First Strike - Nuclear Weapons - Persian New Year

There's been a lot of discussion about the US response to Iran's nuclear weapons development program.  President Ahmadinejad is one crazy dude, and Dick Cheney would love to invite him on a quail-hunting trip.  As I understand it, when folks in the administration discuss using "military options" against Iran, they basically mean nukes.  This is primarily because the majority of the suspected nuclear enrichment facilities are deep underground and can't be destroyed with conventional military weapons, thus the need for a nuclear bomb to ensure these strategic targets have been decimated.

I'm still not sure how I feel about this.  I would like to say that it is a bad idea partially because it is  loosely based on an antiquated "first-strike" policy of the Cold War military strategy, the assumptions of which (threats from communist Soviet Union) are no longer valid.  And  perhaps more importantly, the policy is inconsistent with the Nonproliferation Treaty.  But how else do you ameliorate a situation in which a very angry man who would like to blow up your country, is developing the capability to do so?

Nuclear proliferation is probably one of the most important issues in American foreign policy.   And it is not surprising that policy discussions about non-nuclear or counter-proliferation frequently reference the Cold War, particularly because the birth of our nuclear arsenal was the result of a geo-political battle against Communism and the Soviet Union.  But as the common vulnerability known as "Mutual Assured Destruction" eroded because of US nuclear primacy and the decay of Russia's nuclear arsenal,  the counter-balancing component of Cold War military strategy (the communist Soviet Union)  has disappeared and now new nations have acquired nuclear power.

The nuclear power landscape has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War.  To date, 18 countries have at some point developed nuclear weapons programs; a number of them have abandoned their progams in recent years.  But many have not. Five countries signed the original Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968 (US, Soviet Union, France, China, UK). Others have since developed their programs with little complaint from the international community (Israel, India).  The fact that these countries place great value on their nuclear development programs reinforces the importance of these weapons in geo-political competition.  This is exacerbated by the fact that the US continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal in order to "deter any and all potential nuclear adversaries." Iran, Pakistan and North Korea recognize the value of such weapons in their regional conflicts (Israel, India and "everyone", respectively).  

Iran is trying to become the pre-eminent player in the Middle East and in the least a balancing force against so called "imperialist US interests." Ironically, Iran is only more emboldened by its supporters in the region, by talk of a US-led military conflict.  Given this context, the country's actions are entirely rational.  Forget for a minute that Ahmadinejad claimed that he wanted to wipe, Israel off the map.  Iran is confronted with a strong Western military presence, an enemy with a nuclear bomb, and a frustrating inability to shape its own destiny.   In comes A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program and nuclear weapons proliferator extraordinaire who is willing to make a deal and supply him with the technology to develop his own weapons program.  What would a rational actor do in that position?  As a rational actor faced with these impending threats, you go into negotiations, right?  Right?

And while you're at it, appeal to as many of your co-regional supporters, like Hamas, who feel threatened or humiliated by "American military arrogance", with hateful but effective rhetoric.  Build support among terrorist groups by facilitating the proliferation of nuclear weapon technological in addition to conventional military weapons.  Mobilize the youth in your country, as well as Arab/Muslim countries also targeted by the US, like Syria.

As talk about a US nuclear war with Iran continues, Iran's "street cred" rises, even if there are a number of Arab states that are yet reluctant to jump on the bandwagon.  Even if the US does successfully nuke Iran's weapons development programs (which is extremely difficult 1.  because we aren't even sure where the strategic targets are 2. the IAEA isn't even sure that what we consider strategic targets are actually development programs to begin with), this doesn't actually stop the proliferation of underground/black market nuclear weapons technology through channels like the A.Q. Khan network, and it exacerbates the situation because an attack would destablize a region that was in a precarious state to begin with.  

Isn't there another option that doesn't play directly to Ahmadinejad's strength?  

Does diplomacy still work?  

Tags: american foreign policy, international relations, Iran, nuclear proliferation, nukes, persian, pre-emptive (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

Off the mark

Let's not forget... that there is more than one "crazy dude" on the block... like W, who invaded Iraq for no discernable reason other than petulence and whim.  After that, he immediately started eyeballing Iran and Syria, talking shit and generally building the case for Great-Big-Fuckup-In-The-Gulf-No.-2.

Also, Israel has nukes, and no one seems to give a fuck about that.  Even though they regularly engage in inhumane treatment of Palestinians, collective punishments, and assassination-by-missile which FREQUENTLY kills innocents, including children.  No one cares about that.  Except Arabs... which may explain (partially) why Ahmadinejad gets such play out of the wipe-them-off-the-map lines... just like Bush gets mad applause from his base when he talks about nuking Iran, even though it's bat-nuts crazy.

Here's a fucking idea!  Why don't we fucking keep our dicks out of other people's asses for a little while.  He was elected - by a greater majority that Bush - and he represents his country.  We don;t have the right to go around deciding who leads this country and that country.  Sometimes they disagree with us, sometimes they don't.  And?

What about India?  Pakistan?  China?  The US?  Nuclear powers with questionable moral grounding at best.

This reminds me of the whole Venezuela thing... bottom line is that the Administration doesn;t like the president of Iran, doesn't like their leadership caste, and wants to just bomb them until they put someone in that we like.  Same thing in Venezuela.  The rest is pretext.  Just like Iraq.  He wanted to invade, and he fished around, lied, cherry-picked, and bullied until he got what he wanted.

Iran doesn't want to nuke us.  The Israel talk is just talking to his base, and American politicos do it all the time.  Bush runs like a coward when the Christian right is pissed (ahem... Myers anyone?), but he expects foreign leaders to use GOP talking points at all times or be regarded as radical.  Mmmmm..... smell that... it's hypocisy... American-style.

Iran wants nuclear power, so that it can sell more oil instead of burning it.  They want the technology advances that come with a nuclear program... they want the expertise to build the bomb, sure, but not necessarily to make the bomb itself, much less use it.  The 'Japan option' is what it's called.

Iran is NOT OUR PROBLEM.  Iraq and Afghanistan are our problems, because we invaded them.  Let them work this shit out... because guess what: Iran is like the US in at lease two respects... it is ruled by right-wing religious fundamentalists (and I'm not talking about their presidents!) and it is not monolithic.  There is a strong democratic movement inside Iran, and they need to work this shit out themselves.

The same GOP who think that regulation interferes with market processes believe that democracy is just fine with Big Brother US telling you how the votes need to come out or else.  WTF?

by teknofyl 2006-03-22 04:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Off the mark

Hey man,

Thanks for my first MyDD comment.

by kamanda 2006-03-22 05:16AM | 0 recs
A Clouded Future?

This notion of using nuclear "bunker busting" devices to eliminate deeply buried research and development facilities happens to be chock-full of more holes than a slice of swiss cheese. The theory is that by burying a nuclear device beneath some sand or dirt, you will provide a small amount of mass to "blow back," thereby directing a relatively large amount of energy downward toward a target.

While the energy output of a nuclear bomb is truly enormous, it is by no means infinite. Moreover, the larger the bomb, the greater the discharge of radioactive mass and the stronger its radioactivity will be. If a relatively small weapon is used, the target may survive. For that matter, a relatively large weapon might not guarantee elimination of the target. Now let's add all this up. Regardless of the size of the weapon used, the upward blow back is going to be very massive and very radioactive. Of course, the larger the weapon, the worse the effect will be.

But these are merely initial complications. Since the targeted facilities would be deeply buried and heavily armored, we will have no reliable means of knowing whether these targets have been neutralized. All we will know for sure is that we will have produced gigantic super-radioactive dust clouds.

These super-radioactive dust clouds are likely to become swept up in an atmospheric whirlpool that covers perhaps most of China and Formosa, much of Western Russia, and very possibly Pakistan, India, Palestine, Israel, Japan, the Koreas, Vietnam, etc. Millions of citizens in these nations may perish. How these nations might respond leads to many unanswerable questions.

Of course, an entire constellation of other consequences also exists. Would nations be tempted to utilize chemical and biological agents? How would the economy of the world respond to a doubling or tripling of oil prices? And above all, what guarantees that the current U.S. administration will prossess the wherewithal to cope with such a vastly intricate juggling act?

by blues 2006-03-22 03:33PM | 0 recs

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