Friday, February 17, 2012

Worries About Iran

John Mueller has a good comment on Iran published on The Guardian's website on February 16. For all those people getting their panties in a bunch about Iran's nuclear program, this is a good read. So much of the talk about Iran is exactly like the talk about Iraq in 2002 and 2003. Have we forgotten how that turned out for us and thousands of Iraqi people? Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Haven't all the saber-rattlers in the US seen The Princess Bride:
Money quotes:
Iran would most likely "use" any nuclear capacity in the same way all other nuclear states have: for prestige (or ego‑stoking) and to deter real or perceived threats. Historical experience strongly suggests that new nuclear countries, even ones that once seemed hugely threatening, like communist China in the 1960s, are content to use their weapons for such purposes. 
Indeed, as strategist (and Nobel laureate) Thomas Schelling suggests, deterrence is about the only value the weapons might have for Iran. Such devices, he points out, "would be too precious to give away or to sell" and "too precious to waste killing people" when they could make other countries "hesitant to consider military action".

There is also an uncomfortable truth. If Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon, the only way it can be effectively stopped is invasion and occupation, an undertaking that would make America's costly war in Iraq look like child's play. Indeed, because it can credibly threaten invaders with another and worse Iraq, Iran scarcely needs nuclear weapons to deter invasion. This fact might eventually dawn on its leaders.
Air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities might temporarily set them back, but the country's most likely response would be to launch a truly dedicated effort to obtain a bomb, as Iraq's nuclear weapons budget was increased twenty-five-fold after its facilities were bombed by Israel in 1981. Moreover, Iran might well respond by seeking to make life markedly more difficult for US and Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

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