Monday, February 5, 2007

No promises

The latest cause of outrage among American progressives is that Democratic politicians will not say that they won't bomb Iran. They are queueing up to say that they won't take any options off the table.

Now, it is unhelpful to say this, and they're only doing it to posture, and it's true that engagement with Iran is far the best course. Yet they are right.

Chirac, in his mistranslated and misunderstood comment, said that it would not matter so much in itself that Iran had a bomb or two, because it could after all never use it (he said that Israel would raze Tehran about ten seconds after the rocket left the launchpad) and there would be a state of mutual deterrence between Iran and Israel, but that the proliferation it might spark off was the real problem. The progressives have jumped on this notion.

Well, Chirac didn't get where he is today by being a thinker, so why expect him to start? The problem is not the first Iranian bomb, the second or even the hundredth. It's the one that some Jewhating nutter slips to Hezbollah. You do not need a rocket to deliver a nuke (the only ones so far delivered were of course dropped from planes). A truck will do nicely. The assumptions that there are a/ no nutters with access to Iranian materiel who would supply bombs to terrorists and b/ no terrorists who hate Jews sufficiently to atomise Tel Aviv are two that I wouldn't make if I were responsible for Israel's security, on account of the situation in Iran's being quite unstable and of there being plenty of nutters who would be up for the job. Suicide bombers want to create outrage and disproportionate responses. Islamic Jihad rejoices when Israel murders Palestinians because it is taking its revenge for a suicide attack. As I noted, this is a large part of the aim of the suicide bomber: make your enemy despisable. If Tel Aviv were nuked, and Israel retaliated by destroying Tehran (which I hope it could be persuaded not to do), the papers would be full of pieces painting the Israelis as the embodiment of evil, and asking why they felt justified in doing it when they couldn't prove Iran was responsible. Count on it. What you would read, amid the expression of regret and sympathy for Israel, would be an expression of hatred for it.

What the progressives want is for Clinton, Obama et al to make an unequivocal promise not to attack Iran. Sadly, I think that would be a mistake. I don't want Iran to be attacked or think it will need to be, and I don't think there's any need for the ridiculous rhetoric that is being spewed on the subject. But I do think that if there were credible (ie not made up and probably not supplied by Israel) evidence that Iran had a capability to make nuclear weapons within months (not the many years it is currently at), removing that capability might be the right thing to do. I do not think we should gamble Tel Aviv on finding out that we were wrong.


Anonymous Robert McClelland said...

It's the one that some Jewhating nutter slips to Hezbollah.

This theory might be plausible if there were a precedent for such a thing. But since no Jewhating nutter has ever slipped Hezbollah or any other terrorist organization a chemical weapon it isn't.

February 5, 2007 at 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Dr Zen said...

Two things, Robert, you might want to think about. One, Iran has on the whole been stable, and its control systems reasonably good. But that doesn't mean it will continue that way: it was stable under the Shah after all. America currently plans to destabilise Iran and has been doing so, and the failure of Ahmedinajad to address economic concerns has added to the pressure. Two, it hasn't happened yet is not a good metric for deciding what might happen. Iran has not supplied antisemitic groups with chems, but it has supplied weapons. Focusing on what has happened is always more rewarding than focusing on what hasn't yet, particularly when you are asking people to gamble hundreds of thousands of lives on your belief that what hasn't happened won't.

February 5, 2007 at 12:31 PM  

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