Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nuclear Politics

The threat of nuclear war has never been greater than it is today. During the height of the cold war, we were much further away from the possibility, because we could count on the Soviets (Russians) to act rationally. Not so with the jokers pictured here. Both Iran and North Korea appear to be moving steadily towards a limited nuclear capability, that is, the ability to put a nuclear warhead on a medium range missile. There is little that America can do to stop this directly.

However, we need to prepare for the eventuality of their use by these madmen. Samuel Johnson is quoted as saying "Nothing more wonderfully concentrates a man's mind than the sure knowledge he is to be hanged in the morning." We need to use this fact to our advantage. It is little known nor appreciated that until Iran possesses nuclear weapons, the U.S. is forbidden by treaty from using nukes against them. This came up in the Iraq war, where some people thought we would respond with nukes if Saddam used chemical or biological weapons. We would not have, because Iraq was a signatory on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and we did not know if they possessed nuclear weapons. North Korea has withdrawn from the treaty, so they are a different case. The differing status of the two nations calls for different approaches to dealing with their ambitions.

First Iran. It is a blessing in disguise that Ahmedinejad won or stole the Iranian election. Iran is really run by the mullahs, and the policy to obtain nukes was not about to change, no matter who won, but now no one can argue about the basic nature of the regime, unless your a Daily Kook. Further, Ahmedinejad hasn't had quite enough time to fully wreck the Iranian economy with his socialist policies. Ultimately, only the people of Iran can through off the yoke of Islamic Socialism. Our approach to Iran needs to be non-provocative, so that we don't feed the propaganda machine of the regime. I know that they will manufacture propaganda, like the good fascists they are, but Iranians are surprisingly able to obtain other sources of news, from Persian language stations in LA for example. Our non-provacative stance will help. But we need to make clear to the people of Iran the true consequences of the path their leadership has put on them on. Right now, they are free from the threat of nuclear retaliation; when the mullahs launch a nuke missile, they face the possibilty of death due to very high temperatures. I think the trajectory of the current regime is inexorably downward, as the young and middle class especially loathe the lack of freedom in the Islamic paradise.

North Korea is a whole different problem. We can never expect the people to rise up, they are starving and can barely perform the basic functions of life. Further, they have no knowledge of the outside world. However, Kim Jong Il plays his little games at the sufferance of China. Right now, it amuses them to watch him threaten the hated Japanese. However, we need to make clear to the Chinese the inherent instability of the situation and our resolve to respond with nukes if the Norks use theirs. Such a retaliation would bring nuclear warheads and fallout uncomfortably close to the Chinese border. I don't think they are going to be too happy with that outcome once they think it through. The other way to influence Kim Jong Il is to remove his access to hard currency. Kim clearly enjoys the finer things that the West produces, so denying him hard currency hits him where he lives. For a while, the U.S. had an effective policy to limit North Korea's criminal enterprises of counterfeiting, cigarettes and currency, drug traficking and sales of missiles. Bringing back this policy and making it explicitly linked to Kim standing down from weaponizing plutonium is also required.

Will any of this work? I am not sure, but I believe a pre-emptive strike is off the table for now, so these are the options available.

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