Iran a Mortal Threat to the U.S.?

Surely you jest, Mark Helprin. How seriously can we take the following comparisons?

Its conceptions of nuclear strategy are very likely to be looser, and its thresholds lower, than those of Russia and China, which are in turn famously looser and lower than our own. And yet Eisenhower and Churchill weighed a nuclear option in Korea, Kennedy a first strike upon the U.S.S.R., and Westmoreland upon North Vietnam. How then can we be certain that Iran is rational and containable?

The U.S. weighing a nuclear strike on a non-nuclear country is comparable to Iran weighing a nuclear strike on the country that has more nuclear weapons than the rest of the world combined? Even Kennedy considering a strike on Russia, which did have nuclear weapons, was based on the knowledge that we had a greater overall strike capacity than theirs.

For Iran to strike the U.S. would be to commit to suicide. In what way has Iran demonstrated suicidal tendencies to date? Helprin has it right when he discusses Iran’s motives for having a nuclear weapon;

Without doubt, Iran has long wanted nuclear weapons—to deter American intervention in its and neighboring territories; to threaten Europe and thereby cleave it from American interests in the Middle East; to respond to the former Iraqi nuclear effort; to counter the contiguous nuclear presences in Pakistan, Russia and the U.S. in the Gulf; to neutralize Israel’s nuclear deterrent so as to limit it to the attrition of conventional battle, or to destroy it with one lucky shot; to lead the Islamic world; to correct the security imbalance with Saudi Arabia, which aided by geography and American arms now outclasses it; and to threaten the U.S. directly.

Except for the “destroy Israel with one lucky shot” (which would also be suicidal, since one shot could not destroy all Israel or its capacity to respond, much less the U.S.’s capacity to respond), these are all defensive and positional motives for having nuclear weapons. Iran has recognized something the U.S. is uncomfortable admitting–we treat nuclear countries with more respect than non-nuclear countries, so a country that wants respect has a straightforward means of achieving it.

I’m undecided myself on how much effort we ought to be putting toward deterring Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I’m not totally dovish by any means. But to call Iran a “mortal” threat to the U.S. is to announce oneself as having left concern for reason behind and to be lusting for war purely for the sake of continued American dominance, be damned to all others and who cares how many die in the process.

Once upon a time we called such people warmongers, and meant that as a term of opprobrium. Those were the good old days.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
This entry was posted in Politics in General. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Iran a Mortal Threat to the U.S.?

  1. Phil says:

    .

    Apparently, Israeli leadership wants to build hegemony over the Middle East all the way into Afghanistan. Iran is the single most powerful force in the Middle East absent any United States military intervention. Except, Israel purportedly has some 300 nuclear weapons it could deploy to put a screeching halt to any Iranian exercise of power against Israeli aggression. But, if Iran were to possess nuclear weapons, Israeli advantage would be neutralized.
    ;
    Go Figure.
    .

  2. Scott Hanley says:

    Eisenhower and Churchill weighed a nuclear option in Korea, Kennedy a first strike upon the U.S.S.R., and Westmoreland upon North Vietnam.

    And, with a little time and critical distance, we can see shudder and be grateful that cooler heads prevailed. Perhaps we could have nuked Korea without provoking a Soviet response, but it’s pretty clear by now that there was little American security at stake in either Korea of Vietnam to justify so much destruction. Talk about misjudging your historical references.

  3. Lance says:

    It seems inevitable that any moderately wealthy and technologically sophisticated nation will obtain nuclear weapons if it is willing to endure the consequences that accompany the acquisition.

    But it is silly to call a nuclear armed Iran a “mortal threat” to the US. Any use of a nuclear weapons by Iran would mean certain annihilation by either the US, Israel or both.

    Nuclear weapons are not going to save the Mullahs from their one true enemy, the education and empowerment of the Iranian people. Ironically the investment necessary to gain a nuke causes the regime to neglect the people’s needs hastening the inevitable backlash that will end the reign of the Supreme Leader and his Guardian Council.

    I am always impressed by the spirit and resilience of the Iranians I meet. They aren’t going to be repressed forever. The days of the Mullahs are numbered. (Sadly, it’s probably still a pretty big number but the day will come.)

  4. Mark Boggs says:

    Yeah, call those Iranians wacky for pursuing something that might, in a hypothetical sense, keep a bigger, more powerful country from sticking its nose in Iran’s business by, say, overthrowing a democratically-elected leader and installing a toady more to the liking of that bigger and more powerful country. Totally unreasonable. And when Iranians finally overthrow said toady and install their own radical dude to run the show, that bigger, more powerful country can act shocked and perturbed that Iran would do something so drastic and then act with such hostility towards that bigger, more powerful country.

    Sometimes our lack of knowledge of our own history and the irrational fear that gets laid over that ignorance is mind numbing.

  5. James Hanley says:

    @Scott,
    And, with a little time and critical distance, we can see shudder and be grateful that cooler heads prevailed.
    Actually, that’s the author’s point, because, he says, how can we expect cooler heads to prevail when a country is run by crazed Mooslims?

    @Mark,
    Sometimes?

  6. Matty says:

    This links back to something I was arguing on a thread at the league. If we take seriously the idea that nuclear weapons are a bad idea we need to accept that the existing nuclear powers will have to phase out theirs, otherwise the whole argument boils down to ‘nukes for me but not for thee’ which is neither moral nor persuasive.

  7. Scott Hanley says:

    Actually, that’s the author’s point, because, he says, how can we expect cooler heads to prevail when a country is run by crazed Mooslims?

    Of course, I was speaking about our heads.

  8. James Hanley says:

    ‘nukes for me but not for thee’ which is neither moral nor persuasive.

    I dunno, seems to persuade most Americans.

  9. Mark Boggs says:

    We all know Americans are the only folks sane enough to be trusted with the authority to know when and where to properly (and precisely) administer nuclear weapons. For instance, take most of the GOP candidates for President. Please.

  10. Lance says:

    I’m waiting for the next generation of weapons technology, perhaps anti-matter or particle or laser beam energy weapons.

    One wonders if physically annihilating all traces of one’s enemies would make use of such weapons more palatable. No unpleasant images on CNN or bombed out cities full of refugees. No messy radiation or chemical fall out.

    Just ZZAPP!! and your enemies are just an historical footnote, leaving a smoldering crater where once they and their homeland stood. Mineral resources being even easier to extract than before.

    Iran? What Iran? Oh, you mean our newest US territory Petrolia?

    To paraphrase Gen. Buck Turgidson “Damn, I wish we had one of those DeathStar machines”

Comments are closed.