Thursday, December 02, 2010

"The Folly of Attacking Iran"

Steve Chapman, a writer for the Chicago Tribune, has an article in Townhall criticizing plans to attack Iran. His article, "The Folly of Attacking Iran," is thoughtful and deserves careful consideration.

Regarding an "attack on a Middle Eastern country that has not attacked us and poses no threat to our security" Chapman asks, "Haven't we tried that, and didn't we learn anything about starting wars we don't know how to end?"  

Good question. The problem, however, wasn't that we took out what we suspected to be Saddam's WMD program. The problem was that we decided not only to take over the country but to engage in nation-building.  I don't know of anyone who advocates that with Iran. 


Besides, the U.S. once took out Libya's WMD-making capability, and Israel has done the same with Syria. The results in both cases were good. That, of course, doesn't mean that doing the same in Iran would produce similar results, but comparing our nation-building efforts in Iraq with taking out nuclear capability in Iran is apples and oranges.


Writing of Saudi Arabia's view that the U.S. needs to cut off the head of the snake (Iran), Chapman says, "If a snake comes after you, cutting off its head is the right response. If it's merely curled up in a distant lair, keeping its venom in reserve, staying away makes far more sense."


It sure does--if we were just talking about snakes. Fortunately, most snakes do not prey on people. If you leave them alone, they will probably leave you alone. We cannot say the same thing about Iran. They actively fund terrorists and even engage in terrorist ventures through their proxies. Once they have nuclear weapons, there is reason to believe they will use them, either directly or as means of blackmail.


Chapman, however, questions this assumption "that once Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will use them."  Chapman says that "zealots and despots" like Ahmadinejad, "have a powerful instinct for for self preservation" just like Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. Chapman says that "The Iranians know that any use of nuclear weapons traceable to them would be sure to accomplish one thing: their annihilation."


That is assuming, of course, that we could trace a dirty bomb or nuclear explosion back to Iran with enough certainty to justify nuking Tehran. But even if we could trace a nuclear attack back to Iran, nuking a million innocent people in Tehran is no compensation for the million lives Iran would have taken in the initial attack. 


Chapman's argument 
also assumes that the West really would nuke Iran under any circumstances. Many in the West would say that it is just not morally justifiable to kill a million innocent people, not even in response to a nuclear attack.

Finally, Chapman is equating atheist-Communists with Islamic zealots who believe they have  mission from God to bring the entire world under submission to Allah by any and all means necessary. Chapman fails to understand that we are dealing with an entirely different worldview.


Chapman argues that having nuclear weapons would not even "help Iran in pushing its neighbors around" because Iran's nuclear capability would just unite them to unite "in opposition to Tehran--and even closer to the United States."  


I think Chapman significantly and naively underestimates the potential power of nuclear blackmail.


Chapman says that "the only real value of acquiring an atomic arsenal is to deter attack and invasion." He cites Iraq which did not have WMD and was invaded by the U.S. whereas North Korea does have WMD and was not.


Chapman's point is on the tip of a two-edged sword. The other edge of that sword is that once a nation has nuclear weapons and the capability of delivering them, they can commit pretty much any atrocities against their own people or against anyone else who does not have nukes, and there is not much the world community can do about it (take the imperialism of China and the former Soviet Union as examples).


Besides, Chapman is basically dismissing Iran's warnings about wiping Israel off the face of the earth as if these warnings were empty rhetoric (in spite of the fact that Iran has spent millions funding Hamas and Hezbollah attacks against Israel). 


But what if Chapman is wrong? What if Iran really used nuclear weapons against Israel and a million people die. It would be a bit too late to say, "Hmmm, gee, sorry about that. We really didn't think they meant what they said" (even though they said it over and over and over again).


But Chapman is right about one thing. The possible consequences of taking out Iran's nuclear capability could be horrendous!  In fact, I would argue that the only thing worse, would be the possible consequences of NOT taking out Iran's nuclear capability.

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