Iran and nukes

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on February 27, 2006

Monday's New York Times has an interesting op-ed piece by MIT political science professor Barry Posen. Normally I would find Posen's analysis pretty astute and convincing, however I can't come to that conclusion in this case.

As for aggression, the fear is that Iran could rely on a diffuse threat of nuclear escalation to deter others from attacking it, even in response to Iranian belligerence. But while it's possible that Iranian leaders would think this way, it's equally possible that they would be more cautious. Tehran could not rule out the possibility that others with more and better nuclear weapons would strike Iran first, should it provoke a crisis or war. Judging from cold war history, if the Iranians so much as appeared to be readying their nuclear forces for use, the United States might consider a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Israel might adopt a similar doctrine in the face of an Iranian nuclear arsenal.

These are not developments to be wished for, but they are risks that a nuclear Iran must take into account. Nor are such calculations all that should counsel caution. Iran's military is large, but its conventional weapons are obsolete. Today the Iranian military could impose considerable costs on an American invasion or occupation force within Iran, but only with vast and extraordinarily expensive improvements could it defeat the American military if it were sent to defend the Gulf states from Iranian aggression.

Each time a new nuclear weapons state emerges, we rightly suspect that the world has grown more dangerous. The weapons are enormously destructive; humans are fallible, organizations can be incompetent and technology often fails us. But as we contemplate the actions, including war, that the United States and its allies might take to forestall a nuclear Iran, we need to coolly assess whether and how such a specter might be deterred and contained.

The glaring problem with Posen's analysis is his fundamental failure to assess who exactly we're talking about. This would be an excellent analysis if we were talking about just about any Western nation. Unfortunately, we're not. We're talking about a nation where power is held by a bunch of Jew-hating Islamic fundamentalists who see a nuclear conflagration as a sign of the return of the 12th Imam. The Iranian president has even gone as far to publicly state that one nuke could destroy Israel, yet however many nukes Israel used in retaliation could only kill 20 million Muslims -- and that would be a fair trade for the destruction of the Jewish state.

These guys are a death cult, and Posen's sober analysis of costs vs. benefits and realpolitik fail to take this into account.

0 comments on “Iran and nukes”


I continue to be annoyed by online media companies skimping on the copy editors.

If you disagree, we may feud over the issue.

Is it true that Adam Schiff used his official position as House Intelligence Chair to subpoena the phone records of a journalist?

#PolitiFactThis #FactCheckThis @GlennKesslerWP @ddale8 @asharock @YLindaQiu @factcheckdotorg @ReutersFacts

Sounds dangerous, right @Acosta?

Sen. Marsha Blackburn @MarshaBlackburn

Adam Schiff used his official position as House Intelligence Chair to subpoena the phone records of a journalist and the top Republican on his committee.

Then he released the records to intimidate his opponents.

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