Monday, May 15, 2006

Son of MAD

Newsmax is running a poll asking "Should we bomb Iran". I voted no. The problem with this line of thinking, in line with the Bush Doctrine which stresses the need for pre-emptive actions to ward of potential threats, is not so much from a military as from a political standpoint. As the failure to find WMDs in Iraq has shown, preemption has the negative consequence of leaving the US without the "smoking gun" of proof, both for the benefit of skeptics within the US and for those friendly or neutral countries whose support we would prefer to have on our side in the GWOT. Indeed, the negative political fallout from the Iraq war for the administration may be acting as a "posion pill" on future plans for preemptive action in Iran or North Korea. There is even some thought that it has tied the administration's hand from taking more aggressive action to counter the genocide taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. Overwhelming military might does not negate the need for political support, both at home and abroad.

So how do we leverage our military might with rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea? Here is the summary paragraph from the AEI's publication on the Bush Doctrine linked to above:

The preservation of today's Pax Americana rests upon both actual military strength and the perception of strength. The variety of victories scored by U.S. forces since the end of the cold war is testament to both the futility of directly challenging the United States and the desire of its enemies to keep poking and prodding to find a weakness in the American global order. Convincing would-be great powers, rogue states, and terrorists to accept the liberal democratic order--and the challenge to autocratic forms of rule that come with it--requires not only an overwhelming response when the peace is broken, but a willingness to step in when the danger is imminent. The message of the Bush Doctrine--"Don't even think about it!"--rests in part on a logic of preemption that underlies the logic of primacy.

But "dont even think about it" worked very well during the Cold War as a deterrent strategy under the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD. The problem applying MAD to the era of non-state entities like Al Quaeda and their state sponsors like Iran is that the traceability of weapon to source is very difficult to prove. But here is where we can leverage our immense arsenal to our advantage.

I think that the US should stay engaged with the UN and the IAEA to continue to press non-nuclear states to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But on the side, strictly as a US initiative, we tell nations that will not cooperate the following: non-cooperating states go on the "list". When you are on the "list", all potential nuclear development sites in your country are targeted by US ballistic nuclear missiles. If we do not have good intelligence on where your sites are, we will overcompensate by increasing the number of potential sites we target. These are not tactical nukes, mind you, but strategic.

Now, in the event that the US or any nation that it has diplomatic relations with is hit by a nuclear explosion, and the source of that weapon is not immediately identified, ie. it was a suitcase nuke and not delivered by missile from an identified country, then every nation that is currently on the "list" will be hit with overwhelming nuclear retaliation.

The beauty of this strategy is that we put the rogue state in the drivers seat, and not the US. The ball is in their court, so to speak. The one advantage that we have vis a vis Iran is an overwhelmingly pro US populace. Let's ratchet up the pressure on the Imams, both hidden and visible, by making their populace vividly aware of the grave danger that their insane leaders have put them in. Lets start funding insurrection movements in Iran. Let the people have a reason to take their fates into their own hands.

The other beauty of the plan is that Iran now knows that it can be destroyed even if North Korea supplied the bomb to the terrorists, and vice versa. Suddenly these regimes will feel a lot less in control of their own fates. I'd call that a mighty big bargaining chip on our side.


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

If Iran's populace is overwhelmingly pro-US, why did they overwhelmingly vote for a nutcase anti-US leader?

Americans seem to think Ahmedinejad is some sort of outlier, a fluke, a Huey Long who somehow slipped through.

Not so. Every evil thing he says has been on the lips of the Iranian elite every day for the past 25 years.

Iranians know this, even if we don't.

May 16, 2006 10:09 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Your thesis makes sense only if Iran's mullahcracy is not apocalyptic.

Unfortunately, I don't think that is the case, just as there are literalist Christian sects that see the establishment of Israel, and building a church on the Dome of the Rock (apologies if I am getting the name wrong) as something to look forward to because the resulting conflagration will herald the Christ's return.

Conflagration they might well get, but the Second Coming is rather more of a gamble.

I have read elsewhere (sorry, no links) that the mullahs are equally apocalyptic.

So threatening them with immolation (remember, they hail from a faith that positively encourages homicidal suicides for the greater glory of Allah (SOFUH)) should they actually get around to torching off a nuc may well be utterly of no consequence.

Even provided that we can convince our opponents that we will actually carry through on the threat to kill millions of innocents in pursuit of the few guilty.

It takes a cascade of some 54,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium to weapons grade quality. That sort of thing requires a fair amount of space, and scads of power.

Hard to hide.

And well worth destroying when they get about 7/8 of the way there.

May 17, 2006 8:43 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I agree that we still need to keep the preemption option open, but pursue the MAD doctrine at the same time. But in addition to those, we need to really focus on other means to destabilize their regime. I haven't seen any movement by the administration on this front. We need to adopt the same model that the communists followed during the Cold War. It is better to affect regime change via internal revolutionary movements rather than military intervention. Since we're not as concerned with sovereignty anymore with the Bush Doctrine, then why aren't we actively trying to subvert their government?

May 17, 2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Going back to a previous thread, you don't need to bomb the underground centrifuges; you can just bomb the power stations.

You'd have to bomb a lot of them, but we have a lot of bombers.

I expect that would destabilize any regime.

There just isn't any evidence that the Iranian regime is deeply unpopular with Iranians. The earthquake in Bam a couple years ago was the sort of event that tends to bring down a really unstable regime. It didn't cause a quiver in Iran.

(I had meant to bring up the electricity issue in the other thread but never got to it. A friend of mine has often described the awe he felt on a visit to Oak Ridge where there were enormous motors to drive the centrifuges, and they stretched off into the distance as far as the eye could see. Oak Ridge was put where it is to take advantage of TVA power.)

May 17, 2006 11:36 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I'm surprised no one asked about SOFUH.

De-acronymed, it is a reference to a previous thread:

Suit of Flame Unto Him

I'm still waiting for the bolt of lightning, or plague of locusts.

May 17, 2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger David said...

I still insist that not finding WMD's strengthened the case for preventative war.

May 20, 2006 7:27 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


I think the case for preventative war was so strong that the WMD issue need never come up.

All one has to do is pose the alternatives, which were:

1. Maintain the status quo
2. Drop the sanctions regime
3. Oust Saddam

So far, I haven't seen anyone pose a fourth alternative, nor have I seen anyone argue the superiority of 1 or 2 to 3.

Which, on one hand, leaves us with people who took the options on offer and opted for the least bad; on the other, people who prefer the null alternative.

People, who, by and large, would label themselves as the reality based community.

Making that yet another example that irony is the driving force of the universe.

May 23, 2006 8:58 AM  

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