If I were an Iranian, I would absolutely insist that my country have nuclear weapons, whether I loved or hated the Mullahs, whether I loved or hated the USA. . . So, the fact that pretty much everybody in Iran who does not want to see their country attacked or conquered wants it to have nuclear weapons doesn’t bother me. I call that common sense.
This statement does not make sense to me. If I were Iranian I wouldn’t want the hated regime to have nukes, because who knows what they would do with them, what trouble they would bring onto the Iranian people, and to have nukes would be to invite invasion by the USA and/or attack by Israel. Iran is a populous, wealthy country and can readily defend itself and its oil without nukes, especially now that Saddam Hussein is gone. (Who is left to try and take the oil?) The people running Iran are shrewd and know that the USA has no taste for involvement in their country–indeed they are counting on it. The whole point of Iran’s having nukes is to entrench the dictatorship and allow the mullahs to make mischief abroad. They know we’re going to try to deter them and they’re betting it won’t work. I have a lot of respect for their judgment; they’ve been right so far and have played their hand superbly.
The USA should try to impose costs on the Iranian regime, and if possible topple it and kill the leaders, by any practicable means. Kling’s proposal to target oil facilities is a good one, since the regime needs the revenue more than we need the oil, and attacks on oil infrastructure would kill far fewer Iranians than would attacks on cities.
It would be nice if Iranians overthrew the dictatorship but it’s delusion to pin our hopes on it. Too many oppressed peoples, from Iraqi Shiites to Panamanians to Kurds to Hungarians, have seen their hopes for rescue by the USA evaporate. The Iranian democrats aren’t going to chance it unless it’s clear that we will back them up, and it isn’t. The only way to make it clear is to commit ourselves to overthrowing the regime, or at least to destroying enough nuclear and oil facilities to weaken it and set back the Iranian nuclear program.
If the USA acquiesces to Iranian nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other countries are going to want them too. Who can blame them? I think that’s an outcome best avoided, and the way to avoid it is to attack Iran while we still can at relatively low cost.
As for deterrence, I don’t think we have a lot of leverage unless we are willing to fight at any time. Otherwise it looks like we are bluffing, as I think we are. Ahmadinejad & Co. are probably not suicidal, but then they are also not likely to hang around at any of the places that we or Israel are likely to bomb. They also have a record of brutality toward citizens of their own country. I see no reason to trust the lives of millions of people to the mullahs’ judgment, decency or sense of self-preservation.
Remember that while the USSR refrained from nuclear war it also supported proxy wars against us in a variety of venues, some of them at great cost to us. And the Soviets were interested in conquest rather than genocide. The mullahs appear to be interested in both. I see no reason to assume that they will not cause us a huge amount of trouble even if they don’t explode any nukes.
And what happens if a nuke in a chartered airliner explodes in Tel Aviv or Riyadh or a European city? Are we going to nuke Teheran? Even if we aren’t sure of the explosion’s origin? I think the mullahs would have a good chance of getting away with it, and they are risk takers.
The notion that we can rely for our safety on the sobriety of dictators is essentially the same kind of flawed thinking that led to our complacency in the years before 9/11.
The possibility that Bush currently lacks the political wherewithal to attack Iran does not lessen our failure of will.