Yes, with the caveat that using it would lead to their immediate and total annihilation, and they know that. The comparisons to 1938 break down when we remember that Iran would face complete destruction if the gloves came off, and they would if a nuke was used anywhere.
Well, yes and no.
The idea that they would be faced with “complete destruction” then requires you to answer where that destruction would come from.
Once the have a nuclear capability, then you need to acknowledge that they would then have the ability to do a ton of terrible damage to various countries, including Europe with the range of their existing missiles.
So, imagine they give some nuke to a terrorist group and they go and blow something up with it. Are you so certain that everyone is going to jump on the bandwagon to destroy Iran, knowing that Iran could potentially have more nuclear weapons which it is then able to fire at them in their final death throws?
The notion of mutually assured destruction isn’t really an effective deterrent. It basically hinges upon the idea that the second guy is going to be irrational and willing to start a nuclear war. Iran blows someone up and then… the expected response is to blow them up out of revenge? I can tell you right now, tons of people would directly oppose that kind of response.
They would face terrible fallout, total political isolation, possible invasions and really no good stuff, it’s insanity…Iran hasn’t really invaded anyone and while they have backed various interrest , they would be idiots to think they can hand out nukes like that. I don’t see why this scenario is so ducking plausible at all
This is a reasonable view. I sometimes, though, veer into heresy, and think that the opposite–more states with nukes–might not in the long run be better. Hear me out–I’m not 100% sold on this myself, but here’s my thinking:
1: Nukes are impossible to prevent. Any nation with enough interest and resources, and the resource needs get lower and lower each decade, can develop nuclear weapons capability. There’s no effective way to stop this. The know-how is out there, it’s usually an engineering problem that will, eventually, get solved.
2: No one has used a nuke since 1945, even when some rather iffy regimes have had them. There is a truly international sense that no matter what nastiness you can get away with, nuking someone isn’t acceptable. Pretty much everyone knows that if a sovereign nation is first to use a nuke, except in truly dire circumstances (enemy at the gates type stuff), they’re toast.
3: Efforts spent in futility trying to stop countries from developing nukes are better focused on making sure they control, secure, and manage the capability they do end up with. This is the approach we’ve taken with Pakistan and India, and so far, so good.
4: The prime driver for nuclear weapons is generally fear by strong peripheral nations that they will be attacked or invaded by the big powers. They feel, rightly, that having nukes makes this much less likely. This situation–that peripheral powers feel threatened by the US and others, whether rightly or wrongly–is not likely to change soon, so you can’t really remove the main reason why people want nukes.
- Sort of like people argue about firearms at home, if everyone has nukes, everyone walks a lot more softly.
Ok, the problems with this approach are also easy to see. The biggest is that what works for sovereign nations, which have a lot to lose, doesn’t necessarily apply to, say, ISIS or the Chechyns or any number of non-state actors. Proliferation by its very nature increases the chance that someone will screw up or deliberately transfer nukes to really crazy people with nothing to lose. Beyond that, there’s the same weakness in the “an armed society is a civil society” argument, that is, history seems to show that when everyone is armed everyone tends to shoot each other. So yeah, I’m not 100% behind this crazy plan.
But…number one above still stands in my book: if a country wants nukes, eventually, they’ll get them. After the Osirak strikes, pretty much everyone realized they needed to bury and harden their nuke sites, and there’s about zero chance that a conventional air strike today could eliminate, say, Iran’s nuclear capability such as it is. What’s more, nothing can eliminate the know-how, and there’s no hardware or infrastructure that can’t be rebuilt. Sure, I guess you could engage in a campaign of perpetual war to continuously bombard someone to stop them from developing nukes (or anything else, including their economy probably), but that hardly seems like a good plan either. And I still think any threats strong enough to convince a nation to stop building nukes, when not accompanied by any positive diplomatic action and benefits for said country, is simply going to drive development further underground and inculcate hatreds that will one day bite us in the ass.
tl;dr, I wish there was a solution to this dilemma, but I don’t see one. The genie is out of the bottle and the best we can do maybe is work to make sure everyone knows the consequences for either using these things or letting the real bad guys get a hold of them.
In a perfect world, I’d rather see none of these devices in anyone’s hands. But I’m not that worried about nukes in the hands of governments, even the weirdos in Pyongyang (though those guys do give me the willies, I admit). I do fear nukes in the hands of non-state actors, but the threat their is largely from the Russians or Paks I think, where the prospect of loose nukes is much more likely.
Reasonable concerns, but jumping the gun a bit. For Iran to anything effective they would need not only a basic capability, but a robust delivery and production infrastructure, far beyond anything they are likely to have in the near to mid term. And yes, if you see Tehran as fundamentally willing to risk it all on doing damage to Israel, then there isn’t any scenario that works really. But it’s pretty clear that Israel would not wait for a UN committee to determine blame, but would nuke Iran in response to any nuclear attack they could even half-plausibly trace back to Tehran. I suspect that even without nukes the US would engage in a massive conventional bombardment of the country as well.
But yes, all of these are situations best avoided. The question is, how? Perpetual confrontation and belligerence hasn’t really done much, nor would the sort of preemptive attacks Israeli governments keep hinting at (or outright asking for). So we’re left with some hard choices.
I think part of it ends up coming down to requiring Iran to make more significant concessions regarding their nuclear capabilities in order to strike a deal with the west. You basically need to say, “Look, we’re not gonna deal with you guys at all unless you verifiably prove that you have destroyed all of your nuclear development capabilities.”
TheWombat - Actually, I’m far from sure about the stability of Iran in the longer term. The Islamic government is far from popular among many citizens, and nuclear material might well leak if there was serious trouble. Oh, probably not complete warheads, but material which could be used in, say, a dirty bomb.
The problem with nuclear proliferation won’t be wars between nations, it will be civil wars and revolutions, and the people’s ability to change their leaders without dying wholesale, this is why they are bad to me.
Does anyone think it might be possible that Netanyahu is actually working as a stalking horse for US interests in the current negotiations with Iran?
I read an article a few weeks back talking about how the most likely effect of Congress’ talking about additional sanctions (but not implementing them) was actually to strengthen the hand of US negotiators vis-a-vis Iran. The thought in the article was that it gave US negotiators the ability to say “look, we need to reach an arrangement quickly before the loons on capitol hill pass further sanctions” and in so doing actually helped the negotiating team.
I’m not 100% sure I buy in to that, frankly. And I buy into it even less if you think about it as a coordinated strategy with Congress, since, well, coordinating with Congress is virtually impossible.
I also don’t think it’s likely Netanyahu is coordinating with the US, but is the primary impact of his bluster (outside of helping his reelection bid – and don’t kid yourself that it was ever about anything else!) to help or hurt the US negotiating team? Unwittingly (or at least as an externality) on Netanyahu’s part, I suspect it helps, at least insofar as it emphasizes US independence of Israel in the negotiations and shows that the Administration is going out on a limb with Iran. What do you folks think?
I don’t think he’s that sophisticated, Aleck.
Although yes, Obama might well be using /him/ (and his entirely predictable reactions)
If we can’t look at the simple reality of why nuclear proliferation is more likely now (compared to 15 ears ago), then we are never going to create that safer world with less wars and less extremism you sound like you might prefer? Again, it’s our fault, more specifically the Republican party and neo-cons in the Bush era’s. And it worked exactly as designed, to create more war (more money for the arms industry (and closely affiliated Big Oil etc)) which = more profit for a certain section of Uncle Sam.
Try to keep all that in mind next time you vote for your Republican ‘War’ President. That is the ‘Chicken’.
ISIS, Bin Laden, 9/11 et all - that is the ‘Egg’.
The big reason I don’t want an Iranian nuke is that I really don’t want a Saudi nuke. The Saudis are completely insane , and when their monarchy falls it will likely be ISIS-like types taking over.
No nation in the Middle East deserves nukes (and that includes Israel, a state I consider not an ally of the US)
Well, some of these countries will have to get an actual education system first, there are no recepies for nukes in the Quoran and if they continue to keep religious studies the main line of education, that won’t change, I’m looking at Saudi Arabia here. Actually, the region as a whole exept Israel has barely any school systems at all.
Edit : fact checked a bit, it’s even worse than I thought, Egypt and many other countries lack any meaningful education at all. Basically large segments of the populations are illiterate, and those who can read, only a very small amount can read complex materials.
This is very different than back in 1940 USA and Europe. Unless they buy weapons, none of them can produce anything beyond simple rifles.
Saudis could buy the know-how or weapons from Pakistan, and I believe Pakistan has said they would help the Saudis in such a scenario.
Many, maybe most, middle-class and higher Saudis are western-educated. A lot of them go back home with a mild distaste for the religious conservatism, though once they reach a certain income threshold it doesn’t affect them too much. They have private villas where they socialize freely, and they travel to Dubai or elsewhere regularly to partake in western entertainment.
That’s not to say that Saudi isn’t weird with an insanity element in charge. Just that they have western weapons already and don’t use them (in ways we disprove of). Let’s see what develops this year now that the King passed away. Personally, if things go ok as I suspect, we’ll see some positive signs soon such as relaxing the ban on women driving.
I do agree that no-one should have a nuke over there, just that my level of fear would be 10/10 for ISIS or equivalent, 8/10 for Palestinians, and 4/10 for Iran, Syria, Saudi, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, etc).
You left Pakistan and Israel off of your list. Pakistan earns a 9 from me. It has a big arsenal, an unstable government, and an extremely large population of terrorists and Islamists. Its past and current conflicts with Iran and India are not reassuring, either, and are part of Iran’s motivation to have a nuclear program of its own. The other reason is to prevent US led attacks, obviously.
Israel would get a 4. While I can’t see them ever using nukes first, the fact that they have them and everyone knows it encourages the rest of the region to arm themselves as well, something I think we all agree would be a Bad Thing.
Read up on AQ Khan. All any nation anywhere in the world needed to get a nuclear program as recently as a decade ago was cash.
The French have always been happy to help anyone with nuclear reactors in my experience.
You can’t practically use the reactors they build for building weapons, though, that’s the difference.
Col. Lang linked to this article on his blog.
“Israelis grow up with the expression of ‘never be a freier,’ i.e., a push-over or loser, someone who can be taken for a ride,” Ari Ben Zeev wrote in his 2001 book “The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Israelis.” “This omnipresent need ‘not to be a freier’ can be traced to 2,000 years of being a struggling minority and also to the Middle Eastern neighborhood rule that everything is negotiable.”