November 14, 2006

As I mentioned in a post last week, one of the hidden winners of Tuesday’s elections and the Democratic Congress about to assume office was Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his country’s nuclear program. With President Bush no longer having political cover in the U.S. Congress for any kind of military intervention – either unilaterally or in support of Israel – there’s one less hostile government in the way of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

What would a Middle East region with a nuclear Iran look like? What would be the challenges facing Israel and the West with Iran in possession of a nuclear bomb, or a willingness to share its nuclear knowledge with terrorist organizations or states aligned with it against the U.S.? Stanley Kurtz has written a harrowing column for National Review Online entitled “Our Fallout Shelter Future” about what the implications of such would would mean for both the U.S. and the free world. It is truly a must read. In his column, Kurtz references another extraordinary piece of journalism by Stephen Peter Rosen called “After Proliferation: What to Do if More States Go Nuclear” (which Kurtz links to) to underscore his argument that we must be prepared to have the world around us change dramatically, and soon. This particular exerpt is a stunner, when you think about it:

Rosen assumes (rightly I believe) that proliferation is unlikely to stop with Iran. Once Iran gets the bomb, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are likely to develop their own nuclear weapons, for self-protection, and so as not to allow Iran to take de facto cultural-political control of the Muslim world. (I think you’ve got to at least add Egypt to this list.) With three, four, or more nuclear states in the Muslim Middle East, what becomes of deterrence?

A key to deterrence during the Cold War was our ability to know who had hit whom. With a small number of geographically separated nuclear states, and with the big opponents training satellites and specialized advance-guard radar emplacements on each other, it was relatively easy to know where a missile had come from. But what if a nuclear missile is launched at the United States from somewhere in a fully nuclearized Middle East, in the middle of a war in which, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran are already lobbing conventional missiles at one another? Would we know who had attacked us? Could we actually drop a retaliatory nuclear bomb on someone without being absolutely certain? And as Rosen asks, What if the nuclear blow was delivered against us by an airplane or a cruise missile? It might be almost impossible to trace the attack back to its source with certainty, especially in the midst of an ongoing conventional conflict.

Clearly, the ‘good old days’ of nuclear deterrence against a tangible nation-state via the doctrine of mutually-assured destruction are rapidly slipping into the past, and with it the ability to work diplomatically behind the scenes to achieve peaceful solutions, a la the Cuban Missile Crisis. As the Russians discovered in Afghanistan, and we’re finding out in Iraq, the prospect of waging war and/or defending our interests against shadowy terror organizations having neither flag nor uniform has changed the paradigm irrevocably, and time is running out for 20th century superpowers like the U.S. and Russia to find a way to employ their once-awesome military and political muscle effectively in this new world.

The effects of Iran gaining a nuclear bomb may not be felt in the short term – perhaps not even in the next few years; nevertheless, Kurtz is certain the results will ultimately be a nightmare to be shared by all: “But like it or not, easy or hard, the sad fact of the matter is that permitting Iran to go nuclear spells disaster for the world, and for this country.”

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:14 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. “Could we actually drop a retaliatory nuclear bomb on someone without being absolutely certain?”

    In theory, no. In practice, yes. What I’m saying is we could debate this endlessly and probably come to the conclusion that we wouldn’t do it. However, if someone (Under a flag or not) actually did deliver a nuclear strike on America, the finer points of that debate would be lost. Swift and certain nuclear retaliation would be the only response acceptable to the American people. We would almost have to adopt a “Shoot first, ask questions later” strategy. That may make some here squeamish but it is inevitable. Is there anyone at all in the middle east that we can see about it though?

    Comment by Rob — November 14, 2006 @ 5:19 am

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