Saturday, May 07, 2005

Iran again

Sad to say, at this point I see only one way to prevent Iran's production of a nuclear weapon in the near future. That is to destroy the nuclear production infrastructure - at least the nuclear powerplant, and potentially any proportion of the estimated dozen other sites involved in design and development of the weapon and its components.

With that and my previous Iran piece in mind, the question becomes is the cost of the attack worse than the cost of letting Iran get the bomb. Neither is a good thing, I think. As I've already delineated the potential negatives of attacking Iran, I'd like to expound on the other action - letting Iran have a bomb.

Let's more accurately state the risk. See, it's not having the bomb that's the problem, it's on whom and when and possibly how they'd use it that is of concern.

What possession of a nuke does is put you at the big table. If you've got it, nobody brushes you aside. They may sneer at you as they do at Kim il Jung, but they'll not dismiss you as they did Saddam Hussein. (For the pedants, I'll point out the nuke portion of the WMD was the belief Saddam was building a bomb, not that he had one.) Or to more succinctly state use one - it's to be used on anyone attacking them.

Allegedly that's not our concern. It is, of course, for those who consider the current government of Iran to be an abomination that must be removed regardless of cost, but allegedly that's not the position of the powers that be. No, I'm getting snarky. If we decide Iran's government must be changed for our good, them having a nuke makes that a lot more costly - moreso than the previous article states. But that's defensive use, and isn't our big concern.

Our big concern is that they'll use the nuke on someone they really don't like as a surprising first strike. The candidates are rather obvious - Israel and the US. Now, Iran might have missiles capable of reaching Israel, but the only way they're going to get a nuke to our country is through foot delivery, which raises our other fear: They give the thing to a terrorist organization so THEY can use it on us. Let's face these two concerns.

Concern one - that they'll use it as a first strike - is something that we've faced for over half a century now. The answer is pretty obvious as well. If you use it, we'll return the favor. At this time that makes a real interesting situation. They can hurt us - one bomb, or if they're as busy as North Korea a half dozen bombs. Israel won't be destroyed by one bomb. We wouldn't be destroyed by a halfdozen bombs. In return, however... We've more than enough to eliminate Iran as a nation. Oh, we can't really turn it into a parking lot. But we can put a nuke on every military facility that holds larger than, say, a battalion, and every town of more than 50,000 people and still have nukes left over. So the threat is: you sting me, I kill you. In this case then the question is whether the leaders of Iran are fanatic enough to accept their destruction if it means stinging their enemies. Not mutually destroying them because the enemy would be left standing.

Me, I think that's highly unlikely.

The second half of that was that they'd give it to terrorists to deliver. This possibly allows them to say, "Wasn't us." That means they hurt their enemy while they themselves have a chance of remaining unhurt. There's a different problem with this - beyond the question of reliability of delivery. The problem is that it is essentially self-emasculation. They're going to turn the most powerful weapon in their inventory over to someone else, someone over whom they have very little control in any way. They turn it over, they have no control over the target's location or time. Heck, they can't even prevent them from deciding to use it to take over Iran. If you've a dictatorial powerstructure, are you really going to give the ability to eliminate that structure to someone you can't control?

Again, I think that's highly unlikely.

Now lest you think I'm being all "they'll play nice now", I repeat what I said up top. I'd rather the option weren't there at all. Highly unlikely is NOT "won't". It's, "it'd be similar to being dealt a straight flush in 5-card draw." Unfortunately, I've seen that twice in my life. That, then, brings my final point.

If we decide to let them have the bomb, we must be resolute in one thing. If they use it, we must use ours. No dancing, no coy implications, but a straightforward declaration of intent. Use yours and die.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope that the two options aren't what's left, that we can persuade Iran to not finish the project. But because of reasons I've stated above, I believe that to be a futile hope.

What interesting times in which we live.


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