On Friday, Siggy wrote an important post pointing out the emerging meme, gathering strength by the day, that the concern about Iran and nuclear weapons is being overblown.
The left is all a twitter because they fear a western effort to make sure Iran doesn’t get the bomb. More than one ‘analyst’ has declared that ‘we can live with’ an Iranian bomb.
Siggy does an exemplary job detailing why an Iranian bomb, indeed why an additional Middle Eastern Muslim bomb (beyond the Pakistani arsenal), would be extremely dangerous. The prevailing ideology of much of the Middle East is Jew-hatred. Historically, Jew haters have always attempted to bring their genocidal desires to fruition. Insecure totalitarian states would find the pressure to attack Israel insurmountable in direct proportion to their internal failings. I will not repeat his argument here. Dr. Sanity takes a look at the thinking that underlies the idea that we should not believe what the Iranians say about their intentions and instead should assume they are actually rational actors who are practicing their version of Realpolitik.
Caroline Glick actually spent the time to consider Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia and to the UN and focused on the content of the speeches that the MSM either missed or could not imagine meant anything significant:
During his visit to New York this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked every basic assumption upon which Western civilization is predicated. Ahmadinejad offered up his attacks while extolling his vision of Islamic global domination.
Refusing to note his existential challenge to the Free World, the Western media concentrated their coverage of his trip on his statements regarding specific Western policy goals. His rejection of the UN Security Council's authority to take action against Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program; his championing of the Palestinian cause and Israel's destruction; his denials of Iranian support for terrorism, and his attacks against the US were widely reported. So too, his insistence that Iranian women enjoy full rights and that there are no homosexuals in Iran received banner headlines.
Ahmadinejad gave two major addresses this week - at Columbia University and at the UN General Assembly. He devoted both to putting forward his vision for global Islamic domination. And while the Western media sought hidden meanings and signals for peaceful intentions in his words, the fact is that on both occasions, Ahmadinejad made absolutely clear that his vision of Islamic domination cannot coexist in any manner with Western civilization. Consequently, Ahmadinejad's statements were not negotiating stances. They were the direct consequence of the world view he propounds. As such, they are non-negotiable.
At Columbia University, Ahmadinejad devoted the majority of his speech to a discussion of the role of science in human affairs. While most coverage surrounded his refusal to renounce his call to annihilate Israel, his central message, that he rejects the right of people to be free to choose their paths in life, was ignored. His remarks on the issue were dismissed as "weird" or "unintelligible." Yet they were neither.
Speaking as "an academic," Ahmadinejad said that from his perspective, the role of science is to serve Islam and that any science that does not serve Islamic goals is corrupt. As he put it, "Science is the light, and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interests of humanity." Elaborating on this notion, he argued that Western scientists serve corrupt governments who reject the pure and pious path of Islam and therefore are used as agents for corruption.
Tellingly, Ahmadinejad moved directly from his assault on non-Islamic scientists and regimes to a defense of Iran's nuclear program. The message was clear: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is done in the name of Islam and therefore it is inherently legitimate. As far as he is concerned, refusing to allow Iran to pursue nuclear weapons is tantamount to an assault on God.
James Lewis has an even more troubling interpretation of Ahmadinejad's speech at American Thinker.
None of this is dispositive, of course, and the "Realists" have decent arguments of their own. Their arguments are two fold. First the argument is put forth that Ahmadinejad actually has minimal power and his pronouncements should be taken with a rather large grain of salt. Furthermore, while Ahmadinejad may be a Millenialist seeking to encourage the Apocalypse, he is not much different from American fundamentalist Christians, including our President:
We're so freaked out over Ahmadinejad's "messiah returning" complex when our president has just as strong religious beliefs, a clear sense that time is running out on his term, and he's actually--unlike Ahmadinejad's weak presidential position--got the power to execute his will--and a real record of doing it.
I will not here discuss the difference between the Millenialism of Ahmadinejad and those American Christians and Jews who hope for and pray for a Messiah, but failing to note the difference between those who pray for his arrival and those who actively seek to create apocalyptic conditions to provoke his return seems a bit myopic, to say the last. Further, if Ahmadinejad does not have his finger on the levers of power in Iran, he represents a significant portion of the ruling Mullahs who are not at all unhappy or in conflict with his point of view.
The "Realists" also suggest that Iran can be deterred just as the Soviet Union was deterred during the cold war. Via the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, both the United States and the USSR, sitting atop nuclear arsenals that could have destroyed each other multiple times, managed to find a way to survive without resorting to such extremis. We engaged the Soviets in proxy wars in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America but never directly attacked each other and always respected each other's tripwires beyond which the risk of direct confrontation became too dangerous.
While MAD clearly worked to keep the United States and the USSR from directly attacking each other militarily, which would almost certainly have led to a nuclear exchange, those who propose we tolerate the danger of an Iranian nuclear weapons program and evolve a new MAD are misunderstanding and misreading how MAD came into existence.
When WWII ended with Soviet troops occupying much of Eastern Europe and Allied troops occupying Western Europe, the decision was made that continuing the war, this time with American and Allied forces going up against Soviet troops, would have been untenable. We did not have a nuclear arsenal at that point and any war would have necessarily been a conventional one. By the time it was clear, to the surprise of our CIA and political establishment, that the Soviets had a nuclear arsenal of their own, in the mid-50s, there was no choice but to establish a policy of MAD. Neither of us were willing to disarm and the arms race had a dynamic of its own that made MAD the only viable solution. Much of the management of MAD was designed to increase assurances from both parties that command and control would always be clearly established and that the risk of a surprise or mistaken attack would be minimized. Nonetheless, during the cold war, there were too many occasions during which we came dangerously close to nuclear war. Historians are still trying to calculate how many lives were lost during the Cold War.
The key point is to recognize that MAD was not established by design. We did not, in our wisdom, conclude that the Soviets were ideal partners in an anti-war compact depending on mutually assured destruction. If we could have stopped them form making the bomb, we would have, but we were not prepared to engage in a conventional war with the USSR and that was the only option we had at that time. Once we had enough nukes to destroy the USSR, they were in a position to return the favor. Eventually, 50 years later, the Soviet system failed and the nuclear stand-off decreased in immediacy.
In contrast, Iran has been involved in direct attacks against Americans and others throughout the world since their revolution. They openly speak about genocide and openly announce their plans for nuclear weapons. The difference is that now we can deter their acquisition of nuclear weapons via conventional means. Once the Iranians have nuclear weapons, deterrence will become a much more problematic affair. We have somewhere between several months and a few years to put a semi-permanent crimp in Iranian plans, plans which may very well include provoking Armageddon. Yet even if they are not so suicidal, it is a certainty that their plans going forward, once secure behind under a nuclear umbrella, include an expanded repertoire of terror attacks (asymmetric warfare) against the West. The current push to present Iran as a nation deterrable in the same way the USSR was deterrable is short sighted and dangerous.
War with Iran is a horrible prospect, yet the proponents of a new MAD doctrine with the Mullahs of Iran have not done a very convincing job explaining how an Iranian nuclear capacity would be a preferable outcome.