Thursday, February 16, 2012

So Much for a World Without Nukes

(Image by Ramirez)

A regional arms race may erupt once (not "if") Iran develops nuclear weapons.  Saudi Arabia threatens to go nuclear if Iran does.

Meanwhile, here in the Land of HopeAndChange, Obama wants to cut our nuclear arsenal by "80%."  At least the GOP is trying to forstall our unilateral disarmament.

Very little is dearer to the heart of us Live-By-The-Sword Types, than defense of the realm.  This double-whammy of bad news prompted a lengthy discussion.

First regarding our Dear Leader's utopian vision:

I’m sure he plans to go much further than this, living in an1980s undergrad dreamworld as he does.

We are going to go quickly from living in a dream world to living in a nightmare world.

An now, for what a reality-based future may hold:
I am concerned about a missing element in the whole Iran discussion. Overall it is broken out in two camps:

1. Sanctions and diplomacy are working at isolating Iran, military action is not only not necessary, it will make things worse.
2. Sanctions and diplomacy are not working at isolating Iran, military action is necessary before things get worse.
There is a third (and in my opinion possibly the most likely) possibility:
3. Sanctions and diplomacy are working at isolating Iran, and Iran will get desperate and take action before the US or Israel does.

Some of the sanctions being put in place now have real teeth because they are making it harder for Iran to sell crude and import refined product. Members of the "sanctions crowd" seem to believe that Iran's leaders will see that the stability of their regime is at stake so they will come to the negotiating table. That's all well and good but what happens if Iran's leaders see that the stability of their regime is at stake and decide that it is time to get ugly?

I see your #3 as a very possible scenario. The massive instability in Iran's only real state ally in the region, Syria, may make things more likely to get nasty. Losing Syria will have a tremendous impact on their other regional ally, Hizbollah. With them cut off, who does Iran have left? Russia (too far), China (too lukewarm and oil-focused)

Not to be a peacenik, but #1 has some validity, too. The regime is starting to fray around the edges. Attacking them would generate huge support, at least in the short-medium term. Of course, #2 also seems to have validity. Nothing has happened to make Iran open up its program to prove benign intent, which is as good as an admission of guilt, and nothing has proven they will do so under any sanctions regime.

I would add in #4. Sanctions/diplomacy not working and things will get worse, but we (i.e. the U.S.) don't spend the political/diplomatic capital to stop them with military action. That leaves Israel faced with ultimate choice between long term survival and short term chaos. I'm with Krauthammer on that one. The most basic IR/Poli Sci rationale for a state is the safety and survival of its people. No other interest, concern, or morality trumps it.

I am very concerned about #3 happening and us not being ready for it when it does because the conventional wisdom is that sanctions and diplomacy are an alternative to or a way to avoid armed conflict. What happens when the sanctions and diplomacy work so well that the other side sees no alternative than armed conflict? Will we be ready for it when they decide to start taking shots?

I read earlier today that law enofrcement has quietly stepped up protection of Jewish sites in CONUS [Continental US]. Somebody is paying attention.

Yes, at least someone is paying attention.  The question is:  Will it be enough?

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