. The difference is that unlike Iraq, Iran can do some damage. Iraq has been one of the biggest strategic mistakes of our history.
 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

"Iraq has been one of the biggest strategic mistakes of our history."

Yep. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans