Deterring the Demented?


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NPR chimes in today with an article on whether the same Cold War principles that kept the East and West in check could also work if Iran became a nuclear power.

Could Deterrence Counter A Nuclear Iran?

Iran’s leaders insist they do not intend to acquire nuclear weapons, and there is no evidence at the moment that they possess an atomic bomb.

But if the country does eventually become a nuclear-armed state, one option available to the United States to counter that power is an approach that worked for nearly half a century: deterrence — using the threat of nuclear retaliation and complete destruction to prevent an attack.

The core argument that critics of deterrence make is that Iran is undeterrable — because Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other leaders are fanatics who believe in religious apocalypse. Nuclear war could suit their purposes, this argument goes, even if Iran used the bomb and the U.S. retaliated.

Thomas Fingar, former deputy director of national intelligence and now a scholar at Stanford University, disagrees.

“I don’t think this is a suicidal regime. I don’t dismiss out of hand at all the idea that they could be deterred,” he says.

The picture of Iran as a suicidal regime doesn’t work for Muhammad Sahimi either. Sahimi, a professor at the University of Southern California who writes for the Web site Tehran Bureau, is a longtime critic of Iran’s conservative government.

“They know that if they, for example, attack Israel, the Israelis and the United States would have the capability to completely destroy Iran and in the process completely destroy the regime,” he says.

For advocates of deterrence, history works in their favor.

The Soviet Union and China are cases in point. The Soviet Union acquired the bomb when Stalin was in power, and China when Mao was its leader, points out Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center in Washington and now a diplomat-scholar at the University of Virginia.

“Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin make Ahmadinejad look like a Boy Scout. And I’m not belittling the worrisome nature of Ahmadinejad and the Iranian regime. But we have dealt with far, far worse,” he says.

The idea that Iran’s current regime could be deterred from launching a nuclear attack on Israel by the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), or the overwhelming military intervention of the United States sounds promising.

That is, until we remove the discussion from an academic echo chamber and expose it to the clear statements of the individual who would give the go ahead to such an attack.

This post from Joel Rosenberg’s Flash Traffic Blog is particularly insightful and chilling.

IRAN’S SUPREME LEADER URGES MUSLIMS TO MOBILIZE AGAINST U.S. AND ISRAEL TO PREPARE FOR MESSIAH’S ARRIVAL

The Ayatollah is signalling that he personally is the Mahdi's agent on earth. This is a significant development.The Ayatollah is signalling that he personally is the Mahdi’s agent on earth. This is a significant development.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on Muslims in neighboring countries this week to intensify preparations for the coming of the Islamic Messiah known as the Mahdi or the “Twelfth Imam.” He specifically urged Muslims to mobilize forces to defeat the United States and Israel.

“We have to train honest forces that can stop the obstacles that may hinder the coming of the Mahdi like the United States and Israel,” the Ayatollah said through a spokesman, in a story reported by al-Arabiya, the Arabic-language news channel based in the Gulf.

“Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s spokesman, Ali Saeedi, said countries like Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan should gather together all their forces in order to make drastic changes to prepare for the coming of al-Mahdi al-Montazar, Arabic for ,the awaited guided one,’” reported al-Arabiya.

The story did not specify what “drastic changes” the Ayatollah had in mind.

“Saeedi also said that the supreme leader of Iran is the direct representative of the Mahdi and that obeying him is like obeying the ‘guided one,’ who is the prophesized savior of Islam,” explained the report. “‘Since the armed forces are commanded by the Supreme Leader, they are thus obeying the orders of the awaited Mahdi,’ Saeedi said, adding ‘the Revolutionary Guards and the armed forces in Iran hold religious authority to prepare for the appearance of the Mahdi.’”

The experts cited in the NPR article believe that Iran’s leadership is not “suicidal”.

And yet the favored tactic of Iran’s infantry in her war with Iraq was human wave “suicidal” assaults.

The experts believe that MAD doctrine worked on bad apples like Stalin and Mao, so it must work with Iran.

Stalin and Mao, however, did not believe that the key to paradise in the afterlife was dying as a “martyr” for their cause.

So who do we believe?

The think tank pundits or your lyin’ eyes?

But did you also catch the most frightening aspect of this article?

For the first time we see floated as a trial balloon this thesis:

“Nuclear Iran – Let’s Learn to Live With It!”

Could the appearance of such an article in a government funded media outlet like NPR be an indicator that our government has conceded that Iran will have this WMD capacity, and is beginning the attempt to make this palatable to the public?

Perhaps this is why oil rich Saudi Arabia has recently begun a fast forward project to build their own nuclear power plant for purely civilian purposes, of course.

If the Saudis know they cannot depend on the United States or the EU to deal with Iran, it would only make sense to take drastic steps to avoid being blackmailed by their Shi’a rivals to the north.

The signs don’t look promising.

CS Lewis once observed, “There is no bad man like a religious bad man.”

And if our government is betting that the religious bad men in Tehran, who have consistently demonstrated their own ruthless fanaticism at every turn since seizing power in 1979, are somehow going to put pragmatism in front of their ardently believed false prophesies –

They had better be right.

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:4-8)


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