Justus For All

None Sine Causa

The origins of the Great War of 2007

11:34 am on Monday, January 16, 2006

via Instapundit, this imaginative view of a possible future: The origins of the Great War of 2007 – and how it could have been prevented, is worth thinking about. Some of the specific thoughts presented strike me as unlikely, but the general idea that a nuclear Iran could spark a world conflict, perhaps dwarfing WWII, is not impossible.

In all honesty, our options are not good. I presume that nothing other than a military action, or a credible threat of military action, will alter Iran’s course at this point. I also highly doubt that we have enough diplomatic leverage to get Russia and China to offer support of such a course, so anything we do will have to be ‘unilateral’ and not sanctioned by the U.N. As an asside, I feat that this crises may be the final straw the breaks the U.N.’s back, destroying it as an international institution.

It is probably worth while to take a look at our military options, and think about both the feasibility and the consequences of them.

Since this post is rather long, my analysis of our options is below the break.

The first option, and probably the most likely, is targeted bombing of suspected nuclear facilities. These are hardened targets, and it would be difficult to ensure that the strikes would be effective. The targets are also dispersed geographically, so it would require an extensive operation. Of course these sites are also well defended, our air power is not significantly stressed by operations in Iraq though, so the capability exists. One of the biggest problems with this strategy is it is unlikely that we would easily be able to evaluate how successful the strikes were. Not only is it tough to know if our intelligence has identified all of the sites, it would be tough to analyze the damage to deeply buried bunkers. At best it seems unlikely that targeted strikes would do more than delay the arrival or Iranian nukes, rather than prevent them. It is not unreasonable to conclude that this strategy would only increase Iran’s desire for nukes, and it would of course end any possibility of regional cooperation over Afghanistan and Iraq. It is difficult to predict the effect of this sort of targeted strike on the Iranian people, probably it would not have much effect, neither strengthening nor weakening the Mullahs.

A more ambitious option would be a general air war, similar to the 1999 Kosovo campaign. The purpose of such a strike would be less to directly target the nuclear sites (although I am sure that would occur as well) but to force Iran to change its policies, disavowing nuclear weapons, complying with IAEA standards and abandoning nuclear research. We probably have the ability to wage such a war, and it is possible that such a tactic would succeed. Unlike the former nation of Yugoslavia however, engaging in this sort of conflict would have quite serious consequences. Not only Iranian oil would be removed from the market, but also it seems likely that they would at least try to completely shut down the entire Persian Gulf. While I doubt they could succeed at this for any length of time, a world recession could well occur.

Another option would be trying the Afghan strategy, arming resistance groups and supporting them with air power. Although there are numerous anti-regime elements in Iran, there is no real correlation with the Northern Alliance though. It would take serious support and training to transform any anti-Regime forces into a military force capable of action. The Iranian military is far more sophisticated than the Taliban forces were as well, so this strategy is not likely to succeed. Probably the ‘best’ we could along these lines is creating anti-regime terror groups. This probably would not be effective, and would certainly undercut our legitimacy in the ‘war on terror.’ Probably not something that is worthy of serious consideration.

Lastly of course is a full-scale invasion and occupation. The immediate difficulty with this of course is that our military is already having difficulties because of our troop commitment in Iraq. Over the next year that commitment is likely to ease, but probably not enough to allow for an invasion. Some have argued that this is a reason why the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea, however I think that as difficult as such an exercise would be with us in Iraq, it would be impossible with a hostile Iraq still under Saddam. If we had to, I think that this option is ‘possible’ if only just. There is also a pretty descent chance that we would get strong international support in stabilizing Iran after the fact, as the world would need a stable Iran as soon as possible. While this option may be do-able from a military standpoint though, it is probably not politically feasible. The American people are unlikely to support such an endeavor.

With any of these options (or even just economic pressure tactics), there is a risk that Iran would dramatically increase its efforts to destabilize Iraq, harming our interests there. I am very skeptical of the claims that Iraqi Shiites as a whole would be very supportive of Iran, or that they are puppets of the Iranian regime, but certainly there are some Shiite groups (Sadr in particular) who would dance to Iran’s tune. While I am sure that there would be bloodshed if Iran chose this tactic, I doubt it would succeed to any significant degree. It is even feasible that it would backfire on Iran, uniting Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis.

It is worth remembering also, that only regime change will be a permanent solution to this problem. Anything less might be able to delay Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but the crisis will likely emerge again in the future. There is a pro-Democracy movement in Iran, but they have been unable to make any real progress and, unfortunately, I see no reason to believe that that will change any time soon.

There are not really any good options here, as I stated above. We can all hope that diplomacy will succeed in averting this crisis, at least for a time, when our options may be better. Iran though probably has made the analysis that America will be better, not less, able to act in a military fashion in the future, so they have a strong incentive to try and gain nukes now, rather than hope they have a better chance in five or ten years. I expect that they will not relent in this quest easily.

Despite our military options ranging from bad to worse, I think that they are all better than trying to learn to live with Iran being a nuclear power.

36 Comments

Comment by probligo

January 16, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

Despite our military options ranging from bad to worse, I think that they are all better than trying to learn to live with Iran being a nuclear power.

Now that immediately leads to the obvious question of “Why?”

For a moment, consider who already has nuclear weapons and their individual likely ranking as international “risks”.

South Africa – helped Israel with delivery systems, has individuals involved in internal military and external mercenary activities, has sponsored civil unrest and terrorism in a number of other African nations including Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Pakistan – periodically at war with India, has had joint development programmes with China, involved in the spread of nuclear technology to other Middle East nations.

India – periodically at war with Pakistan, has had joint development programmes with Russia.

Israel – whether justified or not is considered a major threat to Middle East stability, has attacked and been attacked by neighbours, has taken unilateral military action against other nations, has little hesitation in using terror tactics and methods.

France – major sponsor of a number of “nuclear club” members including South Africa and Israel, has used terrorist tactics and methods against other nations, suspected of supplying material and technology through unofficial markets.

Russian Federation – one of the original club members, now politically in fragments, unable to account for large quantities of U and weapons, strongly suspected of black market operations in nuclear technology and materials.

Great Britain – minor player reliant largely upon US technology and supply.

USofA – power and technology beyond the control or monitoring of ROW, uses power and threat in pursuit of internal interests, has operated militarily both within and on the extreme margins of international law and convention, potential world dominator.

Add to that list –

North Korea – “low-tech” programmes, suspected test of rudimentary nuclear weapon within last two years, potential threat to region and particularly Japan, stable but paranoid dictatorship, perhaps equivalent of pre-WW2 Japan. Probably reliant upon imported technology.

Iran – theocracy, known supporter of Islamic fundamentalists and other anti-democratic activists, unstable leadership, low-tech programs at present dependant upon external support. Past assistance from US, Russia and Pakistan.

Now as a member of ROW, which of these would I mistrust the most? Which might represent the greatest threat in supplying or using nuclear weapons? Which might have the greatest potential to create widespread international conflict?

Comment by Dave Justus

January 16, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

South Africa has disarmed as is not longer a nuclear power. You failed to mention China in your list. It is also innaccurate to state that Russia is unable to account for all of the nuclear weapons from the Soviet Arsenal. That is simply untrue.

Your basic argument is flawed. You are basically trying to say that some nations that have nuclear weapons might create problems, therefore more nations that might create problems having nuclear weapons is no big deal. I would put forth the arguement that more potential problems is, in fact, a very big deal.

I presume that your most feared nation with nukes is either France or the U.S. I can only attribute that to derangement. However you are correct that some of the nations on this list are indeed troubling. Pakistan and North Korea being two of the big ones.

Under Musharraf, Pakistan is very unlikely to use nukes in any situation less than a serious conflict with India. This probably actually promotes peace between the two nations. However, Pakistan has a powerful Islamist tendancy, with some very bad people in Pakistan’s military and the ISA. It is not impossible that Pakistan could become a very unfriendly country instead of a marginally unfriendly one as it is now. Certainly on balance no one is happy with Pakistani nukes, but it is a done deal, and it seems fairly obvious that not much can be done about it.

Ironically, North Korea has much greater conventional deterance than it does nuclear deterence. Although it has never tested a nuclear device, most experts agree that NK has managed to assemble 2-8 nuclear weapons. While these weapons could target Japan, North Korea’s real power of deterance lies in massive amounts of artillery within range of Seoul, South Korea. The biggest worry with the North Korean nukes is that the cash poor nation could sell them to the highest bidder or that Kim Jung Il, in a fit of madness, perhaps percipitated by imminent loss of power, might choose to go out in a blaze of glory. While this would be incredibly tragic, it would probably not have further geo-political implications.

Iran is a different category of threat. While it is difficult to assertain the exact mental state of those ruling that nation, it is not inconceivable that it could choose to launch a first strike against Israel. Perhaps more dangerous, it is not unlikely that it would mistakenly convince Israel that it was going to do so, prompting a pre-emptive nuclear strike from Israel.

It is obvious that the middle east will be rocked with upheavel of various types over the coming decades. Beyond politics and religion, the youthful demographic surge in the region makes upheavel a liklihood. It is also obvious that the middle east will continue to be of great geo-political importance, forcing other powers to be involved in the region because of its importance and value economically. Adding nuclear weapons to this volitile mix is a recipe for disaster.

Not only is ‘well its no worse than any other’ a bad arguement for being blase about proliferation, in the case of Iran it is simply untrue. A nuclear Iran will be more dangerous to geo-political stability than any existing nuclear nation.

Comment by sonic

January 16, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

” Perhaps more dangerous, it is not unlikely that it would mistakenly convince Israel that it was going to do so, prompting a pre-emptive nuclear strike from Israel.”

So we should demand Israel disarms then?

Comment by probligo

January 16, 2006 @ 6:00 pm

Sorry, trying to write abstruse formulae for a complex spreadsheet and write comment at the same time is somewhat distracting. So, I forgot China in passing.

“I presume that your most feared nation with nukes is either France or the U.S”

You presume wrong. In fact, ANY nation that has nukes is a danger. THAT is the point I am making. The degree of that danger depends (as much as anything) upon your point of view.

The biggest dangers at present (in my personal judgement are in fact (in order) –

Russia (because of the lack of control)
Pakistan/India/Israel (equal)
China
France/US (equal)
Great Britain

IF and WHEN Iran and North Korea successfully develop weapons they would rate in the top two lines. I have no doubt about that.

“Under Musharraf, Pakistan is very unlikely to use nukes in any situation less than a serious conflict with India. This probably actually promotes peace between the two nations.”

That might be the case with Musharrif in charge. What about the next General in line?

Does Musharrif in charge lessen the danger that India presents?

“Iran is a different category of threat. While it is difficult to assertain the exact mental state of those ruling that nation, it is not inconceivable that it could choose to launch a first strike against Israel. Perhaps more dangerous, it is not unlikely that it would mistakenly convince Israel that it was going to do so, prompting a pre-emptive nuclear strike from Israel.

Remember as you say that, Israel has already taken “pre-emptive action” against Iran in very similar circumstances to those at present.

Would you trust Israel under a Likud government to always refrain from using nuclear weapons? I don’t.

So, when Iran says that it needs nukes “as protection against Israel” who are you (or Saint George and the US for that matter) to say that they should not? Or, are you and Saint George going to persuade Israel to scrap its nuclear arsenal?

“It is obvious that the middle east will be rocked with upheavel of various types over the coming decades. Beyond politics and religion, the youthful demographic surge in the region makes upheavel a liklihood.”

Yes, absolutely correct. And none of that upheaval will be the fault or consequence of the US, will it?

I agree with your prediction. I do not agree with the possible cause(s). We and many others have debated ad nauseum those factors and repeating that debate here is pointless.

In terms, though, of the proliferation of nuclear weapons I can say as an idealist that the only answer is NO NUKES!! As a pragmatist, I know that is an impossiblity. As a cynic, I know that NZ, and in particular I, am not likely to be a target for any nuke armed nation.

(since starting this I have been involved in systems development, thin client definition for new systems, and my spreadsheet… E&OE)

Comment by Dave Justus

January 17, 2006 @ 5:14 am

Israel does not have a no first use policy. I believe that that has always been the case, under either a labor or a likud government.

Therefore I certainly do not trust Israel to not use nukes. However, I do trust them to not use nukes unless they believe their nation is in dire danger.

I am confident that a nuclear Israel would never nuke a non-nuclear Iran. I am far from certain though that Iran would not nuke a non-nuclear Israel. That is the difference between the two nations. Those that cannot see the difference seem to me to be willfully blind.

Comment by k. pablo

January 17, 2006 @ 9:33 am

more good stuff here: Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran, from the U.S. Army War College via Belmont Club

Comment by probligo

January 17, 2006 @ 11:18 am

Dave, and of course Israel would never invade Syria (or a small part of it), would never ever provoke military and terrorist reaction from south Lebanon now would they…

[sarcasm off]

You might like to have a read here…

Comment by Dave Justus

January 17, 2006 @ 11:38 am

Probligo,

If Israel wanted all the Palestinians dead, all the Palestinians would be dead. Israel has that capability without nuclear weapons. Obviously there has been a lot of back and forth between Israel, Syria, Lebanaon, and various Palestinian groups. Has Israel made mistakes? Obviously. Does that mean that all sides in the conflict have equal morality? No it does not.

Israel is at times a bit paranoid. However, all their neighbors are out to get them.

Comment by Random Gemini

January 17, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

The logic that Israel would have destroyed the Palestinians by now is of a sort that is rather disconnected and unfounded when you take into account the stage on which Israel must play in order to win acceptance and support from the west. This is a higher level of logic that operates outside the boundaries of more base human feelings such as “want”. It is short-sighted to fail to take this into account with regard to the situation in Gaza.

That said, I am concerned about any power having nuclear capabilities since it seems that no one can adequately protect nuclear facilities from outside influences or powers that have nothing to do with the government that owns the facility in question. Simply put, no one can keep the power of a nuclear bomb away from someone who is really determined to get one. Whether its Israel’s bomb or Iran’s bomb or an American bomb is irrelevant to the equation. As a result of this, I am less concerned about what Iran will do with nuclear power than I am about who Iran will allow to have access to it.

At the same time, I do believe that Iran has a right to research nuclear fuel to make a better life for her people. It is arrogant for those of us who benefit from that power to deny them that right.

This situation is a catch .22, much like the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Also like that conflict, there will be no resolution until all parties are willing to compromise.

Comment by probligo

January 17, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

“Israel is at times a bit paranoid…”

Yes, and hence my high ranking in the “nuclear risk” stakes.

Is Iran paranoid too? One can only answer “YES” to that. Why should that be?

Well, if you had had two of your closest neighbours murdered in the night during the past year or so, would you be happy to answer a knock at the door at 2.30 a.m.? I would bet my last dollar that you would have in hand any and the best weaponry you would consider appropriate to deal with the situation. That, I believe, is the primary justification for RKBA?

Comment by Dave Justus

January 18, 2006 @ 6:07 am

Random Gemini:

Since the international community has been spectacularly unsuccessful at stopping genocide so far, I find the assertion that international condemnation is the primary check that keeps Israelis from butchering Arabs to be fairly unlikely. It seems much more likely to me that Israel being a democracy peopled by responsible individuals who act as a check on government immorality is the reason for this.

“Simply put, no one can keep the power of a nuclear bomb away from someone who is really determined to get one.”

No one has ever stolen a nuclear weapon. Either your statement is false, or there has never been anyone really determined to get one.

Does Iran have a ‘right’ to nuclear power? I don’t believe that a nation-state has any inherent rights of its own. It can only have emergent rights based upon the natural rights of its people. Therefore, for the Government of Iran to have rights, it would have to afford rights to it’s citizens and be subject to those citizens. That is not the case with Iran, and clearly so. Therefore I am not prepared to accept that the government of Iran has rights.

I think it also obvious that Iran has little, if any interest in peaceful nuclear power. There have been routes for them to achieve that goal without attracting internation condemnation, routes that they have refused. Iran wants nuclear weapons.

Nuclear power is something that a nation must be responsible in order to possess. Is it arrogant for us not to allow a child to fly a 747? Many Children would love to do such a thing, it would doubtless be fun for them, but we feel that in order to responsibly control such power you must first have extensive training and prove you are responsible with that power.

As for a compromise, it is difficult to see what compromise could be reached. Iran wants nuclear weapons, we don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. This is a binary decision, either they will have them or they won’t. We can’t meet in the middle here.

Probligo:

To expand your parable to be more accurate, lets imagine that I live in a pretty bad neighborhood. Two of my neighbors, had made a practice of beating their kids and engaging in various anti-social practices that damaged people and property in other parts of the town. One of those neighbors had been involved in a pretty extensive feud with me in the past that resulted in quite a bit of damage to me. The other I had been trying to get rid of by helping the elder son in an internal family squable.

The a vigilante with super powers removes both of them. Do I feel safer or not?

That would depend greatly on how similar I was to the neighbors that had been removed. If I was a loving parent who didn’t beat my kids and a responsible citizen who didn’t engage in anti-social behavior that damaged others I would doubtless be relieved and appreciative that these problems had been taken care of. On the other hand, if I was pretty similar to them, I would doubtless be afraid and want to try and protect myself.

I find it odd that another citizen of the town, one who is responsible and peacable, would not look with alarm at our anti-social citizen trying to get a hold of the most powerful weaponry it could. I would think that they would support the efforts of our vigilante to prevent that from happening.

The right to keep and bear arms has always been predicated on responsible behavior. Law abiding citizens have a right to defend themselves, criminals do not.

Comment by Random Gemini

January 18, 2006 @ 6:54 am

Dave, when did you stop bothering to fact check yourself?

No, no one has ever stolen a nuclear weapon in that exact terminology. However, they have stolen the components to build one which is what I was discussing in my comment, which I know you are well-aware of. You are simply using that as an excuse to distract yourself and others reading this thread from my point, which is that no one can keep us safe from a nuclear bomb. I made it very clear, that it doesn’t matter who has access to it, Iran or Israel… either one is irrelevant to my equation.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,757753,00.html

Comment by Dave Justus

January 18, 2006 @ 7:51 am

Actually you mentioned ‘bomb’ several times in you comment, not nuclear material. That being said, while some radioactive material has been stolen, very little weapons grade material is unaccounted for and that is not enough to make a weapons:

Richard Minitar has addressed this issue in detail:

There have been 10 known cases of highly enriched uranium theft between 1994 and 2004. Each amounted to “a few grams or less.” The total loss is less than eight grams, and even these eight grams, which have differing levels of purity, could not be productively combined. To put these quantities in perspective, it takes some 15,900 grams–roughly 35 pounds–to make a highly enriched uranium bomb.

I have no real worries about an Iranian nuclear program due to Iran not being able to control their nuclear weapons or material.

Certainly a civil war or collapse of a government could lead to that sort of problem, we dodged a bullet when the Soviet Union came apart in that regard. Pakistan’s uncertain future is troubling as well.

However, I think it is virtually impossibe for any non-state actors to aquire nuclear weapons unless they are specifically given one. Such an action by a government, even Iran, is probably unlikely but not quite impossible. Radiological weapons are a much more likely threat.

Comment by Random Gemini

January 18, 2006 @ 9:59 am

Here we go with debating the nuances and neglecting primary points. The nuances are irrelevant to the fact that someone could take that missing nuclear material and make a dirty bomb with it, which is what I had intended to say in my first post, but obviously failed to say.

In a world where human interaction is the only means by which we transmit information, nothing is “binary” because human emotions are far too unpredictable and are a factor in this event. Whether you choose to believe that they are or not is up to you, but will not change the simple fact that all conflicts end in compromise.

From Web10: “compromise: A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.”

Whether we take military action or not, the situation will not be resolved without one.

Comment by Dave Justus

January 18, 2006 @ 10:34 am

A dirty bomb and a nuclear weapon are vastly different things. While I certainly don’t want to see either one detonated, if we have to choose a dirty bomb is far more acceptable.

There are numerous sources of radioactive material. The most likely to be used by terrorists is cessnium from medical waste. I don’t think that fear of a dirty bomb is a sensible reason to oppose nuclear power.

The assertion that all conflicts end in compromise seems to me to be baseless. Many conflicts end in compromise, but certainly not all of them do. Perhaps the most graphic historical example is the Third Punic War.

There are cases when goals are mutually exclusive and no halfway point exists. Iran either getting or not getting nuclear weapons is one of them. That is certainly not to say that ‘compromise’ won’t be a part of any eventual resolution, it surely will, but there is no possible compromise on the central issue here. Either Iran will get nuclear weapons or they will not. Yes or No. Binary.

Can there be a deal where they get something they want more than nukes? Possibly. Can there be a deal were they avoid something they don’t like to a greater degree than they want nukes? Also possible. Will we be able to achieve either of these results without cost to ourselves? Almost certainly not. From that perspective, I suppose you could call such a resolution a compromise.

I resent your implication that by responding to your what you say, rather than divining what you mean I am debating nuances and neglecting primary points. I am still unsure of what your primary point is. If it is that the world should abandon nuclear power (and any technology that uses radioactive materials) out of fear of a radiological weapon, I find that to be a pretty silly argument, and one which I disagree with strongly but it is probably well outside the topic of this post which concerns Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, why that is a specific and extreme danger, and some of the means we can concievably deploy to prevent that from happening.

Comment by K. Pablo

January 18, 2006 @ 10:49 am

Probligo said, “Well, if you had had two of your closest neighbours murdered in the night during the past year or so, would you be happy to answer a knock at the door at 2.30 a.m.?”

I think this is an inapt comparison, although it does exhibit your habit of trying to come up with an argument-ending “zinger” every once-in-a-while. Were you saying that Afghanistan and Iraq were the neighbors?

How about my alternate scenario: You (Iraq) are the biggest pimp in the neighborhood and cops have moved into the crackhouses on either side of you.

Comment by Random Gemini

January 18, 2006 @ 11:55 am

There are numerous sources of radioactive material. The most likely to be used by terrorists is cessnium from medical waste. I don’t think that fear of a dirty bomb is a sensible reason to oppose nuclear power.

Then what is your opposition here? I have seen no quotes from Iranian officials stating that they want to research nuclear power for the purpose of building nuclear weapons. Certainly that could have been implied from some of the statements they have made, but this has never been said directly to my knowledge. We have just personally discovered that assuming that the things that are implied in a statement, and what another person gets out of it are two completely different things. So making assumptions based on inferences just leads us to a bad situation that benefits no one.

The assertion that all conflicts end in compromise seems to me to be baseless. Many conflicts end in compromise, but certainly not all of them do. Perhaps the most graphic historical example is the Third Punic War.

What are treaties then exactly if not compromises? By the way, this situation most certainly ended in a compromise. Rome lost resources and men in a war, Carthage lost itself. The conflict was settled with the Carthagians being sold off into slavery. You seem to want to imply the world “peaceful” or “reasonable” with the definition of the word “compromise” but that isn’t how that definition reads.

There are cases when goals are mutually exclusive and no halfway point exists. Iran either getting or not getting nuclear weapons is one of them. That is certainly not to say that ‘compromise’ won’t be a part of any eventual resolution, it surely will, but there is no possible compromise on the central issue here. Either Iran will get nuclear weapons or they will not. Yes or No. Binary.

What a pleasant world that is, where no diplomatic negotiations take place, and the United States has the right to tell other countries what to do without the consent of the United Nations, without arbitration from the UN. No shades of gray here whatsoever? You’re mistaken. It is a lot more complex than you are making it out to be.

Can there be a deal where they get something they want more than nukes? Possibly. Can there be a deal were they avoid something they don’t like to a greater degree than they want nukes? Also possible. Will we be able to achieve either of these results without cost to ourselves? Almost certainly not. From that perspective, I suppose you could call such a resolution a compromise.

By definition, that is a compromise because both sides will have to make concessions. That is what a compromise is. Any other meaning you might have attached to the word is your own and doesn’t involve a dictionary.

I resent your implication that by responding to your what you say, rather than divining what you mean I am debating nuances and neglecting primary points. I am still unsure of what your primary point is. If it is that the world should abandon nuclear power (and any technology that uses radioactive materials) out of fear of a radiological weapon, I find that to be a pretty silly argument, and one which I disagree with strongly but it is probably well outside the topic of this post which concerns Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, why that is a specific and extreme danger, and some of the means we can concievably deploy to prevent that from happening.

That wasn’t an implication, it was an accusation and is precisely what I said. I posted my point to you in my previous comment in quotation marks in order to help you find it. Furthermore, I never said, nor implied that we should abandon nuclear technology out of fear of dirty bombs. What I said was that I had a concern about Iran having nuclear power because dirty bombs present a real danger and I did not feel that anyone was capable of providing the security necessary to keep those materials safe, let alone Iran. I’ve just rephrased the sentence, but here it is again…

“As a result of this, I am less concerned about what Iran will do with nuclear power than I am about who Iran will allow to have access to it.”

Comment by Random Gemini

January 18, 2006 @ 11:59 am

Or I could have a tricky mouse finger that refuses to allow me to post what I want to. My apologies Dave, I had written a sentence in my previous post that included a direct quote of what my point was, and it apparently didn’t make it into the post when I hit “Submit Comment.”

Comment by Random Gemini

January 18, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

Or um… the previous, previous, previous post.. when my accusation was originally made… yeah.. that thing. I’m gonna go study now and quit confusing you!

Comment by Dave Justus

January 18, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

I think your definition of compromise is the weird one. The word ‘concession’ implies an agreement, rather than a expenditure of resources to get what one wants. It would be a concession if I agreed to pay you $1000 for rights to a short story you had published. It would not be a concession if I spent $1000 to publish a story of yours in violation of copywright.

Regardless, that is all probably well outside the point.

The belief you have that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful because the Iranian government says so is surprising to me. There is near universal agreement that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. It is estimated that Iran will have that capability within the next 2-3 years. Do you also believe that Israel has no nuclear weapons because they refuse to say that they have them?

I don’t think there is any reason to doubt that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons rather than peaceful nuclear power. It’s actions have been consistent with the former rather than the latter.

Comment by probligo

January 18, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

What a pleasant world that is, where no diplomatic negotiations take place, and the United States has the right to tell other countries what to do without the consent of the United Nations, without arbitration from the UN. No shades of gray here whatsoever? You’re mistaken. It is a lot more complex than you are making it out to be.

Y’see, this is where all of the rest of us (the ROW) get it all wrong.

It is VERY simple.

The US can do what it danged well wants. The UN, the whole kit, kaboodle and shebang can go to hell in a handbasket just as long as US interests are achieved.

You have only to consider the “qualifications” of the new US Ambassador to the UN to see that. The UN is the last “united” front the world has against the US and for that reason alone it is necessary (in the interests of the US you understand) to weaken, criticise and denigrate that once worthy organisation at every turn.

And that, it seems, is somewhat how Dave sees things as well.

Not once, in any of this discussion, have I seen support for any move to take Iran through the processes of the UNSC and Article 4 resolutions. That Russia (who is a “good friend” of Iran) is prepared to sponsor such resolutions is both critical and substantial in terms of the diplomacy involved. I have not seen, in news reports hereabouts, any concrete support for the proposal coming from the US administration either.

The lack of mention and acknowledgement is for me at least, most significant.

Comment by Brian

January 18, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

Boy, this is a lively talk, isn’t it? There seem to be some fundamental terminology problems: sloppy use of “nuclear energy”, “nuclear weapons” and “radiological weapons” has lead to big problems. In any case, I think the consternation is a little overblown; my extremely wordy but somewhat more optimistic take is here.

Comment by Brian

January 18, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

The US can do what it danged well wants. The UN, the whole kit, kaboodle and shebang can go to hell in a handbasket just as long as US interests are achieved.

Well, see, that is what nation-states do. It’s called sovereignty, and if you think the nation-state you live in doesn’t act in what it considers to be it’s own best interests 100% of the time, you’re a buffoon. Really, though: the US’s interest here is in preventing nuclear warfare. Is there a country in the world that disagrees? If so, should we care?

Comment by Dave Justus

January 18, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

This post was a narrow attempt to explore military options. I explained right at the beginning:

I presume that nothing other than a military action, or a credible threat of military action, will alter Iran’s course at this point. I also highly doubt that we have enough diplomatic leverage to get Russia and China to offer support of such a course, so anything we do will have to be ‘unilateral’ and not sanctioned by the U.N. As an asside, I feat that this crises may be the final straw the breaks the U.N.’s back, destroying it as an international institution.

If, as you assert, the proper purpose of the U.N. is to block the U.S. then yes, I would hope to see the U.N. destroyed. I don’t think that that is it’s proper purpose, and while it sometimes acts in such a fashion, I don’t believe that that has become it’s defacto purpose either.

I certainly do not advocate that we employ any of these options at this time. I would like to see diplomacy pursued further. Obviously an attempt to get UNSC resolutions is a necessary step.

However, your belief that Russia supports such a thing is mistake. CNN

Sanctions are not the best way to resolve international concerns over Iran’s resumption of its nuclear program, Russia and China have said.

Their comments revealed a lack of consensus among world powers about how to deal with the mounting crisis.

The two countries, both permanent veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council, were reacting Tuesday to an announcement by Britain, France and Germany that they would call for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) next month.

In contrast, the U.S. has supported the EU in calling for an emergency meeting and security council referral.

The simple fact that their is difficulty in even getting consensus that the U.N. should attempt to do something strikes me as making it extremely unlikely that anything that the U.N. may eventually do will be of sufficient magnitude to cause Iran to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

Comment by Random Gemini

January 18, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

You are mistaken in your interpretation of what a concession is as well.

Concede: 1. To acknowledge, often reluctantly, as being true, just, or proper; admit. See Synonyms at acknowledge.
2. To yield or grant (a privilege or right, for example).

Also… how to you imply “belief” on my part simply because I said that there is no proof that they are looking for weapons? Do you have proof that they desire nuclear weapons above and beyond a mere inference? Or is it simply your “belief” that they are? If I saw conclusive proof that they were seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, I might be convinced of a need for a military approach to this situation. I have seen little evidence that convinces me either way. What I said was that it was dangerous to make assumptions based on what little we do know about Iran’s intentions I never said what I believed they were doing because I simply do not know. Clearly, neither do you.

Comment by probligo

January 18, 2006 @ 4:36 pm

Well, see, that is what nation-states do. It’s called sovereignty, and if you think the nation-state you live in doesn’t act in what it considers to be it’s own best interests 100% of the time, you’re a buffoon. Really, though: the US’s interest here is in preventing nuclear warfare. Is there a country in the world that disagrees? If so, should we care?

I wonder how much longer Germany would have staved off war in 1939 had they used the same argument of “sovreignty and best interests”, Brian. Buffoon? Look in the mirror.

“…preventing nuclear war…”? OK. It is imminent I presume. Like within the next six months or so?

I wonder just how much the US truly cares for the sovreignty of other nations – think of Chile, Nicaragua, Grenada, Guatemala, Panama and all of the others before you reply.

My country, for all its faults, does not go around beating up on small Pacific nations so that we can enjoy cheap tomatos, or cheap pawpaws.

One of the advantages of being small is that one learns quickly, very quickly, how to listen. That seems to be a sense that recent US administrations have been losing.

One of the advantages of being small is that one learns very quickly the power of cooperation. That too is an attribute in very short supply in DC.

No, NZ does take its part internationally. It has always and will always contribute where and when the cause is right. I am most happy with that approach. What NZ will not do is contribute because someone says that “you are either with us or against us”, or because there are vague promises of “benefits” in the future. Bad cess on Howard for selling out, and that rooster is going to crow loud and long later this year. The vocal chords are being warmed at the moment… More on that on my page as it comes to hand.

I acknowledge that my comment on Russia sponsoring the resolution to UNSC was wrong in fact. Indications are that Russia “is very very close” to the EU position. It would have been nice.

Will the US agree to abide by the process through UNSC? We shall see. I will not hold my breath whilst the present administration is in control.

Comment by Dave Justus

January 18, 2006 @ 6:44 pm

Random Gemini: acknowledge is a synonym for agree.

We can never be 100% certain of anything. We have to act on limited data. Iran’s actions, especially their recent decision to unilateraly remove the IAEA seals and its history of concealing activities from inspectors. It is also difficult to imagine that nuclear power is worth the price Iran is apparently willing to pay for its activities, but nuclear weapons would certainly be worth that price to them. The activities that they are pursueing will certainly allow them to produce nuclear weapons if they continue. The only ‘proof’ that such is their intention, other than a confession, will occur after the fact. When we have proof it will be too late.

I don’t know how familiar you are with Iran’s history in this area, but it is incomprehensible to me that anyone who has followed Irans actions would doubt that nuclear weapons are what they desire.

Probligo: The question of will the U.S. agree to abide be the process through the UNSC depends greatly on how responsible we decide that the UNSC is being. Russia and China have various motives in this game, and the safety of the world is probably not their predominant concern. I believe it would be irresponsible allow those nations complete control over whether or not Iran get nuclear weapons. Perhaps you can give me a reason why that is not the case.

Comment by Random Gemini

January 19, 2006 @ 6:47 am

No, I am just reluctant to have a repeat of another fiasco like the one that took place after we discovered that there were, in fact, absolutely no WMD’s in Iraq.

That reduced support for the war, and harmed morale of the troops and making such a mistake again is political suicide for the United States.

When you operate based on assumptions, even if they are good assumptions, there is always the risk that you will screw it up. In the case of Iran, I see no reason to go on a military crusade there that will kill innocent people for the sake of your self-centered assumptions.

Evidence Sir, or you can pick up the gun and head for Iran yourself to back up your “belief”, which has no basis in fact. Produce some evidence, or accept the fact that it’s possible, nay even extremely likely, that your conclusion is wrong.

Comment by Dave Justus

January 19, 2006 @ 7:33 am

Thank you for deploying the chickenhawk argument. I will not dignify that with any further response.

One has to wonder what you would accept as ‘evidence.’ Would anything other than an declaration by the Iranians or a nuclear detonation satisfy you? The former is extremely unlikely to occur and the latter would be a bit late to act on.

Iran has a pattern of concealment relating to it’s nuclear activities. The IAEA: “Finds that Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] Safeguards Agreement… constitute non compliance in the context of Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute.”

Then after increased negotiation with the EU3, and and offer from Russia to partner with it on the enrichment process so that the peaceful nature of its program could be assured, all of which Iran rejected, Iran removed the IAEA seals on enrichment related equipment and materials.

While not ‘absolute proof’ it seems highly suggestive to me.

Lets play Devils advocate for a moment though as assume that the official statements from Iran can be trusted and Iran’s program is peaceful. Should we then simply agree that the NPT is a waste and it should be ignored? Should we allow any country to pursue uranian and plutonium enrichment as far as they want and only worry about such activity after they actually place the material in a weapon?

I don’t have a problem with Iran having nuclear power plants. I do have a problem with Iran having the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Regardless of their intentions, the activities they are pursueing will give them capability to make nuclear weapons. From that point forward, the only thing between Iran and nuclear weapons is them deciding to actually place the enriched material in a bomb.

There have been several ways availible for Iran to achieve nuclear power without also having the capability to make nuclear weapons. The fact that Iran has chosen not to pursue those paths, even in the face of international condemnation makes it seem obvious to me that their goal is nuclear weapons.

Comment by k. pablo

January 19, 2006 @ 9:39 am

Random Gemini, would you say that we are more certain today that there are no WMD in Iraq than we were in the run-up to the war? Yes? I would invite you to examine how that certainty was achieved.

In an era of internationalized terror, was that degree of uncertainty something you were comfortable with? If you were, you have demonstrated why I would never entrust my security to somebody from the left, because I sure as hell could not tolerate that great a degree of uncertainty.

Are you able to compartmentalize national security threats so thoroughly that you cannot appreciate how Iran was simultaneously and patiently building up its nuclear program while we were dealing with Iraq? If you can, again you have demonstrated total incompetence with regard to interpreting the nature of geopolitics. If you appreciate that Iran continued working on its capabilites during this time, perhaps you might also appreciate the advantage of placing a land-based military presence to the east and west of Iran (dare I say, The Real Problem All Along?). Augment this with a large fleet naval presence along Iran’s lengthy coast (and strait of Hormuz) and I hope you begin to appreciate the truly far-sighted nature of OIF and the invasion of Afghanistan.

While people are providing evidence, why don’t you provide evidence of ANY KIND regarding the “morale of the troops.” My patients at CENTCOM here in Tampa seem to be more concerned about their treatment at the hands of the press and by well-meaning but ignorant liberals.

Comment by probligo

January 19, 2006 @ 11:35 am

Russia and China have various motives in this game, and the safety of the world is probably not their predominant concern. I believe it would be irresponsible allow those nations complete control over whether or not Iran get nuclear weapons.

Fundamentally, Dave, the motives that Russia and China have with respect to Iran seem to differ little from the motives of the US in relation to Iraq.

Russia provided Iran with arms “for self protection”. The US provided Iraq with arms including bio and chem weapons “for self protection”.

Russia and China provided Iran with technology and assistance in establishing nuclear power facilities. The quid pro quo was the provision of cheap oil. One of the motives behind the invasion of Iraq by the US was the need to protect long term oil supply and prices for itself.

“Well, see, that is what nation-states do. It’s called sovereignty, and if you think the nation-state you live in doesn’t act in what it considers to be it’s own best interests 100% of the time, you’re a buffoon.” applies to both Russia and China as easily and appropriately as it does to US and NZ.

So too, in my opinion, can the words ” I believe it would be irresponsible allow those nations complete control over whether or not Iran get nuclear weapons.” be applied to the US and NZ for that matter.

If you detect a note of distrust here you would be absolutely right. In the short discussion we have been having here, it has been made clear that the motives expected of the US administration by Americans do not include altruism. Given the instance of Iraq, where altruism was not discovered until more than a year after the fact, there is good cause for that distrust and suspicion.

I used the words “listen” and “cooperation” earlier. I said that both were attributes or actions long lost from the lexicon of the present US administration. Had those talents been used by the US in the UNSC in 2001/2, the US might not be in the position it is now with Iraq. There would have been a far greater impact, a far greater positive response, had a little more time been spent allowing others to make up their own minds on the evidence instead of being repeatedly told “you are either with us or against us”.

It is my belief that if the US fails once more to listen and cooperate with other nations it will only impact upon the US to its own detriment.

If the US again acts unilaterally, that will create even more enemies than you have now, including potential major opponents in China and Russia. Those enemies will not be confined to military or terrorist, but would include economic and technological action. There is a good chance (they only need the pretext) that it could spark action by or out of Indonesia against Australia. There is a good chance (another that only needs sufficient pretext) that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and UAE would try and find means of retaliation… Israel as a target would become a certainty.

That is called consequences.

Comment by Random Gemini

January 19, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

k. pablo, you seem to be operating under the mistaken assumption that I am a liberal. You don’t know me, so don’t pretend that you know me well enough to slap a label on me based on this one thread of discussion. I’ve voted for Bush twice. The first time because Al Gore is a twit, and the second because I believed in what we were doing in Iraq, not for the sake of WMD’s, but for the sake of Iraqis. What we have accomplished in Iraq is wonderful and has been so beneficial to both Iraq and the United States that I am still dumbfounded by people who disagree with our soldiers being there.

I have an issue with acting on bad information. I wish, very much, that our President had said from the off, “Saddam Hussein supports terrorism. His regime is oppressive to his people, they are suffering and dying every day under his rule. We must go to help them.” Instead of “We will eliminate this threat from weapons of mass destruction.”

In terms of evidence, I need a good reason that I can get behind before I’m willing to bomb countries. I am willing to sacrifice a few lives to save thousands more. I am more than willing to do that, however, in terms of Iran, I do not see any benefit to Iranians in military action, only to our collective American egos, and no reports from the CIA backing up this “belief” that they want nuclear weapons. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Based on what has been said by Iran, I can’t judge either way, and I am not willing to trust an administration that has already proven that it is willing to act on bad information to guide that choice.

All I am saying, and all I have said from the beginning, is that if we are going to go there we have no choice but to be certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are intending to acquire nuclear technology for the purpose of building weapons. My reason for this is very simple. If one Iranian civilian dies for the sake of a decision made on bad information, it was one Iranian civilian too many. We are playing with lives, not with plastic pieces on a sheet of laminated cardboard. We had best know what we are doing before we even start to play.

Comment by Dave Justus

January 19, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

Probligo,

You seem to be inconsistant in expecting or demanding that the U.S. be altruistic but happy to have Russia and China be so. However, you are not factually correct in some of your statements.

The U.S. did not provide Iraq with either chemical or biological weapons. It is true that in general chemical and biological weapons were not seen as a huge threat in the 80s and enforcement and monitoring protocols on what could be sold to various nations, including Iraq were quite weak. Many U.S. companies did indeed sell chemicals, equipment, and biological samples that could be used to create chemical or biological weapons. There were many loopholes in the laws designed to prevent this and it wasn’t seen as a huge issue. That is now seen as a mistake.

The U.S. also provided support to Iraq in the war against Iran, although this was fairly limited in nature. It was desirable to U.S. interests at the time for a stalemate to be achieved. In point of fact, Russia provided far more signifigant support to Saddam’s Iraq than any other nation during the Iran-Iraq war.

You contention that ‘altruism’ was only discovered late into the Iraq conflict is both correct and incorrect. I presume by altruism you mean fostering an Iraqi democracy and ending Saddam’s brutal reign. This is of course not an altruistic motive, there are various reasons of self-interest why the U.S., and other democratic nations, should desire a democratic Iraq. However, this was a part of the case for war from the beginning. The meme that this was ‘invented’ sometime during the occupation is false. Indeed, that was always the primary reason that I supported the war.

The impass in the Security Council over Iraq actually occurred in 2003, not 2001 or 2002. Despite widespread belief that Iraq had WMD stockpiles and a WMD research program (the later proved true by the way, although it was more limited than expected) many nations chose not to act. It seems clear to me that this was not a difference of opinion over what Iraq had, but a difference of opinion over what to do about it.

The ‘with us or against us’ statement NEVER applied to the war on Iraq. It applied to support of terrorist organizations.

I think it is in the self-interest of the U.S. and in the self interest of the rest of the world to do everything possible to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. I expect that the rest of the world will indeed not choose to prevent this threat from emerging. It is always easier to not act and hope nothing bad will happen. History is replete with this sort of thinking, and history provides clear examples of why this is a bad policy.

In point of fact, I don’t actually expect that the U.S. will act to stop this threat either. I think we will greatly regret this in years to come, but I expect that Iran will gain nuclear weapons. While it is difficult to know for sure what will happen as a result, at minimum it seems likely that other nations in the middle east will follow suit.

The U.S. has in fact ‘listened’ and ‘cooperated’ in ragards to Iran. So far, our listening and cooperation has brought Iran closer to being a nuclear power. I personally will happily listen to any solution to the problem, convince me that it has a chance of working and I will happily support it.

If ‘listening’ and ‘cooperating’ means acquiescence to an Iran with nuclear weapons, then I am disinclined to agree. The threats you speak of that could result from action are not unreasonable (although somewhat unlikely in some cases) but I judge the threat of a nuclear Iran, the freedom that that would give Iran to act in very undesirable ways, and the likely proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the middle east (and even further perhaps) to be far far more dangerous.

There are no easy answers to this problem. There is not going to be a ‘lets all be friends’ solution here. I am not happy with the military options we have, but anything else seems increasingly unlikely to succeed, and liklihood has decreased rather than increased since this post started.

I invite those who oppose military action (and the threat of it) to give me options. You don’t like the possibilites I have outlined, so provide something else.

Comment by Dave Justus

January 19, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

Random Gemini: What about the Iranian lives that likely will be lost if Iran DOES want, and gets nukes? We are playing with lives here, many of them, and both action and non-action could concieably result in many deaths.

The latest CIA report that I am aware of is that Iran does indeed want nuclear weapons but is 10 years away from getting them. Based upon what I have read, 10 years seems highly optomistic. That estimate does not take into account their recent activities. Pakistan’s entire nuclear program, from start to finish, took 15 years. Iran has purchased some material, and probably expertise, from Pakistan, including contacts with A.Q. Kahn, and we can assume that such information will shorten the process. Iran also has extensive contacts in the nuclear arena with North Korea.

Comment by k. pablo

January 19, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

Well Random Gemini, you are correct, I don’t know you. If you articulate an argument more commonly associated with the left (and slur Abe Lincoln on your blog with a meme more commonly associated with the left) but you still vote for George W., I guess I’d upgrade that to merely “confused”. Arguments more commonly associated with the left include that wars are fought “for our collective American egos,” and of course, the “chickenhawk argument”.

Your posts sidestep issues such that I’m not convinced you are reading peoples’ counterpoints at all. Or, if you are, you’re not understanding them. Certainly you are not addressing them, preferring sophistry about “nuances” and “primary points”. I will re-state my point from my last post: executive decision making often takes place under conditions of limited information. There are pressures that force choices based on incomplete information. To that end, it is my opinion that in the leftist (or at best, isolationist) view you have stated above, you are setting an unrealistic standard for proof (“beyond a shadow of a doubt”)that only leads to paralysis. Therefore, I would never entrust you with my personal safety. Don’t take that too hard.

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