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« The Expatriate Terrorist Act's Patent Flaws | Main | Open Thread »
January 28, 2015

The Last Argument of Kings [Dave at Garfield Ridge]

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has a piece criticizing the Israeli Prime Minister for not playing nice with the Obama Administration.

I'll leave aside Goldberg's main argument-- he has a fair point that this is a high-risk strategy by Netanyahu-- but instead focus on why Netanyahu may feel compelled to pursue this strategy now.

In general, I notice that pieces discussing the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel and the West fail to note the most salient concern: Iran never has to use the Bomb for it to work.

Even if we assume Tehran isn’t led by an irrational apocalyptic regime – wanna bet?– the popular "smart take" from the Beltway bandits is, “the U.S. and Israel can deter Iran from using nuclear weapons, just as we’ve deterred the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea.”

True, if Iran's leaders are indeed now and always shall be rational actors.

But guess what? Deterrence works both ways: a nuclear Iran will also deter *us*.

Immediately, the threat of regime change will be permanently off the table, just as it is with every other nuclear state. Imagine a world where North Korea and Pakistan never acquired nuclear weapons, and appreciate the freedom of action the United States and its allies no longer has with respect to those two nations. Once a regime has nuclear weapons, forget regime change; even run-of-the-mill gunboat diplomacy is no longer credible. You're left with a weak hand of diplomatic measures and half-hearted economic sanctions. Ask the Ukrainians how that's helping them right now.

Overnight, a nuclear Iran will be able to extend its nuclear umbrella over all of its terrorist operations abroad, whether in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf, or elsewhere, and the West won’t do anything about it.

After all, we don’t risk war with Iran over their terrorism today, when we are strongest and they are non-nuclear; we surely won’t risk war against a nuclear Tehran. Just as we don't against any other nuclear power. Indeed, nuclear weapons are Ultima Ratio Regum.

Meanwhile, Israel– populated as it is by a smart and wealthy people (read: mobile)– will inevitably and inexorably empty out as its citizens realize that there is no safety in deterrence. A nuclear Iran may be reasonable today– again, wanna bet?– but there are no guarantees that a future ayatollah won’t roll the dice on Armageddon.

Bottom line: Iran never needs to use nuclear weapons to be a mortal threat; it just needs them, period.

This post has been approved for posting outside of openblogging hours. This post represents the personal opinions of the author.

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posted by Open Blogger at 09:52 AM

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