If I had a quid for every time I’d heard someone accuse the US and UK of “hypocrisy” because we have nukes yet oppose Iran having them I would be blogging on a diamond encrusted solid platinum keyboard. From the Maldives, whilst being fellated by supermodels.
The things that gets my goat about that argument are twofold. It is always said with a smug self-assurance of someone who just knows it’s the killer line in the debate and it’s utter bollocks.
The end of WWII saw three new weapons pitch-up – the jet plane, the assault rifle and the atom bomb. Which do you reckon has killed the fewest people since 1945? OK. Yes I know the deaths from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t end in 1945 but if you want a Sword of Damocles that randomly claims victims after the fight then I reckon, in total, you can’t beat landmines for the enduring misery they cause.
My point is that in responsible hands nuclear weapons are the least killy of all weapons. My definition of “responsible” here is rather fluid. Both Joe Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China had nukes. Nobody in their right mind would think of those two as paragons of rationality or, to put it bluntly, on the side of the angels but… They were at base-level pragmatic, reasonable and could be deterred. It is I think significant that most of the movies and books about a possible WWIII lay the blame on individual nutters or systemic cock-ups and not on a leader thinking on the whole turning the air Uranius would be a wise move. Because for all their many faults Mao and Joe weren’t totally deranged. And neither were our lot.
Now I dunno if Armanidinnerjacket is as nucking futz as he gives the impression. I have no idea why he wants nukes. I can see a very rational reason why he wants them. It would make Iran impregnable. Regardless of what regional proxy devilment the mullahs got up to there could never be an “Operation Iranian Freedom” if Iran was armed with nukes. No matter how repugnant the Iranian regime became there is no way regime change would be a viable option. Nuclear weapons in short are the ultimate innoculation against global opinion. Now I’m not saying that’s good but it might be on the mind of beards and be their motive. If that were the case, it would be unpleasant but we could live with a nuclear Iran. Because essentially Iran would have nuclear weapons for the same reasons everyone else has – as an insurance policy and to join the international dick-swinging contest*. But, and this is a big but, we don’t know. The Iranian regime (and most Iranians I have met are refugees and are frankly quite embarrassed that thousands of years of Persian civilization has culminated in a deranged Islamic Republic) is either utterly unhinged, partially unhinged or pretending to be unhinged. And the problem is we don’t know which of those is the case.
When Nikita Sergeyevich banged his shoe at the UN and promised to “bury” The West we didn’t all panic. It was clear what his schtick was. He was clearly referring to the fact that he saw communism as economically superior to capitalism. And as well as that we all knew by then that he was a rough bugger who called a spade a shovel and didn’t have any time for the “niceties”. When Mahmoud pitches up at the UN and shouts his gob off then… God knows if the Dinnerjacket in chief** is merely pretending to be unhinged or is the full nine yards bonkers but simply because we don’t know the rational deterrence that worked against the Soviets and the Chinese won’t work here.
Because we knew that the minute Uncle Joe and Comrade Mao got the bomb they’d become even more Bolshie but we also knew that they were never in a million years going to unleash global apocalypse on us unless things really went very badly South. We don’t know that about Iran. Let’s say someone in your town buys a gun. Let’s say it’s someone you play golf with and have known for years. It’s not remarkable is it? It just doesn’t occur on your threat radar, nor should it. But let’s imagine instead the guy who bought a gun has a history of paranoid schizophrenia and tortured small animals at school and just last week was kicked out of the local pub for threatening a regular. Then you worry. Nuclear weapons are similarly not the issue. Their ownership is. Friendly countries owning them is fine. Unfriendly countries owning them is a problem but a problem that the last 60 years makes clear is “do-able”. Unstable and potentially unhinged countries owning them is the undiscovered country.
The Cold War created a whole new branch of math. It created “Game Theory”. Now this was invented in the USA but it is inconceivable that the propeller-heads of Whitehall and the Ecoles Superior and the academicians of Moscow and Beijing weren’t thinking along similar lines. Can we honestly say the same about the Iranians? Recall this is a country in which the Revolutionary Guards are a law unto themselves. This is a country whose President can cheerfully state without irony that is a homosexual free zone. This is a country which has vowed to destroy another country. This is a country where the official religion is Shia Islam and part of that is a belief that the hidden imam Mardi will appear miraculously for a final and utterly destructive battle. OK. Lots of cultures and religions bang-on about final battles. Very few make it official policy. We are not about to toss Sweden out of the EU because of their concrete plans for staging Ragnarok by 2015. Mainly because they have no such plans and anyway the Fenris Wolf is unwell. We do though have to consider that the Iranians (maybe – who knows?) are planning Armageddon on a similar timescale***.
That is not rational. And that is the danger. We really don’t know what Iran will try. That is their strength. The Soviets could count on the size of their country, their manpower and resources and being able to field a hell of a lot of tanks. That is a symmetric threat. The US was hardly short of manpower, resources or tanks either. Iran is. They don’t have the manpower, they don’t have the resources and their military is equipped with clapped-out junk from the ’70s. What they do have is absolute unpredictability. If that walks down the aisle with something measured in kilotons then the world is much closer to a nuclear war then it ever was when the USA and the USSR stared across the Arctic wastes at each other with enough warheads to kill everyone on the planet thrice. Because those two were rational players of the game. And that is an ancient game which is understood very well by it’s players. And that is why it was never actually unpacked from the box. If I may use a footballing metaphor. The Cold War was Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal playing for the FA Cup and Iran threatening to join the top-table are the equivalent of Wimbledon’s 1980s “Crazy Gang” lead by Vinnie Jones pitching-up. Their only strength is that they are impossible to predict and that they play dirty. And that makes them dangerous. Not because it means they can win but because they can ensure everyone else loses.
Inspired by Infidel753′s comment here.
*Lets not forget that. Recall India and Pakistan developing nukes. It was cricket by other means.
**I know he’s technically subordinate to some Ayatollah because Iran has a rather odd constitution. That really doesn’t help. It’s rather like the Nazis. Their ministeries were competing fiefdoms as well. Their nuclear research was handed to… Guess. Clue. It wasn’t the Wehrmacht or the Kriegsmarine or the Luftwaffe because the bun-fight which would have ensued between those chaps would have ended with piano wire at dawn. OK then – it was the Post Office. Postman Gunter and his black and white cat directed German nuclear research.
***I’m not a believer but there is a lot of truth in the Bible. There has to be otherwise why would the folk tales of a bronze-age tribe still captivate over a billion people in the age of cell-phones? Now the site of Armageddon is true. In a way. Well, not true as much as likely. The same places have a tendency to be the site of battles again and again throughout history. Why? Because if it was strategic to Caeser it probably still is and Megiddo has been fought over many, many times.