Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Iranian Bomb and the Logic of Deterrence

Iran is months away from the point of no return in its quest for an atomic weapon. For a very detailed and free crash course on the situation download Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran from the Strategic Studies Institute.

I know many of you are thinking that the Israelis or even the US will bomb the Iranian installations and that will be that. Sadly, it's not going to happen. Iran will develop the capability to build atomic bombs. Period.

All of us should start to think seriously about what this means. Some say that Iran can be deterred. After all, it seemed to work against the Soviets. Deterrence was based on the concept of MAD, mutual assured destruction. I do not believe this will work for several reasons.

During the Cold War, it was the stated, public policy of the US to threaten the annihilation of virtually all Soviet citizens in a nuclear exchange with the USSR. We had more than enough thermo-nuclear warheads to utterly obliterate the Soviet state and Russian civilization. American citizens accepted this gruesome policy because we knew that our existence was at stake. Not 'our way of life' or 'our values' or 'our interests' but our existence. Iran simply does not pose the same threat. Iran may harm the US. Iran may threaten our interests in a geopolitical sense. But Iranian atomic weapons and missiles do not seriously threaten to destroy tens of millions of Americans and blast our civilization into dust.

This alone changes the calculation. And it feeds into another change since the Cold War: we have lost the domestic Cold War deterrence mentality. As I said, Americans accepted that their government threatened to kill tens or hundreds of millions of people because Americans themselves felt threatened. Without this personal threat I doubt that Americans will accept a policy of nuclear death on a vast scale.

If the Iranians sneak an atom bomb into New York and kill tens of thousands of people, will we utterly destroy their civilization? Will we retaliate with a nuclear strike that kills 70 million people and ends thousands of years of Persian civilization? Or will we go for a 'measured' response of, say, only destroying the regime and the military?

This is not MAD because the Destruction is neither Mutual nor Assured: they cannot destroy us and we will not destroy them. It may sound morbid but it was the Destruction part of MAD that made it work. Attempts to calculate something like "I will risk losing X for the chance to achieve my objective" are undermined by MAD because X always equals everything. Not just the regime or the military but the villiages, cultural assets, even the very landscape.

This lack of assured destruction puts the mullahs in an entirely different situation from the Soviets. The mullahs can make a calculation that the Soviets could not. Suddenly X equals something less than everything; it equal a real number. For example, is it worth losing even a few million Iranians if they can achieve their objective, whatever that may be? After all, Shi'a Islam and Persian culture will continue even if the regime is destroyed and millions killed. This, from their perspective, is a rational calculation, not pure madness.

The ayatollahs aren't Marxists, who, for all their evil, were a mutant strain of the Western philosophical tradition. The ayatollahs are theocrats of a mystical religion with a strong martyrdom complex. Who can say what their calculation will be based on? Who knows how a deterrence founded on Western secular rationalism will play out with a regime run by religious scholars trained in entirely different traditions of decision-making and logic?

Bad things are ahead. Bad indeed.

Cross-posted at the Infidel Bloggers Alliance.


Blogger Thomas the Wraith said...

Posted on behalf of JMJ who email me that her had trouble with the comments feature.

New to your blog. Very well done!!

However, I must take issue on your original premise that Israel would
not "attempt" to take out Iran's nuclear facilities. How successful they will be is another question. But willing to act, I see no hesitation on their part if they feel threatened.


And, with all due respect, I don't think it will be a "and that will be that". In fact I think the whole Middle East will probably explode. But without nuclear weapons being used. Hopefully!

Granted I have not read the downloaded piece from the Strategic Studies Institute you so kindly guided us to but whether it makes sense or not for Israel to do this, I think the Israelis will have their own survival in mind and will therefore act promptly and aggressivly (if foolishly
- I am not sure). If the US does not act first.

I think Iran is using the "talk, talk, fight, fight" stategy. Talk for more time but all with the intention of fighting to the finish for this "worldwide" Islamic revolution that Komenhi started.

I think Iran has absolutely no desire to really "negotiate". I think their new president has been very clear about this.

As far as military action by the US, I think the Left and the many
war-weary on the "Right of Center" will see anything that we are not
directly "pulled" into as another "unnecessary" war. Voluntarily going into Iran will result in further divisions amongst ourselves.

The West and the US MUST be united on this Global War on Islamic Fascism to succeed.

Bush's political capital is bone dry and his political skills to unite and motivate the country are also exceedingly wanting.

I think we are fast approaching the point of no return, especially with the appeasement trends in Europe regarding free speech, riots, spread of radical Islam in SE Asia, Darfur, etc. The trend is ominous. We can't let ourselves get any further behind.

As much as I think this will ignite the whole Middle East, much less Europe and the rest of the world, I think it is Israel's turn to "run the ball up the middle" while we "block".

And we then get "pulled" into it. I think this will be the only thing that will get us as a (united) nation to go after Iran militarily.

It may be "foolish" and Armegedon may be coming (call it what you
will)(and believe me, I don't take all this lightly) but the more Islam shows its true hand, especially over the last year, the more I, unfortunately, see no other alternative.

It's time the Western World took off its blinders and defended itself with the vigor that our freedoms and human rights deserve.

I know it is VERY, VERY risky and I would still approach it gingerly
but I think it will ultimately be Israel that will make the call.

If you are interested, a brief discussion on this topic was started yesterday over at Fu2rman and Friends.


Your blog is very good reading!!


6:42 AM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

I agree with JMJ. The Middle East will explode. Israel will not go quietly into the night. They know the Iranian bomb means their destruction. They have been told enough times. They are not stupid like us Westerners.

8:38 PM  

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