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  • What if Iran gets nukes?

    Posted by ken on May 9th, 2005 (All posts by )

    What then?

    To get a good picture, let’s indulge in a bit of alternate history. Suppose the Taliban government of Afghanistan had nukes in 2001. Let’s further suppose that they weren’t crazy enough to let any of them be used in terrorist attacks, but they had them and everyone knew it.

    Fast forward to September 12. The Taliban government is knowingly sheltering the terrorist group responsible for knocking down two of our largest office buildings with thousands of people inside, and is not going to give them up. What do we do about it? How do we kill or capture the member of that group? More to the point, how do we stop them from striking us again and again? And then again? Still no nukes, but repeated conventional attacks on American civilians on American soil. How in the world would we stop them?

    I don’t see how.

    The Iranians are working on nuclear weapons, and they are run by a regime that has sponsored terrorist attacks against the West in the past. They see us as “the Great Satan”. If they get nuclear weapons, what possible reason would they have for not sponsoring repeated, conventional attacks against the Great Satan itself? What could we do about it? Would we accept a nuclear exchange to retaliate for another 9/11-style attack? Would we wait until we’ve suffered five of them?

    I don’t want to find out.

    We should have been recruiting like crazy since 2001 to provide ourselves a reserve in case drastic preventative measures proved necessary. I think the necessity is now undeniable, that Iran must be prevented from getting nuclear weapons by any means necessary, and that time is not on our side.

     

    4 Responses to “What if Iran gets nukes?”

    1. Jonathan Says:

      I agree. The Administration is trying very hard to counter Iran by other than military means. However, I am skeptical that we will succeed in this effort unless it is clear that we will attack if necessary.

    2. Mal Says:

      Minor question here… are you mentioning the spectre of nuclear threat as a form of terrorism upon the territory of the United States itself or are you suggesting they would instead use it in a sort of ‘defensive’ fashion? If the former, then they actually need a way to deply the things, which pretty much comes down to smuggling a device across the border, as they would have no form of ‘direct delivery’ system. If the latter, it is highly unlikely, as most countries would be unwilling to detonate the things anywhere near their own borders except in extremely controlled circumstances. I believe it was stated quite awhile ago that any form of NBC aggression would be met with swift and total annihilation to those who employed such weapons against the US. That threat alone would make them at least think twice.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      Extrapolating from our experiences with the Soviet Union, we could assume that acquiring nukes would actually calm Iran down some. A nuclear state cannot behave as belligerently as a non-nuclear state.

      Nukes are the world’s true weapons. Becoming a nuclear power makes all forms of armed conflict suddenly very serious. A nations ruling elite can no longer try to fight a limited war for limited gains. Any conflict could spiral out of control and lead to a devastating nuclear war.

      India and Pakistan had a serious military conflict every 3 to 5 years until India got nukes and then things calmed down a lot. After Pakistan got nukes, overt military confrontation decreased even further.

      Nuclear states might resort to terrorism as a means of attacking an enemy “without fingerprints” but such attacks would have to be limited in scope. The Soviet Union created modern terrorism but it also controlled and limited it. Soviet terrorism sought not to kill large numbers of people but to create media events. Their pet terrorist consciously limited casualties in most cases. The Soviets would have never allowed a 9/11 type attack and indeed probably would have actively worked to prevent it. In a nuclear standoff, such an attack could conceivable escalate to the end of the world.

      Likewise, a nuclear Iran might find itself suddenly held to a much higher standard of behavior. The consequences of a mass-casualty attack being laid at their feet would be most dire. Internally, this state of affairs would mean that those supporting terrorism would have to get more internal support. Moderates could no longer let radicals blow off steam by supporting terrorist because it would endanger everybody. Worse, how would it play internally if the US was to retaliate conventionally for a terrorist attack but Iran was incapable of counter-retaliating without going full nuclear. It would be humiliating.

      I think that acquiring nukes actually forces countries to behave more maturely. Pakistan began cracking down on Kashmir extremist before 9/11 after India threatened war over the attacks raising the very real possibility of terrorist trigging a regional nuclear war. Iran will face the same problem. If they support a group that carries off a large scale attack then they could find themselves caught in an escalation that would lead either to nuclear destruction or to a humiliating capitulation.

      So on one hand, Iran having nukes probably wouldn’t be a disaster and might even improve things but on the other hand, why risk the cataclysmic consequences of an Iranian miscalculation? I say bomb them.

    4. Bill Hight Says:

      Shannon, you may need to sharpen your analysis a bit with regard to Iran being an Islamic theocracy, with leaders prone to using apocalyptic language routinely, with martyrdom being the highest honor these muslims can conceive. You are not dealing here with Soviets. You are dealing with members of a different species.