I mentioned that the soft kill has to have a hard deterrence component, what I called Unilateral Assured Destruction. I think that should look something like the following.
In the course of his speech to the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy said this:
It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.
I have long thought this was a model of statesmanly clarity.
President Bush should say something similar to the Iranians, to get maximum clarity into the nuclear stand-off we are going to be living with.
It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any attack with a nuclear weapon originating in Iran, or deemed by the United States in its sole discretion to have originated in Iran, delivered by any means, against any nation, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.
Bush would then go on:
Let me be absolutely clear. Any nuclear weapon detonated by any terrorist anywhere in the world against anyone will be presumed to have originated in Iran and will cause, without further notice, an immediate and large-scale nuclear attack by the United States on Iran. The attack will be directed against all military, political and economic targets, as well as centers of population. The goal of this attack will be the destruction of Iran as a functioning state and society permanently and completely. Again, to be absolutely clear, the United States now has contingency plans in place to execute any such attack on very short notice. The retaliatory attack as planned will immediately kill the majority of the people now living in Iran. Let the Iranian government and the entire world know what will happen if Iran ever tries to make good on its threats. Moreover, the Iranian government would be wise to exert itself to prevent any nuclear weapons from falling into terrorist hands. This is not a negotiating position, it is a statement of policy and a warning. I do not think there is any way for me to make our intentions more clear. Let the Iranian government conduct itself accordingly.
We won’t get this kind of clarity. But the world would be a safer place if we did.
UPDATE: To be absolutely clear, this would be declaratory policy. What we should actually do if, God forbid, we suffered a nuclear terrorist attack, would have to be decided at the time. The point of this is to make the Mullah’s stop and think and, in particular, realize that any open use of a weapon might well lead to their annihilation. Possession of nuclear weapons imposes grown-up rules on those who want to play for big stakes at the big table.