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NSSM 40 and The Untold Story of Israel's Bomb
May 2, 2006 7:23 AM   Subscribe

...Yet set against contemporary values of transparency and accountability, the Nixon-Meir deal of 1969 is now a striking and burdensome anomaly. Not only is Israel's nuclear posture of taboo and total secrecy anachronistic, it is inconsistent with, and costly to, the tenets of modern liberal democracy. At home and abroad Israel needs a better way to handle its nuclear affairs. The deal is also burdensome for the United States, not only because it is inconsistent with U.S. values of openness and accountability, but also because it provokes claims about double standards in its nuclear nonproliferation policy.
Israel crosses the threshold
Shorter version: The Untold Story of Israel's Bomb
posted by y2karl (83 comments total)

 
Well at least they don't have a history of preemptivly attacking surrounding countries. Oh wait...
posted by Artw at 7:42 AM on May 2, 2006


Actually, Israel's nuclear posture of total secrecy is completely consistent with the security dilemma they face, and with the legal structures of the Israeli state and international norms.

Posit: The gov't of Israel believes nuclear weapons are necessary for the defense of Israel against invasion. [You can disagree as to whether it is or not, but that's a different debate for a different day.]

Possible course of action: Do not acquire or maintain a nuclear arsenal.
Result: Inability to defend Israel.

Possible course of action: Openly acquire nuclear weapons, test them, and publish doctrines of use either officially or through statements by senior officials (like the USSR, USA, France and UK do).
Result: Possibly arms race. Hostile nations with hostile populations cannot deny Israel has the bomb, and are faced with admitting their technology is inferior, or acquiring the bomb themselves, which at least some of them would do. Best case scenario is establishment of a normative MAD regime between two nuclear armed countries, worse case scenario has wide scale proliferation by hostile nations among themselves, leading to a non-normative discourse on the use of nuclear weapons and a possible weapons exchange (nuclear war).

Possible course of action: Secretly acquire nuclear weapons. Deny testing, and make only very veiled statements as to their existence.
Result: Ability to defend Israel (remember, as they see it) is confirmed. Hostile nations can deny their enemies technological superiority, and are not faced with extreme public pressure to acquire nuclear weapons. There's little long term viability in this course of action, as insuring that enemies at least suspect you have the weapons is necessary for deterrence to succeed, but it's a lot better than the first two choices.

In any case, some countries may wish to acquire nuclear weapons for themselves, since there is no denying that having nuclear weapons is a rational goal for any state in a security dilemma.

All of these possible choices have pros and cons, but respectfully, if I were Israeli I would hope to hell my gov't was doing exactly what the Israeli gov't is doing, develop the bomb in the least aggressive way possible, because by the time you know you need it it's too late. It is, after all, not a very safe part of the world to have a country in. (Or so I've seen on TV.)

If there wasn't a limit on comment length I'd paste in a few good articles on how the NPT has never stopped anyone from proliferating who actually wanted to, but that's another debate as well.
posted by tiamat at 7:46 AM on May 2, 2006


If you're interested in a book-length treatment of this issue, Avner Cohen's Israel and the Bomb is quite good.
posted by pombe at 7:46 AM on May 2, 2006


Fascinating. Thanks y2karl.
posted by caddis at 7:53 AM on May 2, 2006


An interesting fact sheet from CFR on Israel and nuclear arms, which does a nice job summarizing the situation,
posted by blahblahblah at 7:53 AM on May 2, 2006


blahblahblah, that's a really good document, thanks.
posted by tiamat at 7:56 AM on May 2, 2006


Here's some information about the Dimona facility, gleaned from the information provided by Mordechai Vanunu.

And kudos to you y2karl, for timing this to coincide with Israel's Independence Day. Can we look forward to a post tomorrow on the perfidy that was UN Resolution 181?
posted by felix betachat at 7:59 AM on May 2, 2006


tiamat: I'm sure Iran feels the same.
posted by Artw at 8:01 AM on May 2, 2006


No, no, you've got it backward Artw: Iran has denied, not suffered a holocaust.

Wouldn't you imagine that having a substantial population that survived a genocide has a lot to do with Israel's desire for nuclear deterrence? Not to mention having suffered through three all-out attacks by hostile neighbors in the last 58 years.

I find that a bit different from the bellicose pretensions of a Islamic theocracy, but then, that's just me.
posted by felix betachat at 8:06 AM on May 2, 2006


I would be interested in knowing which countries in the area Israel has threatened to extinguish simply because they existed. I would also like to know which countries have not only threatened Israel's existence but actually have gone to war against that country to destroy it.

When the US fought to save Kuwait from the Iraq invasion, why was Israel, a nation not involved in that conflict, hit with missles from Iraq?
posted by Postroad at 8:07 AM on May 2, 2006


Take tiamat's statements and replace Israel with Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Libya, South Africa, Brazil, etc., it reads the same.
Are there different treatments and conditions for Israel than for other countries?
That is the question and following my simple exercise above the answer would be YES.
Why?
posted by nofundy at 8:13 AM on May 2, 2006


You've got it backward Artw: Iran has denied, not suffered a holocaust.

Iran, on the other hand, has recently lost vast swathes of it's population to an attack by a US ally using WMDs provided by the US. I'm pretty certain they can play "poor Iran" just as well as Israel can play "poor Israel".
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on May 2, 2006


Take tiamat's statements and replace Israel with Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Libya, South Africa, Brazil, etc., it reads the same.

Exactly. We shouldn't assume that Iran feels threatened by Israel, but moreso by the United States. The crux is the old we can have them but you can't dynamic. I'm sorry, but that dynamic doesn't wash in a world of convenient logic. It's close to being as proposterous as holocaust denial. Building up your own nuclear arsenal, amazingly, actually contributes to proliferation and makes others feel quite threatened.

The logic of these nations is right out of a Tarantino film.
posted by juiceCake at 8:23 AM on May 2, 2006


I'm sorry, but that dynamic doesn't wash in a world of convenient logic. It's close to being as proposterous as holocaust denial.

Except that the former is an attitude/policy, and the latter is more or less a lie.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:31 AM on May 2, 2006


There's no "yeah, but" clause in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has every right to seek nuclear weapons, let the chips fall where they may. The pretending by the U.S. that it's not happening is a glaring hypocrisy that harms any negotiations we will be able to make with Middle Eastern nations.

Many Americans (and Israelis) seem to have some wildly bizarre belief that no nation in the Middle East will ever acquire nuclear weapons. It's not a "should/would" issue, it's a "when/how" one. Maybe it'll be Iran in five years, maybe Syria in ten, maybe Afghanistan in thirty. But it will eventually happen, and if there isn't a comprehensive and mutual nuclear policy in place, Israel is going to be the first nation in serious trouble, nukes or not.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:42 AM on May 2, 2006


artw: Iran, on the other hand, has recently lost vast swathes of it's population to an attack by a US ally using WMDs provided by the US.

Do you mean the US's support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war? There is debate over the degree of US support for Iraq, there was certainly intelligence sharing and other sorts of indirect help (like removing Iraq from the list of countries supporting terrorism), but there were no direct transfers of weapons, and certainly no WMDs. Can you explain?

nofundy: Take tiamat's statements and replace Israel with Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Libya, South Africa, Brazil, etc., it reads the same. Are there different treatments and conditions for Israel than for other countries?

There are different policies for every nation with weapons, once the genie is out of the bottle, it is very hard to put back. Pakistan and India currently have nuclear weapons, and are members of the international community with no sanctions. South Africa, Libya, and Brazil gave up theirs for political or strategic reasons. I think the whole point of the stories in the FPP is to explain why Israel has evolved its particular conditions for its nuclear weapons. I don't know why you would expect that just because a country in a region has weapons, it is logical that the international community should allow all countries to have them. Israel built its weapons in the 1960s, largely with French support, it has had them for 20 years, the only odd thing is the quasi-deniability stance used by Israel and the rest of the word when discussing them. The articles argue that the deniability argument is now hurting everyone's interests in dealing with other powers that want to acquire nukes.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:47 AM on May 2, 2006


People are correct to point out that the logic carries if you sub in 'Iran' for Israel in my comment above. I agree that it is in Iran's interest to develop nuclear weapons. It's just not in our interest to let them. On the other hand, since Western democracies have a moral (and in some cases, legal) obligation to help defend Israel if it is attacked, it IS in our interest to let Israel maintain a nuclear deterrent.

Usually this "double standard" is referred to by the more common terms "friends" and "enemies". Life, of course, is not perfectly about up and down, right and wrong, etc. But since we live in the 'real' world we do have to face the facts that although Israel may not be a perfect bastion of freedom and liberalism, it's a heck of a lot better than it's neighbors.
posted by tiamat at 8:58 AM on May 2, 2006


I'm pretty certain they can play "poor Iran" just as well as Israel can play "poor Israel".

This is probably a waste of my time, but still, I'll give it a shot. In the interest of respectful debate:

Since we're talking history, an important element in the story of Israel's nuclear program has to do with the particular climate of fear and paranoia that gripped Israel in the '50's. Having absorbed a vast number of demoralized Eastern European refugees and holocaust survivors, and having fought off the combined Arab armies in 1948, Israel was settling down to the difficult task of state formation, without any expectation of aid from abroad. The abortive Sinai campaign of 1956, for example, was justified repeatedly with reference to the Holocaust. And its cessation, after combined US/Soviet threats, only increased the Israelis' sense of isolation and threat.

In a profound irony, it was Ben Gurion's willingness to talk reparations with Adenauer, and to foster bilateral relations with West Germany that gave Israel a tenuous opportunity to better its strategic and economic position in the face of world hostility. Even these contacts were, as you might imagine, extraordinarily controversial. The debate over reparations in the Knesset in 1952 led to riots and an attack (fomented by Menachem Begin) on the assembly.

I give this background, in large measure, to help you see, Artw, exactly how the feelings in Israel prior to the initiation of nuclear research in Dimona were different from the theo-nationalist politics in play in Iran today.

To that end, here's a bit of a speech, given by Ben Gurion to the Mapai central committee in 1959 which I think illustrates well the deadly fear which was behind Israel's strategic choices during those days. The actual occassion was a debate over a decision to sell artillery ammunition manufactured by an Israeli company, to the German army. I think we're fair in reading Ben Gurion's justification here as applicable also to the issue of nuclear weapons:
"No country has helped Israel as America has--and yet it refuses to sell us weapons. Not many countries manufacture arms: America refuses to sell; Russia and her satellites are out of the question. The only possibilities are in Western Europe. It could someday be a matter of life or death for the State of Israel if we don't have the basic equipment for the army....I believe that I have Jewish emotions. I am as shocked by the Holocaust as everyone else....But if anyone concludes that the Holocaust forbids us to negotiate with Germany, I say that person lives in the past and not the present, cares more about his feelings than aobut the existence of the Jewish people. And if anyone says, 'Let us not forget the dead,' I say, 'Let's concentrate on keeping the Jews living in this country from being slaughtered.' In my opinion that could happen. I say that from a knowledge of the way things are. It won't be in the next few years, but I can't say that it might not happen in five years....If certain things are not done on time, there is no certainty that our children and our grandchildren will remain alive."
quoted from Tom Segev's The Seventh Million, p. 314.

Any argument in favor of Israeli disarmament that doesn't take this history and these emotions into full acount is fundamentally disingenuous. Hence, your sophistry about Saddam Hussein's brutality in the '80's won't cut the muster, I'm afraid.
posted by felix betachat at 9:05 AM on May 2, 2006


On who (I think) can have the bomb, and why.

This thought experiment is called "The Perfect Weapon". Imagine a weapon that will do exactly the damage you want it to, to exactly the target you want it to, no more, no less. You can do anything you want with it. You can kill everyone in the world named Bob. You can destroy an enemies army, or merely sprain their trigger finger's. No accidental collateral damage, no 'friendly fire', no mistakes.

Then imagine what would happen if group/state X got their hands on said weapon...
Sizable percentages of Muslims in many countries with significant Muslim populations also believe that suicide bombings can be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. While majorities see suicide bombing as justified in only two nations polled, more than a quarter of Muslims in another nine nations subscribe to this view.
Pew Research Study

Remember, in Islam the world is divided into two Houses. The House of Islam, and the House of War. If you live in the Western world, guess which house you live in?

A sizeable percentage of citizens, a majority in some Islamic nations, see targeting civilians as a valid military exercise. Therefore I assume that some, if not all, Islamic states would use a Perfect Weapon against civilian targets.

On the other hand, current trends in Western (mainly US/UK) weapons development focus on lowering civilian causalities and achieving higher accuracy. Recently I read that the US army even kicked out a soldier for shooting Iraqi civilians in a training exercise in the USA. [See Mock Iraqi Villages in Mojave Prepare Troops for Battle.] There is no reason to believe the USA or UK or Israel would have a policy of inflicting civilian causalities if they had the Perfect Weapon.

So to the point? Why do we have a double standard for the USA/UK/France/Israel having the bomb, as opposed to say, Iran?

Because I believe that the Western democracies will use nuclear weapons only as a last resort, and I believe the leaders of Iran would view nuclear weapons as a nigh-perfect weapon, and would use it in a war of aggression against Israel and/or the West.
posted by tiamat at 9:15 AM on May 2, 2006


First, Iran does nto claim to be developing nuclear weapons but using ALLOWED peaceful development for power stations.

Since we've covered the perspective from the Israelis, it's fair to do the same for Iranians.
With Pakistan, Afghanistan and India for neighbors would it surprise anyone if they felt safer to have nuclear capability?

We rail about how Iranian idiots call for the destruction of Israel but is that any worse than some of the idiots in the US leadership ( a nuclear power who has already used nuclear weapons) calling for attacking Iran with nukes?

Yeah, there are different treatments for different countries and rightfully so in some instances. But does that make it any less hypocritical? Is it simply realpolitik to be hypocritical?
posted by nofundy at 9:27 AM on May 2, 2006


Felix: It's true that the cultural context in which Israel developed their nukes is different from the cultural context in Iran today.

However, that in no way refutes what others have said. It is obviously in Iran's self-interest to acquire nukes as a means of deterrence against external security threats (chief among them the U.S.).

We demonize North Korea, but we aren't threatening military action. Why? Because they have nukes. We also demonize Iran, and we are rattling the sabers (and we already have special forces infiltrating the southern regions of the country).

Would we be doing so if they had already built and tested nukes? Probably not.

The Iranians know this. Thus they are racing to build nukes.

I don't think that Iran is pursuing nukes with the goal of bombing Israel. Israel is known to have some of its bombs on subs, and thus could strike back at Iran even if the country itself was devastated. Also, there are lots of Muslims in and near Israel -- Iran would lose the moral authority it claims in their name if it killed large numbers of them.

I am as troubled as anyone by Ahmedinajad's Holocaust denial and threats to wipe Israel off the map. But the moral distinctions you are drawing b/t Israel and Iran are irrelevant to the underlying power dynamics in play here.

I suspect that a nuclear-armed Iran, while not pleasant for Americans to contemplate, will ultimately be part of a relatively stable security framework in the Middle East.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:31 AM on May 2, 2006


Possible course of action: Do not acquire or maintain a nuclear arsenal.
Result: Inability to defend Israel.


Actually not quite true. A state doesn't need nukes to defend themselves, just a military. The interesting thing about Israel is that its so small that opposing forces could have it conquered in a day if it lacked proper defenses. The problem with acquiring nukes gives your enemies more incentive and justification to pursue a nuclear arsenal of their own. Once "the enemy" has the nuclear arsenal, in this case Iran, Israel will have to think very hard before preemptive attacks. Of course, Israel is much more free now to attack Iran because Iran lacks nukes. For all the arguments against nuclear weapons, they have become a means of achieving peace. Countries are forced to use diplomacy rather than an immediate military strike. Of course, the more nuclear weapons there are, the greater the chance that they get into "the wrong hands." The case could easily be made that any hand which holds a nuclear weapon is the wrong hand though.
posted by j-urb at 9:38 AM on May 2, 2006


***The problem with acquiring nukes -is that it- gives your enemies more incentive and justification to pursue a nuclear arsenal of their own.
posted by j-urb at 9:40 AM on May 2, 2006


nofundy: Is it simply realpolitik to be hypocritical?

Yes. By definition.

There are other views of foreign policy, but "realists" would argue that building a foreign policy around things like Wilsonian views of the role of ethics in international relations is foolish. Consistancy only matters in so much as it helps a country safeguard its interests and accomplish its goals.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:41 AM on May 2, 2006


A sizeable percentage of citizens, majority in some Islamic nations, see targeting civilians as a valid military exercise

Correct if I am wrong, but I am under the impression that asizeable percentage of citizens, maybe a majority in both Israel and the USA also happen to believe - or at the very least to actively support - just that.

That said, it couldn't matter less. For it is their leaders - and not them - who are going to decice when and how to shoot dad bombs.

(The problem with Islamic regimes come mainly from another double standard, or more like a calydoscope of 'em. But that is a debate for another day).
posted by magullo at 9:42 AM on May 2, 2006


thanks for the post, karl.

Wouldn't you imagine that having a substantial population that survived a genocide has a lot to do with Israel's desire for nuclear deterrence?


well, since we're discussing the Shoah and not the topic of this topic (ie, nukes), it'd be nice to, for starters, actually feed the homeless Holocaust survivors who live in Israel. instead of blowing all that (American, yes) money on building more settlements and killing more Palestinians, all in HaShem's name of course.

since we're discussing the Shoah and not the topic of this topic (ie, nukes), then, after those poor people have been fed and clothed and given housing, and after asking for their forgiveness since, after all, Israel is there because of them (just ask the UN), only then one can go back to preaching how coming six million murdered Jews are supposed to give Israel the right to blow up the world.

hiding behind the fact that Israeli PMs usually are, all things considered, a more rational actor than, say, a Palestinian suicide bomber, is a bit childish. but then, I guess that concern about Israeli WMDs (they actually exist, unlike Saddam's) makes one a anti-semite.

Can we look forward to a post tomorrow on the perfidy that was UN Resolution 181?

...

In the interest of respectful debate:


from the same user, 59 minutes apart?
posted by matteo at 9:45 AM on May 2, 2006


"and not the topic of this topic post"


my bad.
posted by matteo at 9:47 AM on May 2, 2006


Also, there are lots of Muslims in and near Israel -- Iran would lose the moral authority it claims in their name if it killed large numbers of them.

Why does this matter? Iran has killed plenty of Muslims in the past.
posted by PenDevil at 9:48 AM on May 2, 2006


Also let me add that if there was going to be a time when Israel would've used their bombs it would've been during the 1973 Yom Kippur War when there was a very real threat of Israel being overrun and it's continuing existence being put into question. And yet they didn't because every Israeli knows that actually using their bombs, whether or not any other surrounding Arab country has nuclear capability, can only lead to the destruction of the entire state.

Even though Israel has a world class military it can only call up perhaps 1.5 million men. Iran and the combined Arab countries surrounding Israel can mobilise in excess of 15 million. And no matter how good your military is 10:1 odds are near impossible, especially with the surrounding countries having much more modern militaries than they did in the 60's/70's. This is one of the reasons why Israel has never fought a war longer than a few months, why they have used diplomatic channels to end conflicts as soon as it is possible and why they can never actually use their nuclear bombs (if they have them that is, there really hasn't been concrete proof besides Vanunu, who maye be Israel's greatest double agent for all we know.).
posted by PenDevil at 10:00 AM on May 2, 2006


The next country to use nuclear weapons will find itself in deep shit. I don't care if it is Israel or the U. S.
It will be a signal to the rest of the world that they must unite to defend themselves against an insane rogue state.
posted by notreally at 10:01 AM on May 2, 2006


Except that the former is an attitude/policy, and the latter is more or less a lie.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:31 AM EST on May 2 [!]


Hence I mentioned convenient logic.
posted by juiceCake at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2006


Honestly, I can't imagine Israel doing otherwise given its situation at the time.

But Artifice_Eternity is exactly right about the process of proliferation. We might feel we have better intentions than "them" but we hardly have the moral high ground. All we have is technological high ground, and the willingness to play king of the hill with it. France, or the U.S., breaks its treaties to test weapons when they need to upgrade. Then they're done and they not only return to treaty compliance but political enforcement of the treaty as well.

And how can anyone believe in this day that the west will use nuclear weapons only as a last resort?

notreally -- I used to believe that. I don't anymore.
posted by dreamsign at 10:07 AM on May 2, 2006


j-urb, read the posit/fine print in my comment.

In a thread about Grand Strategy we'd be having a whole different debate, but the simple fact is that the Israeli gov't does believe they need nuclear weapons to guarantee a full range of defensive deterrence. That said, I don't think the debate re the offense/defense value of nuclear weapons is anywhere near as simple as you make it out to be.
posted by tiamat at 10:13 AM on May 2, 2006


Why does this matter? Iran has killed plenty of Muslims in the past.

Yes, but the Muslims who would be killed by a nuclear strike on Israel would for the most part be Palestinian.

Iran's involvement in terrorism is primarily thru Hezbollah, which is largely focused on the Palestinian cause. Iran, like many Muslim and Arab countries (in fact more than most), has made extensive use of the plight of the Palestinians for its own political purposes.

Killing thousands of Palestinians, and turning parts of Palestine (defined broadly as including both the West Bank and the current state of Israel) into a radioactive wasteland, are obviously inimical to the Palestinian cause.

Also, nuking Israel would mean that they would be consigning Tehran to the same fate.

The mullahs may hate Israel, but they aren't entirely irrational.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:28 AM on May 2, 2006


I have no reason to get deeper into this discussion at this point but I would point out one thing> It was France, not the US, that brought about Israel's acquistion of nuclear capability. How things change in the geo-political world should be kept in mind.
posted by Postroad at 10:59 AM on May 2, 2006


tiamat: On the other hand, current trends in Western (mainly US/UK) weapons development focus on lowering civilian causalities and achieving higher accuracy.

Weapons marketing in the west focuses on convincing citizens that they are trying to lower civilian casualties - case in point. Accuracy means more cost effective war making. Weapons aren't getting more accurate to save lives, they are getting more accurate to save money.

Truman claimed that Hiroshima was a military base and Johnson and Nixon claimed mass bombing of Vietnam was targeting steele and concrete - the term 'surgical strike' was even used back then. Claims of targeted/surgical bombing are marketing double speak.
posted by Chuckles at 11:15 AM on May 2, 2006


Yes, but the Muslims who would be killed by a nuclear strike on Israel would for the most part be Palestinian.

Iran's involvement in terrorism is primarily thru Hezbollah, which is largely focused on the Palestinian cause.


Not all Arab ethnicities hold the Palestinians in any high regard. I've had conversations with Muslims (not from the Middle East though but from Pakistan) who consider the Palestinians little more than dirt and the Palestinian cause as a complete waste of time. Some of the worst massacares of Palestinians have been due to countries such as Jordan. Iran/Saudi Arabia/Kuwait/etc with their billions in oil revenue could make life in the territories much much easier for Palestinians yet the Palestinian Authority has never received any substantial amount of funding from it's neighbouring 'allies'.

Hezbullah is merely a proxy for Iran to wage a low level war against Israel. Sure Hezbullah gives lip service to the Palestinian cause and I'm sure most of it's members feel they are fighting for it but Iran's funding of Hezbullah has more to do with making life difficult for Israel than helping the Palestinians.
posted by PenDevil at 11:15 AM on May 2, 2006


I have been wondering if what we need in the middle east is to just hang on for another generation when all of those who remember the holocaust are gone. And for that matter, all the other genocidal horrors of the twentieth century will be the stuff of history books rather than histrionics. Then might there be peace there?
posted by donfactor at 11:24 AM on May 2, 2006


Responding to Tiamat: It's ironic that you say "in the world of Islam" the world is divided into the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, and yet you seem to view life through the somewhat specious distinction between the West and the non-West. Remember, Hitler was a democratically leader that emerged in a Western democracy.

I'm a Muslim from east of Arabia, and consider all three of the rather ugly monotheistic faiths, part of "Western" traditions. They are extraordinarily similar and the clubbing of the Judeo and Christian worlds as distinct from the Islamic world has been an pure invention that was brilliantly catalogued in Edward Said's "Orientalism".

You say that you believe that the Western democracies (btw, Israel cannot be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time, it must choose) will only use nukes as a last resort, where as Iran by virtue of it not being "Western" will not be able to exercise it's irrational oriental urge and likely do so. Well, in that case, how do you explain Kim Jong Il's restraint? North Korea is anything but a democracy, and in the Occident he was portrayed as extra-terrestrial, not merely non-Western.

The issue over Iran harnessing nukes here in the US hinges on pretty much one issue: Israel. Iran lacks the ICBMs to attack the US. Frankly, Israel is being granted the anti-nuclear missile technology by the US, so even in the mega-improbable event that Iran would hail nukes on Israel, Israel can defend itself. However, while I understand Israel's very high threat perception and its constant invocation of the fact that it is surrounded by hostile neighbors: what did Israel expect? Take over land lived in by others and set up a state where they are second class citizens ... call the state a "Jewish" state? It was a flawed concept (the Palestinians could not so easily be killed off by disease or weaponry like the indigenous people of the New World), and has cost the whole world much anguish and money (the price of oil waxing and waning often dependent upon the dispute there). Muslims and Jews lived peacefully for centuries. The Holocaust was perpetrated by by a Christian democratically elected leader. If Israel ceases to stick unreasonably to its Jewish identity, the people of that land can live together peacefully. I say unreasonably, because the demographic reality is that in a few decades Israel is going to have a Jewish minority (and that is not counting the Palestinians -- that is just counting 'Israeli Arabs'). So, when people get hysterical that someone says Israel should be wiped off the map, Israel is the one, by its hostile posturing and brutal occupation of the Occupied Territories, that is ensuring that its enemies will want to wipe it off the map. No country can be wiped off the map, in any event. The country may change, many of its people may be killed. But the land will remain largely unchanged. My question to people who are inflexible on the issue of Israel is: what is Israel going to do when Christians and Muslims outnumber Jews there? What will happen to it's quasi-democratic nature that is so constantly harped on about? If Israel takes steps to artificially shore-up its Jewish population (and accept newly discovered Jews as those in Assam are now being considered, or ethnically cleanse its land of Christian and Muslims), will that make its hostile neighbours and increasingly large non-Jewish minority more happy to live in Israel?

The Holocaust was a horrific event. But it in the past, and based on the fact that the world Jewry has worked hard to make sure that it is wealthy, well-connected and well-regarded in many of the world's important cities would certainly prevent another attempted Jewish extermination. Continuously invoking the Holocaust and its exceptional history to justify Israel's cruelty to the land it shares with non-Jews does not wash with those parts of the world that are not European or Anglo. To us, it was Europeans killing Europeans, often fighting for pieces of the non-Euro/Anglo world. To us, it would be like all of Africa continuously invoking slavery to keep defending the right of African-Americans had they all occupied Utah (instead of going back to Liberia) and declared it an African state where the previously settled people who are mainly Mormon were discriminated against legally, often killed with impunity and so on.

Returning to Iran, Iran has a very proud culture, a very rich history and hegemonic designs. Iranians believe in their own cultural and racial superiority versus the Arabs (as do Israelis). Iran also has a history of having been wronged: by being used as punching bag/buffer state between the Russians and the British; by its one nationalistic and democratic leader Mossadegh been coup'ed out with American help by a venal youngish man who later declared himself the Highest of Aryans, the King of Kings Reza Shah Pahlavi; of having lost a war against Saddam the Barbarian where over 1 million of its population was killed, and when the world watched roughly two decades ago in silence while chemical weapons were used on its population, repeatedly.

The developing world shall get its act together. Many such countries are becoming more prosperous and they are going to be less tolerant of a Euro/Anglo centric world view, will increasingly demand rights equal to the 5 world powers that have veto votes on the Security Council and will increasingly assert their sovereignty (most such countries are but decades old) ... so Washington, London, Tel Aviv: get used to it.
posted by Azaadistani at 11:27 AM on May 2, 2006


Persians aren't arabs. I'm not entirely sure palestinians are either.

BTW there seems to be a lot of assumptions about Iran using a high yeiled device on Jerusalem. I would have thought a smaller strike on Tel aviv more likely.
posted by Artw at 11:29 AM on May 2, 2006


Wouldn't you imagine that having a substantial population that survived a genocide has a lot to do with Israel's desire for nuclear deterrence?

Sure, it makes sense. But the holocaust doesn't write them a blank check on everything, for all time, either.

On the other hand, current trends in Western (mainly US/UK) weapons development focus on lowering civilian causalities and achieving higher accuracy.

"Trend", "development", and rhetoric, yes. But the vaunted aspirations and press releases are a far cry from the reality. Ask the dead Iraqi civilians about that.
posted by beth at 11:41 AM on May 2, 2006


Hezbullah is merely a proxy for Iran to wage a low level war against Israel.

But do note Hezbollah was founded in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon...

And from the link:

After the 2005 elections, Hezbollah won eight new seats, giving the group twenty-three seats in 128-member Lebanese Parliament. In addition, Hezbollah has two ministers in the government, and a third is endorsed by the group.

As with Hamas, Hezbollah is a poster child for the unintended consequences of Israeli interventions.
posted by y2karl at 11:50 AM on May 2, 2006


Well, upon reading further, that's a poor link--as in tinfoil hat- to use for Hamas above. My bad.
posted by y2karl at 11:54 AM on May 2, 2006


Like I said I'm pretty sure the members of Hizbollah believe in the Palestinian cause, I'm just saying that the reason why Iran funds them is probably more to do with harassing Israel than actually helping the Palestinians.

It's like the US funding of the various ultra-right groups in South America during the 80's. They might not like the Contras that much but as long as it keeps the pinko commies busy.
posted by PenDevil at 12:00 PM on May 2, 2006


The focus seems to be on Israel's "right" to have nucelar weapons. It has nuclear weapons, so why does that matter?

Israel has had nuclear weapons since the 1960s, when, as everyone seems to agree, it was certainly in Israel's best interest. It got those weapons through French help, not US assistance. Israel never signed the NPT, and was not in violation of it. Would the world be safer if Israel didn't have nuclear weapons? Almost certainly. Would Israel? Almost certainly not. Welcome to realpolitik.

The reason this is relevant is because of what is happening today. It is in the best interest of the world to stop further proliferation, the goal is not a "fair" world where everyone has nuclear weapons, it is as safe a world as possible. Anti-proliferation efforts did not stop Pakistan, North Korea, or India in the 1990s, and the world is more dangerous for it. The issue is how to stop Iran from getting weapons today. The only conditions under which Israel might give up its nuclear weapons under would be a comprehensive peace deal (see my link above), which isn't going to happen with Iran anytime soon. So, the question is, given that Israel has weapons, is it better to be open about it or to keep the present "no comment" policy?

As for Azaadistani's comment: Israel is the one, by its hostile posturing and brutal occupation of the Occupied Territories, that is ensuring that its enemies will want to wipe it off the map. No country can be wiped off the map, in any event. The country may change, many of its people may be killed. This is a pretty brutal oversimplification to blame Israel's "posturing" alone for the hatred towards it -- even Israel's largest critics would point to a lot more shared blame than you are proposing. And as for the no country can be wiped off the map, well, I am not sure what to say.

Also, y2karl, I would be careful about lionizing Hezbollah too much, regardless of their origins, given the attitude of regular Lebanese towards their current role. I think Michael Totten's piece "Guess Who is Coming to Iftar" does a good job on given insight into this, in an interesting way.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:10 PM on May 2, 2006


Is America still actively pursuing non-proliferation? It;s recent actions towards India seem to indicate that it
s more of a policy of unilaterally allowing selective proliferation. I expecyt that to work out just as well as Americas other unilateral efforts.
posted by Artw at 12:20 PM on May 2, 2006


Azaadistani. Point by point, given the length.

Responding to Tiamat: It's ironic that you say "in the world of Islam" the world is divided into the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, and yet you seem to view life through the somewhat specious distinction between the West and the non-West. Remember, Hitler was a democratically leader that emerged in a Western democracy.

Ahh, Godwin anyone? Should we continue, heck, why not?

When I say "in the world of Islam" what I mean is in the world of people who base their world view on the Koran, which itself divides the world into two "Houses" as described above. I do not divide the whole world into West and non-West, and it's not how I view life, but in terms of this debate I use those terms to describe Western European and North American democracies, as opposed to the largely Muslin nations of the Middle East which oppose/have opposed the state of Israel.

I'm a Muslim from east of Arabia, and consider all three of the rather ugly monotheistic faiths, part of "Western" traditions. They are extraordinarily similar and the clubbing of the Judeo and Christian worlds as distinct from the Islamic world has been an pure invention that was brilliantly catalogued in Edward Said's "Orientalism".

I'm an agnostic from Canada currently living in the U.K. I study international relations and nuclear issues in an MA program titled "Science and Security". Good, it looks like we both know what we're talking about then.

You're right to say that on a global scale it's probably most accurate to speak of all three religions of the book as 'western'. As I said above, I'm not speaking globally, but using commonly defined terms of reference for this debate over nuclear deterrence in the middle east.

You say that you believe that the Western democracies (btw, Israel cannot be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time, it must choose). . .

I agree, but I don't know who said Israel could/should be a 'Jewish' state. I don't even care whether Iran is an 'Islamic' state. My points above were made based on the largely Islamic world view of its government and citizens, government style is a permissive variable for conflict here, not expressive. I sorely hope that the success of nuclear deterrence does not come down to forms of government, or else we're all in big trouble (radioactive trouble, if you get my drift).

. . . will only use nukes as a last resort, where as Iran by virtue of it not being "Western" will not be able to exercise it's irrational oriental urge and likely do so. Well, in that case, how do you explain Kim Jong Il's restraint? North Korea is anything but a democracy, and in the Occident he was portrayed as extra-terrestrial, not merely non-Western.

As noted above, I do not lump the DPRK and Iran into the same group. I am not making arguments about USA/Japan vs. the DPRK, I am making arguments regarding nuclear deterrence in the Middle East. I also did not argue that Iran would act out of an irrational urge, but rather am afraid that the use of nuclear weapons by Iran would be seen as a rational action and ethically acceptable in their mainly Islamic normative framework.

The issue over Iran harnessing nukes here. . . [cut] . . . ethnically cleanse its land of Christian and Muslims), will that make its hostile neighbors and increasingly large non-Jewish minority more happy to live in Israel?

This is just degenerating into the Israel/Palestine Jew/Arab debate, which I want no part of. Don't read what you think you see in my comments above, read what I wrote. I'm not defending or attacking Israel's position in the Middle East, I'm merely making an argument that many of the comments (and the subject of this FPP) misunderstand and underestimate the complexity of nuclear deterrence.

The Holocaust was a horrific event. [cut] Continuously invoking the Holocaust [cut] so on.

Godwin. Also, you're responding to me (as you noted above) but I certainly didn't invoke any historical arguments. Repeat after me, we're not having a debate about the existence of Israel, we're having a debate about nuclear deterrence. Feel better?

Returning to Iran, Iran has a very proud culture, a very rich history and hegemonic designs. Iranians believe in their own cultural and racial superiority versus the Arabs (as do Israelis). Iran also has a history of having been wronged: by being used as punching bag/buffer state between the Russians and the British; by its one nationalistic and democratic leader Mossadegh been coup'ed out with American help by a venal youngish man who later declared himself the Highest of Aryans, the King of Kings Reza Shah Pahlavi; of having lost a war against Saddam the Barbarian where over 1 million of its population was killed, and when the world watched roughly two decades ago in silence while chemical weapons were used on its population, repeatedly.

And what part of that is supposed to make me think I (as a member of one of the above defined Western nations) will be safer once Iran has the bomb? For that matter, what part of this comment is supposed to address anything at all in regards to nuclear deterrence?

The developing world shall get its act together. Many such countries are becoming more prosperous and they are going to be less tolerant of a Euro/Anglo centric world view, will increasingly demand rights equal to the 5 world powers that have veto votes on the Security Council and will increasingly assert their sovereignty (most such countries are but decades old) ... so Washington, London, Tel Aviv: get used to it.

Well, I could assert that the developing world won't get its act together, but maybe it will and maybe it won't. My goal here was to refute your mistaken logic as it pertained to nuclear deterrence in the middle east. I believe I have done that. I've left most of your social commentary to stand for itself, because I don't think any of the other rational readers will need me to explain why you're wrong about so much in that regard.
posted by tiamat at 12:37 PM on May 2, 2006


A small point, but an important one, often overlooked in such discussions:

Everyone understands that developing and deploying nuclear weapons is a difficult and time consuming endeavor. But most people do not realize how impossibly difficult and time consuming it is to get rid of them.

National nukes come with long lead time infrastructure and internal politics that ensure they remain under the control of national leadership. Such facilities and a organizational structures have to have multi-year funding, and an ongoing mission, which become essentially a national commitment beyond the capability of even the most dove like politicians to dismantle. The labs responsible for maintaining a nuclear arsenal can only exist when they can procure and operate sophisticated equipment, and be staffed with people whose technical education and qualification to security status are decades long endeavors. This all requires a commitment lead time well beyond the vagaries of national and international political trends, and no country that has developed nuclear weapons has done so without creating such an internal infrastructure. No country walks away from that infrastructure cleanly, regardless of leadership changes, as the breakup of the Soviet Union has demonstrated.

Once Israel or any other state gets nukes, the nukes remain. No nation or group of nations with nuclear capability have yet voluntarily disarmed to the point of changing their strategic options, including the U.S. and Russia, which have both taken down thousands of weapons in the post Cold War era. Yet they remain capable of MAD.

Weirdly, it is as if the nukes themselves, once they are in existence, resist any change of will of their "owners." Thus, the wisdom of the NPT.
posted by paulsc at 12:38 PM on May 2, 2006


magullo, you are wrong. Read the polling data, the whole report, not just the summary.

Western (using the term as I have defined above, not in some magnetic way, just to be clear) nations overwhelmingly oppose purposeful targeting of civilians, and in fact punish military officers who do so, as well as forming doctrine that tries to avoid it. In addition they publicly claim to be trying to avoid civilian causalities. [I'm not claiming it doesn't happen, or that there isn't some tolerance of civilian causalities in combat zones, but that's beside the point.]

Islamic nations (as defined above, and by the Pew Research group, just to be clear) do not share this ethical viewpoint. In addition to not defining doctrines or tactics to avoid such causalities, many Islamic nations support activities such as suicide bombing by offering rewards to the families of bombers. [I'm not claiming that all members of these nations think/act this way, or that some don't oppose suicide bombing, but that's beside the point.]
posted by tiamat at 12:45 PM on May 2, 2006


South Africa voluntarily disarmed.

It could also be argued that Canada has, although our position as a nuclear power was always 'subservient lackey'.. I believe there may be at least one or two other cases, but they would be Soviet break up related (Kazakhstan maybe?).
posted by Chuckles at 12:48 PM on May 2, 2006


Western nations overwhelmingly oppose purposeful targeting of civilians, or at least showing it on TV. Anyway, if stupid brown people get in the way of the bombs and bullets it's only their own fault for living next to the terrorists.
posted by Artw at 12:52 PM on May 2, 2006


Chuckles, or if you're counting Canada, there are one or two other NATO members who gave back the nuclear weapons they were tasked to deliver.

There's always Brazil, which was a fun case of the left hand (political leadership) not having any idea what the right hand (the military) was up to. Oh, those were the days.
posted by tiamat at 12:52 PM on May 2, 2006


Re: disarming, a couple of Gwynne Dyer's recent columns covered the French and British nuclear weapons programs..
posted by Chuckles at 12:56 PM on May 2, 2006


Artw, truly your rhetoric is inspiring. You've proven yourself to be well versed in the facts and arguments regarding this debate. Your knowledge of history astonishes me, as does your fine understanding of the total supremacy of multilateral efforts you approve of over unilateral efforts you disapprove of. I marvel at your use of alliteration and metaphor.*

*For those too lazy to look, yes, there are 'scarcasm' tags hidden in there somewhere.
posted by tiamat at 1:00 PM on May 2, 2006


Also, y2karl, I would be careful about lionizing Hezbollah too much...

I wasn't lionizing Hexbollah. I was merely pointing out that you have to dance with the person you brought. Hezbollah came into existence as a direct result of the 1982 invasion, and that they are now part of the Lebanese government is one of the consequences of that invasion. Nor do I think it is that controversial to note that the rise of Hamas in the occupied territories came in part due to covert Israeli assistance and that they won the Palestinian elections was one of the outcomes of that assistance.
posted by y2karl at 1:02 PM on May 2, 2006


Tiamat, you are the worst kind of sophist, wtf.
posted by undule at 1:03 PM on May 2, 2006


Why the hell would Iran ever consider nuking Israel, even if they do develop the capability some day?
They're smart enough to know that would mean the complete destruction of their country.
Now if it were GWB as president of Iran, I might consider the irrational actor angle...
posted by nofundy at 1:04 PM on May 2, 2006


Brazil probably never deployed a bomb, where South Africa probably did (from the article I linked above):
In March 1993 President de Klerk declared that South Africa had previously developed a limited nuclear capability which had been dismantled and destroyed before South Africa acceded to the NPT.
Then there are the truly ambiguous states, Japan and Germany. I've read things that suggest that they are both maintain weapons programs that could give them weapons in short order. In Japan's case I have read that they maintain disassembled weapons.
posted by Chuckles at 1:07 PM on May 2, 2006


Undule, Meta, to avoid a derail here.
posted by tiamat at 1:10 PM on May 2, 2006


The National Security Archive has related Nixon Administration memos, including the envelope [PDF] and Kissinger's analysis [PDF] of Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin's response to a Kissinger's request [PDF] that Israel assure the US that Israel wouldn't "possess" nuclear weapons or deploy nuclear missiles, and asking if Israel would be willing to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. One of the paper's authors has a related web site that has Israeli government memos (in Hebrew).
posted by kirkaracha at 1:16 PM on May 2, 2006


"South Africa voluntarily disarmed. ..."
posted by Chuckles at 3:48 PM EST on May 2 [!]


I was aware of this instance, but to be frank, it is the exception that proves my rule, which is "No nation or group of nations with nuclear capability have yet voluntarily disarmed to the point of changing their strategic options...." South Africa's "nukes" were never a credible military weapon, and never truly figured in its diplomacy.

The basing of another country's nukes on a third party's soil, and questions of operational cooperation in the use of nuclear weapons as a part of treaty obiligations are another discussion. In a very real sense, NATO nations which hosted American nuclear units during the Cold War never truly had operational control of the weapons. But exploring this topic here is a thread hijack, and to be fair to the OP, we should limit discussions in this thread to Israeli nuclear policy in light of the history of U.S. / Israeli relations.
posted by paulsc at 1:24 PM on May 2, 2006


y2karl, thanks for clarifying, I understand what you were trying to say. Unintended consequences pretty much define the nature of conflict in the Middle East. From the pogroms of the 1880s to the British Whitepapers to Jordan's decision to go to war in 1967 to Israel's invasion of Lebanon, the interconnectedness of many of these issues is amazing.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2006


Hezbullah is merely a proxy for Iran to wage a low level war against Israel. Sure Hezbullah gives lip service to the Palestinian cause and I'm sure most of it's members feel they are fighting for it but Iran's funding of Hezbullah has more to do with making life difficult for Israel than helping the Palestinians.

Yes, as I said, Iran (and by extension Hezbollah) uses the Palestinian cause for political purposes. Maybe the Iranian ayatollahs don't care that much about the Palestinians. But nuking the Palestinians (which is what they'd be doing if they nuked Israel) is so obviously contrary to the Palestinians' welfare that the pretense of opposing Israel on the Palestinians' behalf would collapse.

But I think the threat of nuclear retaliation by Israel is a mucn bigger deterrent. (Incidentally, that could be seen as a realpolitik argument both for the relative harmlessness of the Iranians having nukes, and for the real deterrent value that Israel gets from its own nukes.)
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:40 PM on May 2, 2006


I like how Tiamat calls Godwin at a mention of the Holocaust after his initial justification for Israel getting a free ride on proliferation was basically "handwave, handwave, The Holocaust, handwave".

And yes, I AM sarcastic towards the notion that the west doesn't kill civilians when waging war, because it's contemptible horsehit. I mean, WTF, do you even watch the news these days? And if you throw Israel into that mix, well, it just gets worse and worse...
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on May 2, 2006


Tiamat: In speaking about Israel, I was merely responded to what you had stated upthread: "I agree that it is in Iran's interest to develop nuclear weapons. It's just not in our interest to let them. On the other hand, since Western democracies have a moral (and in some cases, legal) obligation to help defend Israel if it is attacked, it IS in our interest to let Israel maintain a nuclear deterrent." Anyone who believes that Western democracies have a MORAL obligation to defend Israel is provoking an "Israel-Palestine/Arab-Jew" debate.

When I spoke about the Holocaust, I was responding to other comments upthread, not just yours.

You still are not able to explain to me (since much of your argument hinges on a country being or not being a "Western Democracy") on the distinction between the threat from the DPRK and Iran. Or, for that matter, where India and Pakistan fit in (more democratic but hardly "Western") ... other than resorting to the cryptic use of the meaningless following words: "mainly Islamic normative framework". What framework might that be? I think what you mean is the Islamic normative framework from the Euro-Anglo (Canadian? Tiamit's?) viewpoint/framework. Perhaps if you would not hide behind academic jargon and say what you mean, our debate would be more constructive. There are several comments upthread that have cogently explained why it would be irrational for Iran to preemptively strike Israel, so please read them.

As for your misplaced concern about safety (Canada is no way under threat by any country, other than the only one that borders it, and even that threat is minimal) ... that is not my concern, or frankly, a global one either. The question is what legitimacy Iran has to pursue nuclear armament, not how ought the world make Tiamat feel more safe?

Finally, given that you sit in pretty powerless Western country and clearly believe in the superiority/rationality of Western democracy, one of my points was that it was Western democracy that trampled on a fledgling non-Western democracy in Iran in the 50s ... and that same Western democracy supported a man who declared himself an Emperor and now uses the fact that there is a partially non-democratic regime in power (Ahmadinejad was democratically elected ... though I know and agree that not it is a vetted/selective democracy) to say that it should not handle nuclear technology of weaponry. Well, that double-standard is pretty plain for all of us who are not Western and haven't been brain-washed for years by our own sense of superiority ... and frankly does not say a whole lot about Western democracy. I'm not sure which Godwin you refer to, but I repeat that Western democracy vomited up Adolf Hitler (monstrous) and George W. Bush (irresponsible and moronic). By the same token Iranian democracy vomited out Ahmadinejad and Khatami, both of whom are quite different men with different ideological agendas.
posted by Azaadistani at 2:13 PM on May 2, 2006


(The whole "Western democracies don't condone civilian deaths, play by the rules of war thing" carries no water with me. So what? A war criminal like Ariel Sharon ends up as PM of one of these so-called "enlighened" countries.)
posted by bardic at 2:21 PM on May 2, 2006


*"enlightened"
posted by bardic at 2:23 PM on May 2, 2006


sorry ... typo: "*a* pretty powerless"

and what Artw and bardic said.
posted by Azaadistani at 2:38 PM on May 2, 2006


bardic, I don't belive that the exception in your example disproves the rule. I wasn't saying the Western nations were perfect, or even that they tried to be.
posted by tiamat at 3:16 PM on May 2, 2006


Kind of hard to present yourself and/or your enlightened Western democracy to the world as a normative model then. In fact, why bother?
posted by bardic at 3:23 PM on May 2, 2006


Um, yes you did. Sorry if i'm missing some nuance here but to me your contributions so far could be sumarised as:

1) Western nations are perfect.
2) Even if Israel isn't the holocaust excuses everything.
posted by Artw at 3:25 PM on May 2, 2006


(To be less snarky, radical Muslims read and understand history. They are perectly aware of the "realist" and/or "Realpolitik" schools of foreign relations. They understand power. Trying to dress Western power with the proverbial lipstick of "values" is often a waste of time for both sides, IMHO, and further marginalizes the moderate muslims into a corner. And makes the US and other countries look like the obvious hypocrites that they are.)
posted by bardic at 3:26 PM on May 2, 2006


there were no direct transfers of weapons, and certainly no WMDs

A look at U.S. shipments of pathogens to Iraq; Report: U.S. supplied the kinds of germs Iraq later used for biological weapons; Iraq Used Many Suppliers for Nuke Program; Made in America. The direct transfers of weapons was to Iran.

Iran has killed plenty of Muslims in the past.

Um, when? Iran doesn't seem especially aggressive in Wikipedia's history of Iran or military history of Iran. (They certainly killed lots of Iraqi Muslims in the Iran-Iraq War, which Iraq started.) SAVAK (founded by the CIA and Mossad) killed a lot of Iranians. That was after the CIA and MI6 overthrew the Iranian government in 1953.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:34 PM on May 2, 2006


Azaadistani,

I admit that when I said "On the other hand, since Western democracies have a moral (and in some cases, legal) obligation to help defend Israel if it is attacked, it IS in our interest to let Israel maintain a nuclear deterrent." it could be infered I meant "because of the Holocaust". But I didn't. I was refering to the general principal of UN membership which requires that the set borders of states be respected, and for all member states to support military action when required by the UN SC. To be fair, that was totally unclear, and given the larger context I should have made it more so.

The DPRK is a threat, although obviously in a different sphere of relations. My main concern with the nuclear threat from the DPRK would be a conflict caused by the DPRK as a unifying factor to keep the current government in power while the people starve and are generally unhappy. However I have not seen evidence to suggest that the DPRK has ever operated outside a normative framework that would make deterrence successful. Thus the threat exists, but I don't sit up nights worrying about it.

On the other hand, my main concern with Iran, is that significant proportions of its population have been brought up in a relgious framework that denies the rights of non-Muslims, and in addition, that they could see a nuclear strike on Israel (and possible other Western nations) as a rational choice even given that there would be a response in kind. The detailed argument for this line of reasoning is made in the book "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris. But basically it rests the case rests on information gathered from the Pew Research surverys done since 9/11. Therefore I would conclude that Iran does pose a danger to Israel, and by extension the USA/UK and the EU, because they operate in a different normative framework (system of morals and ethics, for the people bothered by the academic jargon) which might not lead to the successful establishment of a nuclear deterrent between Iran and the other nuclear powers.

You say that Western Democracies have checkered history of violence and so on (they do), but I'm not here to argue history, we're trying to predict the future. I refer you back to the thought experiment of the perfect weapon. My point is that *right now* I think that the USA/UK/Canada (to name three countries actively engaged in the War on Terror, as a current example of military force in action) have, socialy and institutionally/politically, a different (and yes, a better) set of moral and ethical guidelines for the use of military force than does Iran. I don't mean to imply the people themeselves are better in someway, just that in terms of ethical development the West is further along than is Iran.

Artw

No, actually I did not say those things, although I do admit at the top of this comment I can easily be read as having said your #2, that was not my goal.

As for your #1, not perfect, just better. Not by much, certainly, and much less or not at all historically, but right now, better.
posted by tiamat at 3:46 PM on May 2, 2006


bardic, You take the best you have and you try to improve it. And in the meantime you try to prevent Iran from getting the bomb so that what you do have doesn't get blow up before you can make it better.
If there was a Utopia that worked I'd move there and tell them to try to prevent the USA/UK & Iran from developing better weapons, but there isn't.
posted by tiamat at 3:49 PM on May 2, 2006


How has anything the US has done since 9/11/2001 slowed Iran from getting the bomb, if not actively encouraged it? Invading Iraq threatened the mullahs to the extent that they clamped down on the moderates and radicals even further. It showed them that the only effective deterrent to US aggression and/or invasion would be nukes. It remined them that their stanglehold on petrol prices and the shipment of oil globally is something they could fuck-over in a heartbeat, and it strengthened the resolve of the hard-liners generally.

I agree with many of your ideals here, I just can't see the practical logic behind what you're promoting. Problem solving 101: Put the fires out, don't throw oil on them.
posted by bardic at 4:02 PM on May 2, 2006


Well at least he hasn't called anyone an antisemite yet. Except in meta.
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on May 2, 2006


I said it was one possibility, sure.
posted by tiamat at 5:53 PM on May 2, 2006


Traditional kink to definition of semitic.
posted by asok at 7:00 PM on May 2, 2006


The Holocaust was a horrific event. But it in the past, and based on the fact that the world Jewry has worked hard to make sure that it is wealthy, well-connected and well-regarded in many of the world's important cities would certainly prevent another attempted Jewish extermination.

Do they control all the banks and media, too?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:30 PM on May 2, 2006


Cheap shot, Krrrlson. I am not suggesting a conspiracy ... I said hard work. Are you suggesting the Jews in Washington, New York, London and Paris are not better educated and more wealthy than the average person in those cities? In my view, that is something to be proud of. But wait, if you were, then you couldn't accuse people of being anti-Jewish when you couldn't counter their arguments. How about responding to my comments on Israel's demographic dilemma?

As for the Holocaust and the targets then, the same goes for the some of the other groups in Europe who were on Hitler's hitlist ... It is highly improbable that gays & lesbians and communists in Europe will be similarly persecuted. The Roma, however, continue to be much more vulnerable, though Roma rights human rights organizations are doing some great work in Europe.
posted by Azaadistani at 10:15 PM on May 2, 2006


Tiamat:
magullo, you are wrong. Read the polling data, the whole report, not just the summary.

Western (using the term as I have defined above, not in some magnetic way, just to be clear) nations overwhelmingly oppose purposeful targeting of civilians, and in fact punish military officers who do so, as well as forming doctrine that tries to avoid it. In addition they publicly claim to be trying to avoid civilian causalities. [I'm not claiming it doesn't happen, or that there isn't some tolerance of civilian causalities in combat zones, but that's beside the point.]


Actions speak louder than words:

- Innocent civilians in legal limbo (to say the least) in places such as Gitmo and Abu Graihb, not to mention the "secret jails", not to mention random harassment.

- ¿Any figures on Afghani or Iraqi civilian deaths? ¿Palestinians?

¿No care, no count but people are truly concerned? HAH!


Islamic nations (as defined above, and by the Pew Research group, just to be clear) do not share this ethical viewpoint. In addition to not defining doctrines or tactics to avoid such causalities, many Islamic nations support activities such as suicide bombing by offering rewards to the families of bombers. [I'm not claiming that all members of these nations think/act this way, or that some don't oppose suicide bombing, but that's beside the point.]

I'm no friend of fundies of any kind, but I am also not sure if by openly acknowledging their atrocities they are being actually more open and sincere about these matters. For instance, good old USA puts commercial pilots on speed and then asks them to bomb the shiat out of stuff (pilots serving in the National Guard, for instance).

I'll agree that there are some formal differences, but the "practical applications" are pretty dismal in both cases.
posted by magullo at 2:52 AM on May 3, 2006


Cheap shot, Krrrlson. I am not suggesting a conspiracy ... I said hard work.

Then what was your point in mentioning it? Oh, right, that the Holocaust can now be safely disregarded. Can you point me to your grandparents' grave so I can spit on it?

How about responding to my comments on Israel's demographic dilemma?

Oh, you mean comments that include the following?

Israel is the one, by its hostile posturing and brutal occupation of the Occupied Territories, that is ensuring that its enemies will want to wipe it off the map.

How about you go throw another flag on the fire? It must be getting cold.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:26 PM on May 4, 2006


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