Friday, June 02, 2006

On intent and example

Yesterday I wondered at the US 'offer' for talks with Iran about its nuclear ambitions, which prompted the question,

Not to skirt your 'issue' here, but do you want Iran to have Nuclear weapons?

This is an interesting question, and one I have definite opinions about that are too lengthy and, I think, address an issue too important to be buried in a simple reply, and so I will post them here, more prominently...

I don't really want anyone to have nuclear weapons.

But that said, any number of countries do, and it's nothing but hypocrisy of the worst self-serving kind for them to suggest it's fine for them but no one else. Iran has signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and under it (or not), has the right to a nuclear enrichment program and nuclear power generation. This makes sense to me; if the one thing you have to sell the world is oil, you're a fool if you're burning a drop more of it yourself than you absolutely have to... especially at $70 a barrel! People need to understand, though, that this is a sovereign right of any nation, and one explicitly confirmed in the treaty. Iran neither needs to negotiate for it, nor do they need anyone's blessing or permission to pursue it.

With regard to nuclear weapons, which is a different matter entirely, consider the circumstances in which Iran finds itself. Iran is surrouned by nuclear powers... Israel, Pakistan, India, China, and Russia ring it. I'm not convinced Iran is out to build nuclear weapons, but if they were, could you blame them? Both Israel and the United States have made first veiled, and then not-so-veiled, threats to use nuclear weapons on Iran as it suits them. My feeling is that is you're constantly threatening a person and his family by sticking guns in their faces, swearing to blow their heads off if they get a gun, a guy might be prevailed upon not to get a gun. But if goes on every time he goes to market, or in the saloon, or to the railroad station, and it becomes abundantly clear you just don't like his face it's never going to end, then sooner or later, he's going to get a gun... hell, he's going to become a gunsmith... because you've made it clear there is no other way it's going to stop. It's hard for me to think of a more sterling example of stupidity in diplomacy than the way the US and Israel have been treating Iran lately. If Iran didn't want the Bomb before, my God, they've got to want it now.

At the bottom of all this is the question of whether or not Iran would be a responsible wielder of ultimate force. I think past conduct is a fair measure of what we might expect of them, if and when they cross that threshold. Since such issues are largely concerned not with internal politics (such arguments in this instance are red herrings), we need to consider the conduct of Iran with regard to its neighbours and the world.

• How many troops has Iran in Iraq? (Particularly relevant given the fact unlike certain other countries who do, Iran is a country Iraq actually did attack, back in 1981...)

• How many Palestinians is Iran walling up extraterritorially and denying rights it guarantees to others?

• How many Iranian soldiers are dying in Afghanistan or sparking riots on the streets of Kabul, where they are increasingly seen as haughty, unwanted invaders?

• How many military bases does Iran maintain and staff in foreign countries around the world, with all the threats they imply to the security of others?

• How many carrier groups does Iran send to conduct provocative military exercises just outside the territorial waters of China?

The answer to all these questions is, of course, none. If one were to be cool and dispassionate about the world's situation and really inquire into who are the troublemakers in it, and who are the ones who seek security and the right to be left alone, I'm not convinced it's Iran who would come up morally wanting when it comes to trusting one nation or another with nuclear weapons. Do I want Iran to have nuclear weapons? No. But not so much because I distrust Iran per se, more because of the brutish, arrogant example set by others who do, who've abandoned almost all restraint and even the respect for the basic rights of other nations. I don't want Iran to become one of those nations... though it seems that role is being thrust upon them.


Polt said...

I think your analogy about the guy with guns in his face is excellent! I think I'll steal that and use it myself when needed. :)

However, you state we should look at past precedent, and the examples you give point out quite accurately why the US might be responsible for a lot that's going on. However, I don't think comparing Iran and US's foreign policies is really accurate.

What we know is that Iran is a Muslim nation. no problem there. My fear is that, if Iran gets nuclear weapons, what if the nation is taken over by a leader one a Jihad with a death wish, a follower and believer in the kind of Islam that Al Qaida believes in? I'm not a knee jerk reactionary who hates all Muslims, quite the opposite, as I think you know, since you read my blog.

But my fear is, if Iran had nuclear weapons, and someone like Muhammad Atta, or someone with similar beliefs got in charge of them, what would prevent him from using them? He would have to know, if he nuked, say Tel Aviv, or dropped one on an American carrier group, or even nuked Baghdad, he's KNOW he'd get nuked in return, but would he CARE? Maybe that's what he could want.

Would someone like this ever get in power in Iran. I would hope not. But my question would be, if Hitler had nuclear weapons, even low powered one, in the Spring of 1945, don't you think he would have used them on Paris, or London or Moscow? And if Hitler can get into power democratically, what's to prevent it in Iran.

This might a better argument for NO nuclear weapons at all. It's possible an American president could go nuts and nuke Ottawa. But we all know nuclear weapons are NOT going to go away. And while I do not like the current American administation on ANY sense of the word, I am more fearful of Iran getting nuclear weapons that I am us having them.

I have no idea WHAT to do to prevent Iran from getting them, nor what to do when (not if, mind you, but when) they do get them. the purpose of this post is to just say why i'm going to be concerned.

Geez, I didn't intend on this being so long. Sorry.

Lone Primate said...

My fear is that, if Iran gets nuclear weapons, what if the nation is taken over by a leader one a Jihad with a death wish, a follower and believer in the kind of Islam that Al Qaida believes in?

You know, there's a whole class of people in the US with their hands on various ropes of power who believe, and quite sincerely, that we at the end of days. They believe in the Rapture, in which they and people like them will literally be whisked up to Heaven before all the bad stuff, which the rest of us will have to endure. These people freckle the halls of power in the US; if George Bush isn't actually one of them, he's very close to being. Need we fear the imaginary prospect an Iran with 20-30 short-range nukes being placed in the hands of such people, more than we need fear the very real possibility of tens of thousands of intercontinental-range weapons in the hands of some American analog?

My point here is that it's not about Iran. Iran has the same rights and the same possibilities (good and bad) as any other group of human beings. The problem is nuclear weapons: the presence of them in any country implies the need for them in others. It's not about Iran getting the bomb, it's about ANYONE having the bomb. Iran would want them for all the same reasons the United States has them, so how can they possibly be criticized? If we want to safe, we have to be serious about getting rid of them all. Attitudes can be changed; in the 1950s, drunk driving was a hilarious joke on sitcoms. By the 1980s, it was anathema. It wouldn't be easy, but it could be accomplished. My fear is, it's going to take a nuclear incident before it really takes root.

if Hitler had nuclear weapons, even low powered one, in the Spring of 1945, don't you think he would have used them on Paris, or London or Moscow?

Would these people be any more or less dead than the innocent civilians of Hiroshima and Nagosaki, if he had? For all the "Nazi Germany might haves", there's the fact that the United States did. Harry Truman, in his diary, literally thank God (he did at least use the comfortable English word "God" rather than the disquieting "Allah"; same difference, though) for delivering the weapon to the United States, and subsequently ordered their use against civilian targets in an exhausted target nation despite the fact that there had already been feelers from Japan about surrender terms, and over the recorded objections of Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, and Admiral William Leahy. In a just world, Harry Truman would have sat in the dock at Nuremburg.

To be frank, the United States has abrogated every moral right it ever had to criticize anyone else about the acquisition or even the use of nuclear weapons.