Friday, March 27, 2015

I don't get MAD

Today, I saw a Professor Heldman of Occidental College opine that we are “behaving like Persians don’t understand mutually assured destruction, when clearly they do.”  Here’s why that is so dangerous.

Up until now, the political dialogue has been between those who favor going to war against Iran now, and those who say, “wait a few more days to see if there is a negotiated solution.” It is predictable that some will say, “let’s wait a couple more weeks.” I’ve been in the few-more-days camp, and even if Secretary of State Kerry is in the couple-more-weeks camp, I wouldn’t want that communicated to the other side just yet.

Basically, this puts me out of step with my peacenik friends so let me say straight away: War is hell and it should be avoided if at all possible. Every effort should be put into negotiating a solution to the problem of Iran, and I am more optimistic than my right-wing friends. But if they are correct, then this may be one of those terrible instances when war cannot be avoided. We’ll know soon enough.

It doesn’t help that a man who has been so wrong, so often, on such important questions seems to agree with me. Of course, I am referring to John Bolton, author of an article that appeared in the New York Times and entitled, “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.” Though I detest everything about the man, (except his moustache) I am okay with the bottom line, which is No Nukes for Ayatollahs, and the idea that if necessary we can back it up with our own Air Force.

As usual, Josh Bolton, goes way beyond what the evidence will support. He suggests that Arabs would welcome a strike in Iran, and that he thinks that we could bring down the Iranian regime. Well, maybe he should be assigned to cleaning up the candy and flowers that greeted American liberators in Iraq. Thanks to American gullibility regarding Bolton's last prediction of being greeted as liberators, we are now giving air support to a Iraqi counter-insurgency in Tikret to oust Islamic State, in which effort we find ourselves allied with the Iranians.

I don’t know if Arabs would welcome an America strike in Iran or not, but, frankly, I don’t give a damn. If they have a better plan for achieving a “No Nukes for Ayatollahs” solution, I am open to it. I have been listening, and haven’t heard anything, but, as I said, I am willing to wait till the end of the month.

But along comes Professor Heldman, and she says that we don’t have to insist on No Nukes for Ayatollahs, because we can manage the risk of a nuclear Iran. She suggests one means of control is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, but presumably she is open to other strategies. But I am not. And here are two reasons why.

First, if Iran acquires a nuclear breakout capability, other nations in the area are going to insist on the same. Reliance on mutually assured destruction is complicated and involves a series of very careful calibrations. With two parties, the complexity is great, but each new party raises the complexity exponentially. Ayatollahs-with-nukes is unacceptably bad. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East, with Israel and Iran already having nuclear capabilities, is far worse.

Second, assured destruction sounds bad to me, but I confess I have no way of knowing the degree to which that is a threat for Ayatollahs. I respect religious folk, but I don’t understand the Islamic religion, especially in its eschatological aspects.

Professor Heldman may have other strategies for managing the proliferation risk and the Ayatollahs with a finger on the nuclear button, but the one she came out of the gate with was mutual assured destruction. If the professor has another idea, let’s have it, because that dog won't hunt.

Even someone as consistently wrong as Josh Bolton got that one right. But what bothered me more about Professor Heldman’s suggestion is that it is the camel’s nose in the tent. The camel in this metaphor is the idea that a nuclear Iran can be managed. It is an attractive proposition to peaceniks like me, who believe that war is hell, which should be avoided if at all possible. But that doesn’t make it true.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

No comments: