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Monday, December 25, 2006

The Iranian nuclear threat is madder than MAD

When I was a Political Science major at Columbia in the mid-70's, I had a professor named Warner Schilling who taught us that the US-Soviet nuclear standoff of the 70's was based on a concept called MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction. The theory behind it was that the leaders of both the United States and the Soviet Union were rational actors, and since each of them could potentially absorb a nuclear first strike and come back to inflict as much or more damage on the other, neither party would initiate a nuclear attack on the other.

The problem with Iran getting nuclear weapons is that there is no mutually assured destruction. Iran is convinced that it would sustain only 'acceptable' casualties from an Israeli second strike (assuming that Israel even has a nuclear capability) while it is convinced that its use of nuclear weapons (or even its threat to use nuclear weapons) would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus once Iran has nuclear weapons, there is no deterrent to its using them - unless someone else is going to step up to the plate and make Iran's casualties 'unacceptable.' The odds of that happening are quite slim (what other country is going to put itself at risk for nuclear attack to defend Israel?), and that's without even considering the question of whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinadinnerjacket is a rational actor at all.

At Pajamas Media, Ron Rosenbaum lays out the problem a bit more clearly than I do:
But there is another point I’m afraid I have to disagree with: That Iran would “lose” a war with Israel Perhaps now, perhaps for the next few months or (at most) the next few years. But as soon as Iran has nuclear weapons (if they haven’t bought them already), they can arm their Shehab-3 missiles and foreign bought submarines with them—and is there anyone so naive as to doubt that sooner or later, probably sooner—a nuclear exchange with Israel will result.

That is what people don’t get in this situation: it won’t matter whether Israel has more nukes or bigger nukes or better delivery systems. The logic of nuclear deterrence that once prevailed in the U.S./USSR Cold War no longer obtains. Now one side (Iran) feels it can absorb and survive nuclear retaliation if necessary to exterminate the other side (Israel).

Once Israel had a nuclear deterrent to conventional attack. Now however consider the words to be found in footnote 55 to the indictment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for inciting to genocide. Footnote 55 to the indictment, the “Referral” to the International Court of Justice under the Genocide Convention described in the previous post, is the heart of the matter, the heart of darknesss.

These words, this genocidal sentiment, which I have been citing since 2002 in writing about the situation, in postulating the prospect of a second Holocuast, were uttered by the leader of what the Western press has lately taken to calling the “pragmatic conservatives” in Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rasfanjani:

“If one day the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons currently in Israel’s possession [meaning nuclear weapons]—on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end. This…is because the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”

“Nothing on the ground” versus mere “damage”. In other words, as one rather dramatic version has it, Israel is “a one bomb state”. A state you can wipe off the map, along with its people, with a single nuclear device. Yes Terhan might be destroyed in return, other Muslim capitals as well perhaps, by Israeli retaliation. But at the end of that bleak day there will be “nothing on the ground” in Israel, once the homeland of five million Jews. And there will still be a billion or so Muslims, many of whom will be celebrating the outcome.


Once Iran was distant from Israel (though within range of the Shehab 3 missile). now Israel’s borders are surrounded by Iranian catspaws, Hizbullah and Hamas.Is there any doubt that, one way or another, sooner or later “one bomb” can reach Tel Aviv? Remind me how Iran would “lose” this war.

There is no deterrent to suicidal martyrdom, involuntary mass martrydom. No deterrent that depends on belief in the value of life by genocidal murderers on a “martyrdom mission”. Is there a solution to this problem aside from pre-emptive strikes which will likely be catastrophic for both sides and probably only postpone a second Holocaust? Are there any deterrrents that will stop Ahmadinejad and his ilk from carrying out their genocidal designs? I wish I could believe there were. Any ideas?
Read the whole thing. Read the comments too. There are some interesting ideas there of possible solutions for Israel. As you read the comments, please keep in mind that this isn't about territory - it's about Israel's existence.


At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Carl,

While I could already post a comment directly about this I think you have and will continue to cover this avenue well.

However the more important question is why the hell is this allowed to happen.

The answer is simple, and Fjordman saw this already years earlier.

Fjordman (Sorry I can't find the link), came up with an Islamists definition of Peace. That is the spread and dominance of Islam by any means necessary.

HOwever there is another definition needed, the EU definition of Peace. That is that fighting or violence is inhibited or stopped.

In the case of Israel this is perfect example of these two 'complimentary' definitions coming together.

Obviously terror groups and there supporters either by sending Kassams or Nukes are ensuring the dominance of Islam. While with the EU by stopping Israel from defending itself or taking action it is at least stopping one side from fighting.

Therefore they are both spreading 'peace'.

The fact is that in the case of Iran and in general, anything coming from the EU is worthless. The only way they would begin to act is if they drastically changed there mindsets, it's not going to happen.

The fact is that the worlds only hope in this case ironically in my opinion lies in Iran. The hope that the secular and Zoroastrian's population of Iran takes over.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger felix said...

Carl, I assume you are referring to the comments that advocate a credible second strike capability not only against Iran, but others (like Syria) in the region. In order to have this be credible, you probably need a new election in Israel with someone like Netanyahu or Lieberman taking over. Let's hope that happens soon.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


You're right about what I was referring to, and probably right about the election. But unfortunately, Iran will probably be nuclear before there is an election here.

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I blogged about this myself, rather gloomily, here:

You're right about there being no deterrent; however, I think (or is it hope?) that even the Olmert gov't would respond in kind to a nuclear attack.


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