Rattling the Cage: Learning to live with The Bomb

By LARRY DERFNER
April 29, 2009 20:31

Nothing says self-defense and/or aggression like nuclear weapons.

4 minute read.



larry derfner 88

larry derfner 88. (photo credit: )

Even if you get rid of all the world's nuclear weapons, you can't get rid of the knowledge of how to make them - and nations are always going to want them, they'll always want to be as well-armed as possible. Countries that can't get nukes will want the next best thing: biological weapons like plague, anthrax or botulism, which may even be preferable to nukes because they're so tiny, portable and easy to hide. If we humans plan to stick around for a few more centuries or millennia, keeping in mind that technology doesn't stand still, I think we should realize that there's no long-term military solution to the threat of WMD. Even if you successfully bomb a nuclear project, the problem isn't solved. After Israeli jets destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, Saddam Hussein secretly began building nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry like never before. If he hadn't invaded Kuwait and brought the US down on his head in 1991, he would have been a few years away from having nuclear weapons. After the war, UN inspectors dismantled Saddam's long-range missiles, warheads, enriched uranium and literally tons of anthrax and botulism. The Israeli strike on Osirak wasn't the end of the story, but more like the beginning. So I don't see the point of bombing Iran's nuclear facilities, or of bombing or otherwise trying to neutralize Pakistan's nukes to keep them out of the Taliban's hands. For that to be a long-term solution, America would have to go to war in Iran and Pakistan and stay there forever. And the nuclear threat is not going to end with Iran and Pakistan. (Until a few weeks ago, you only had to mention Iran. Things move fast.) And so I'm glad the Obama administration is wary of attacking Iran and instead wants to "engage" with its leaders, to try diplomacy instead. My problem with Obama, though, is with the goal of his diplomacy - to get Iran to agree to give up its nuclear project. It's all very enlightened to want to talk with the Iranians, but if the US goal is unilateral Iranian nuclear disarmament, what will the Americans have to say to them? That Iran shouldn't have nukes but the US and Israel should? Why? Because Iran is evil and America and Israel are good? That argument will convince a lot of Americans and Israelis why Iran shouldn't have nuclear weapons, but I don't think it'll convince Iranian arms negotiators. Or maybe Obama thinks he can pressure the Iranians, scare them into disarming with the threat of sanctions. That's been tried by tougher, scarier guys than him, and it hasn't worked. But maybe Obama wants to try a genuinely new tactic with Iran's regime - not just sticks, but carrots, too. Maybe he wants to tell the Iranians that if they give up their nuclear program, they'll be welcomed into the family of civilized nations, they'll have the opportunity to develop their economy, to give their people a new, better life. I don't know if the mullahs really relish that prospect. But at any rate, if Iran is interested in improving its position in the world, in enhancing its power for economic, political or any other purposes, what bauble could the US entice the Iranians with that could possibly compete with The Bomb? IRAN IS A NATION-STATE, and nation-states are instruments for self-defense and/or aggression, and nothing says self-defense and/or aggression like nuclear weapons. Ask yourself: is there any offer, any enticement, that could have gotten Israel to willingly forgo its nuclear program? I can't imagine one. I can't imagine any substitute for nuclear power that would have satisfied the US, Russia, England, France, India or Pakistan, either. To want nukes, you don't have to be the leader of a country that believes in jihad. You just have to be the leader of a country with enemies. So if these negotiations with Iran ever come off, I have no idea what America's talking points might be - not if the goal really is what Obama says it is: unilateral Iranian nuclear disarmament. That goal is all the more ridiculous if you suspect, as the Obama administration claims to suspect, that the Iranians are so crazy that they'll nuke Israel or some other Western target even though it would mean their country's immediate annihilation by Israel or the US. If you think Iran is so bent on genocide that it can't be deterred even by the prospect of its own instant extermination, it's irrational to think it can be deterred by economic sanctions, or that there's any "carrot" sweet enough to pacify it. If you think Iran is counting the days until doomsday, then the only rational thing to do is bomb it, invade it, and stay in there for good. War without end, amen. The same holds true with Pakistan. The same holds true with North Korea. And that's just for now. But if you're not prepared to fight a world war for eternity, however long that might be, then the only option for dealing with the nuclear threat is the one that's worked for all 64 years of nuclear history: MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction. The way it works is that 1) you make sure you've got the power to annihilate your enemies; 2) you make sure they know you will use that power if they try to annihilate you; and 3) you make sure they know that if they don't nuke you, you won't nuke them. I know it's not a very attractive option, but it's all there is. Until somebody comes up with a better idea, all you can do is learn to live with uncertainty, with the danger of annihilation, because neither bombs, nor sanctions, nor diplomacy can make it go away.


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