Monday, December 05, 2005

Oil & Water

Israel and Iran just don't mix. Today the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that if Iran carried out its threats to resume operations at nuclear facilities, they would likely have atomic weapons withing several months. Last October, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the "democratically" elected president of Iran, claimed that Israel should be wiped off the map. In statements published today, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a pre-emptive strike on Iran may be appropriate, alluding to Menachem Begin's attack on Iraq's nascent nuclear weapons program over twenty years ago. He plans to make pre-emption a major issue in Israel's upcoming election. Oil and water.
Where does this leave the U.S.? During the months preceding the U.S. war in Iraq, I had an enlightening conversation with a BYU political science professor. I have particular respect for this professor, whose extensive knowledge of national security issues is complemented by an ability to look at those issues in unorthodox ways. The outcome of the conversation was this:
  • The U.S. attack on Iraq was necessary if they were trying to obtain nuclear weapons. The U.S. has long defended Israel. A nuclear attack on Israel by Iraq would lead many to demand that the U.S. defend its ally. Saddam's history of using civilians as shields and other methods of "death-evasion" made a nuclear retaliation untenable politically- we simply don't have the will. A nuclear Iraq, knowing that we lacked the will to respond in a nuclear fashion, might feel emboldened, not just to attack Israel, but perhaps some target even more sensitive to the U.S. The American people would not be able to to stomach retaliatory attacks that would undoubtedly lead to many civilian deaths. Our nuclear capacity did not offer us the ability to deter Iraq in a way that offered protection to America and its interests. Therefore it was in our interests to make sure that Iraq did not develop nuclear weapons, a course that might potentially save more lives than inaction, not just here, but in the rest of the world.

The revelation that Iraq possessed no active nuclear program did not weaken the rationale behind this argument for the war. We had no way of knowing what Saddan did or did not have.

Now we have Iran. The higher degree of transparency provides greater surety that Iran is close to fabricating nuclear weapons. This would seem to make the above scenario even more likely. The behavior of the American left demonstrates that some lack the will to finish a conventional, non-nuclear war. What does this show an increasingly combative Iran? What will Iran's leaders do when faced with the capability to strike at their greatest enemy in devastating fashion? Much will depend on how we prosecute the war in Iraq. I think you know what I mean.


By the way, thanks to Bear & J-Red for inviting me to join their Right Wing Blog Party. I look forward to stirring the pot.


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