Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fear and loathing 

The blogosphere is unleashing its best fear and loathing on the prospect of the US starting an unprovoked, aggressive nuclear war against Iran.
First, for some perspective on Iran's actual political situation and actual uranium enrichment capabilities, see these two short articles:
Ian Welsh's The Three Principles of Iranian Foreign Affairs
[1]Iran wants its neighbours to not be a threat . . . [2] Iran needs a deterrent against the US and other great powers . . . [and 3] The Mullahs intend to stay in charge . . . Really, almost everything else is a corollary of these three rules . . .
And Juan Cole's "Iran can now make glowing Mickey Mouse watches" :
. . . all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they "cascade." The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180. Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb, and since its leaders, including Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, say they do not want an atomic bomb because it is Islamically immoral, you have to wonder if they will ever have a bomb . . . The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran. Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base . . . If this international game of chicken goes wrong, then the whole Middle East and much of Western Europe could go up in flames.
Now for some perspectives on the impact such a war would have on the world and on the United States itself:
Billmon worries about the muted media reaction to a US nuclear first strike:
. . . to the extent there is a rational excuse for treating a nuclear strike on Iran as the journalistic equivalent of a seasonal story about people washing their cars, it must be the cynical conviction that the Cheneyites aren’t serious . . . the rest of us have learned that when Dick Cheney starts muttering about precious bodily fluids, you'd better pay attention. . . . Maybe the idea of the United States would launch a nuclear first strike – albeit a "surgical" one – is too hard for most Americans, including most American journalists, to process . . . the current nuclear war gaming strikes me as much more likely to end in the real thing – partly because the neocons appear to have convinced themselves a "tactical" strike doesn't really count, partly because of what Hersh politely refers to as Bush's "messianic vision" (Cheney may have his finger on the bureaucracy, but Shrub is still the one with his finger on the button) but mostly because I think these guys really think they can get away with it . . .
Tristero at Hullabaloo punctures the myth of the so-called "tactical" nuke:
It really doesn't take much effort to make a tactical nuclear device.
1. Take one nuclear weapon with the destructive power of as many Hiroshima bombs as you like.
2. Add the word "tactical" to the description.
Voila! You now have a tactical nuclear weapon that magically always hits its target and only kills evil people, leaving all the good people alive and perfectly healthy.
Josh Marshall :
President Bush's dimwit megalomania seems to have survived the disaster of his Iraq adventure wholly intact . . . They appear to have learned almost nothing from the last three years in Iraq. The only sensible expenditure of energy is to find ways to hem these guys in or constrain them before they do even more damage to this country.
Pachacutec at Firedoglake:
Nuking Iran will not just incite the Middle East against us for the rest of our lifetimes. The whole world will turn against us. China. Everyone. World War III. Terrorism will continue its post 2001 increase. Oil will go to $200 per barrel, destroying our economy. Many of us will starve as food grows scarce. Most of us - the educated and the unskilled alike - will lose our jobs. Foreign nations will sell U. S. dollars and invest in Euros. We will lose international trade, and our national debt holders will band together to neutralize us. Nuking Iran would quite simply be the end of America . . . the current Bush policy is not contemplated in self defense. Iran is ten years away from the ability to develop weapons grade uranium. It possesses no nukes today. This is a situation fundamentally unlike any we faced during the cold war with the USSR. All Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, should stand shoulder to shoulder to demand that plans for preemptive nuclear strikes against Iran be scrapped . . . Iran is willing to engage in direct negotiations with the U. S. Our allies lack the leverage to induce concessions without our participation in direct talks. And yet, we refuse to talk to Iran. What is the point of threatening use of force when we offer Iran no alternative course of action, other than confrontation? Bush and Cheney are playing suicide pact politics in a gutless, insane attempt to save their plummeting poll numbers among some members of the Republican base going into the November elections. They want to look strong because they are weak: that makes them dangerous. They love their power more than they love America. . . . There is no reason to believe Bush is bluffing, since he has offered no negotiated way back from confrontation to Iran’s leaders (who frankly also face weakness at home and are at least in part colluding in this suicide pact for internal political gain). Bush is too filled with grandiose messianic delusion to engage in sane "strategery."
Arthur Silber :
If we can repeatedly engage in aggressive, non-defensive war -- and if we can use nuclear weapons offensively -- other countries will make the same arguments. Self-justification is not our exclusive domain. We may want to believe that we can control events across the world: the last few years have demonstrated conclusively that we cannot control events even within Iraq. But if we continue to seek to control events on a worldwide scale in the manner we do today, we will achieve one end at some point: destruction of a kind that will make the twentieth century pale in comparison . . . The possible end of civilization as all of us have known it, either in slow motion or on a faster schedule, is almost impossible to comprehend. It is the material of science fiction, not of real life. But whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, this is the nature of where we are today, and this is the critical historic juncture at which we stand . . . The world as we have known it may well be swept away in time, just as all the great civilizations of the past have been
We should also remember this:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
and this:

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