Friday, January 20, 2006

Suitcase nukes

Reuters carried story that France was prepared to retaliate against any nation which launched a terrorist attack upon it with nuclear weapons.

France said on Thursday it would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state that carried out a terrorist attack against it, reaffirming the need for its nuclear deterrent. Deflecting criticism of France’s costly nuclear arms program, President Jacques Chirac said security came at a price and France must be able to hit back hard at a hostile state’s centers of power and its “capacity to act.”

He said there was no change in France’s overall policy, which rules out the use of nuclear weapons in a military conflict. But his speech pointed to a change of emphasis to underline the growing threat France perceives from terrorism. “The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part,” Chirac said during a visit to a nuclear submarine base in northwestern France.

The obvious target of the warning was Iran. But how effective is a conventional deterrent against a state which might sponsor terrorist proxies armed with nuclear weapons? At a discussion at the Confederate Yankee one commenter said:

The fear is not that Iran would attack us, but that they would produce countless small nuclear devices and turn them over to the terrorists whom they support. These would then be smuggled into many major cities in all the western nations for detonation.

The terrorist "suitcase nuclear weapon" is the nightmare scenario often invoked to explain why such weapons should never be allowed to fall into the hands of leaders like President Ahmadinejad. It was this fear which provided much of the rationale for launching Operation Iraqi Freedom. But a closer examination of the suitcase nuke problem suggests that this method of delivery has certain limitations. Let's begin a thought experiment by considering the number of suitcase nukes that would be required to destroy a country like France or the United States.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a somewhat left of center think tank, produced a very respectable model of how many nuclear weapons would be required to inflict damage to the point of diminishing returns, a concept accepted by Robert McNamara at the height of the Cold War. This inflection point is known as the "knee" and occurred where around 25% of the target population was killed. The NRDC recalculated the numbers for the year 1999 with these results; which are probably correct at least to order of magnitude.

 

Country 1999 population 25% of population No of 375 kt  warheads needed to threaten 25% of the population

United States

258,833,000

64,708,250

124

Canada

28,402,320

7,100,580

11

United Kingdom

56,420,180

14,105,045

19

France

57,757,060

14,439,265

25

Germany

81,436,300

20,359,075

33

Italy

57,908,880

14,477,220

21

Spain

39,267,780

9,816,945

20

All NATO Member Countries

754,933,329

188,730,000

300

Russia

151,827,600

37,956,300

51

China

1,281,008,318

320,252,079

368

North Korea

22,034,990

5,508,747

4

Iran

64,193,450

16,048,363

10

Iraq

20,941,720

5,235,430

4

Syria

14,045,470

3,511,368

2

Libya

5,245,515

1,311,329

2

According to these figures it will take about 150 nukes to 'destroy' the fabric and cohesion of the United States and about 30 to do the same to France. Note that inflicting this damage will not have any substantial effect the US ability to perform an immediate counterstrike with thousands of nuclear warheads because these are deployed in hardened facilities or on submerged platforms which would survive a paltry (by Cold War standards) 150 warhead strike. But this number would be enough to finish the target nation as cohesive society for decades.

The problem with suitcase nukes is maintaining command and control over them. Any suitcase nuke which could be armed and detonated by its possessor (protected only by a combination detonator just like the movies) would have serious defects as a weapon. This method delegates so much command and control over the weapon to the possessor that it is effectively "his". In our thought experiment, imagine a rogue state providing such weapons to 150 terrorist teams for use against the United States. There would be no assurance that once deployed these weapons would not be stolen or used for unintended purposes. It would be possible for a rogue team to sell the weapon to the highest bidder, perhaps a rival rogue state looking for such devices. It would not be impossible for one of the teams to turn against its masters and use it against them. A team with a suitcase nuke might divert to Switzerland where they could demand the payment of a few billion dollars in exchange for not blowing up Zurich. A suitcase weapon could be captured by the CIA or the Mossad and reimported into the rogue state where it could be detonated against targets who could hardly admit its true provenance. If the teams belonged to rival political terrorist organizations they could be used against each other. Clearly, releasing a large number of suitcase nuclear weapons without positive command and control would be less than ideal and probably disastrous for the wielder.

The most probable workaround to the problem would be to deploy these weapons at a very low rate by sending them out one trusted team at a time. In that way the weapon would be used within a short period and watched, probably by a large number of mutually counterchecking personnel, every step of the way. One nuke to Paris. Boom. One nuke to New York. Boom. The problem with solving the control problem by slowing down the rate of attack is apparent from the table above. One nuke in Paris or New York will be grossly insufficient to finish the infidel enemy but quite sufficient to provoke a massive response. Once the fissile traces are identified ten thousand warheads will be headed back the other way.

The other obvious possibility is to deploy a large number of suitcase nukes in a componentized configuration so that it requires the assembly of several teams, each with part of the requisite firing information or componentry to activate the device. (This is conceptually similar to the two key system on boomers) For example, Iran could deploy 450 teams -- three teams to activate a suitcase bomb -- with the intent of controlling 150 devices targeted at the United States. Unfortunately a force of this size could hardly remain covert for any length of time. The teams security would rapidly "deteriorate" in a deployed environment and would almost certainly be discovered before long. Once discovered the game would be up. The weapons would no longer be deniable and their use would be open belligerency. The suitcase weapons would have no advantage to nuclear bombs delivered by the air force of the rogue nation.

Which brings us back to France. Perhaps the French have calculated that nuclear deniability is ultimately unattainable and are conveying to President Ahmadinejad that 'if you nuke us, you die'.

Additional Comment

I should add that the proliferation of suitcase nuclear weapons would be just as much a security nightmare for a rogue state as any other. If Iran could make such a weapon, so could Israel from fissile material obtained from third party sources. If a suitcase nuke went off in Teheran, who would have done it, the Israelis or the Saudis? Both would have an ample motive. A suitcase nuke detonating in Islamabad could point both to Tel Aviv and New Delhi. But likely rogue states, unlike the US, would be vulnerable to a low rate attack -- it will only take 2 or 3 nukes to bring a country like Syria to the McNamara's 'knee'. The suitcase nuke game is not one which always favors smaller powers.

183 Comments:

Blogger Cybrludite said...

This, of course, assumes that the Iranians listen to game theory policy wonks and go for direct effects rather than hoping to get the results they want from a strike at our morale.

1/20/2006 05:35:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I think Iran will discover that its nukes will be just as unusable as those possessed by France. They can provide deterrence, but they cannot, as the Iranian President has so often sworn, be used offensively to incinerate Israel. Israel, although a small country, is impervious to an Iranian first strike because Israel has a seabased deterrent. If so then there's some hope this whole conflict will stay conventional.

1/20/2006 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Wretchard said
"Clearly, releasing a large number of suitcase nuclear weapons without positive command and control would be less than ideal and probably disastrous for the wielder."

Let us pray the Islamists and their enablers are as rational as the Russians.

An aside... do you put any credence in the old stories that Soviet Spetznaz teams might have prepositioned smuggled nukes in the US?

1/20/2006 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I am not sure that the Iranians see nukes as weapons that in themselves will destroy the west. Rather, they offer the opportunity to provoke an eschatological conflict. Their idea of "winning" is alien to ours and conventional analysis breaks down when confronted by it.

1/20/2006 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

An interesting graph, but notice that the weapon size used in the table is 375 kt. the Pakistanis, whom have supplied the Iranians, do not field weapons of that size

" ... This implies that Pakistan can built pure fission or boosted fission devices with yields ranging from sub-kiloton up to perhaps 100 kt. Higher yields are possible, but suffer from the delivery weight limits of its existing missiles and probable limits to Pakistani miniaturization technology. ... "
Size limitations of Paki nukes

There is also a table there that describes the missle delivery systems, again the Iranians are no further advanced than the Pakistanis. The Maximum payload of ANY Paki missle is 1000kg. That is well above 'suitcase' size.

This site says that:
" ... NRDC estimates their explosive yields are 5 to 25 kilotons (1 kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT). By comparison, the yield of the weapon the United States exploded over Hiroshima was 15 kilotons, while the bomb exploded over Nagasaki was 21 kilotons. ... "
Not quite 375kt

A suitcase weapon would, by necessity, be lighter and less powerful. At max a 3.5kt weapon, most likely much less, as small as .35Kt.

The number of Iranian or Pakistani weapons required to obtain the "knee" is 100 to 1000 times that in the table, or 12,400 to 124,000 weapons. The capacity or any terrorist delivery system delivery on that scale is unlikely.

Which is not to say that a suitcase nuke is 'safe', but a detonation of ONE would be no worse than Katrina, really much less so.

1/20/2006 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger nonomous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/20/2006 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger nonomous said...

Suitcase nuclear bombs will return high profits to the blackmailer. There is no need to detonate hundreds of devices. One or two devices which leave chemical finger prints pointing at multiple sources is enough. The detonation of one bomb would improve TV rating for the MSM, and the general public would never be told blackmail was being paid.

1/20/2006 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger EddieP said...

Jacques steps up to the plate, and the German press howls about the end of diplomacy. How long will it be before the horrible devastation (according to the LLL) of our transatlantic relations with Old Europe comes full circle and GWB and Frere Jacques and Frau Merkel are all chatting in the Oval Office?

1/20/2006 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

I think Wretchard and the planners who count on the rationality of people like the Iranians -- not to mention their understandings of game theory, a fiendish Western device requiring more than a passing acquantance with very advanced mathematics -- are missing the point.

Terrorists will use nuclear terror weapons primarily to instill terror. Mere conventional backpack bombs took Spain out of the war on terror. Think what taking out even a 1 kilometer radius of Paris, Rome or London would do!

Indeed, there would be calls for retaliation, but there would also be MASSIVE refusal to believe they bad guys couldn't be bought off.

Of course, they Iranians may or may not understand the nicities of the North Atlantic Treaty whereby a nuke on one NATO member could result in massive retaliation from the Big Dog.

Moreover, I do think the Iranians would use nukes, should they be allowed to acquire them, against the Israelis. Killing lots of Jews would be worth taking a pretty big hit to them.

1/20/2006 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

I would doubt that Iran would use suitcase nukes.
First, there is the sophistication required to build them. Among other things, Plutonium is a necessity.

Second, the leadership of Iran would have a lot riding on the bombs. Sending your only truly effective weapons out into the world protected by no more than a few guys with AK's would be far too risky. The U.S. reached this conclusion in regards to nuclear-armed Mace missiles in West Germany. Designed for transportability, complete with a special all-terrain vehicle right out of a SF movie, we quickly concluded that we did not want guys with nuclear missiles tearing off across the countryside.

Third, if just one of the Iranian nukes were intercepted the jig would be up, big time. Effectively, it would be the same as setting that one off in Tehran.

Also, realize that if we fired a missile at Iran the first they would know of it was when the warhead went off. Given their limited tracking capabilities, all of our nukes are as covert as suitcase nukes.

1/20/2006 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

On a related note, as the President's Press agent noted the other day when the US froze the assets of a Syrian spy, we have sent a "signal".

The Iranians are pulling their cash assets out of European Banks.

" ... Iran is moving foreign exchange out of European banks in advance of a possible referral to the United Nations Security Council and imposition of economic sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Ebrahim Sheibani, Central Bank governor, told reporters on Friday that Iran would “transfer the foreign exchange reserves wherever we consider expedient” and confirmed a shift from Europe had begun. ... "

From the Financial Times.

But I bet that their covert assets are still in place.

1/20/2006 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger PD Quig said...

If you haven't already seen it, here's a Center for Nonproliferation Studies article with some info on suitcase nukes:

The paper reaches two main conclusions:

First, the probability that any portable nuclear devices were lost prior to or after the breakup of the Soviet Union appears low; the scenarios of loss offered by the special commission in 1996 are actually the least plausible among other possible scenarios. This does not mean that the threat does not exist, but rather that at this moment, it is probably not the most immediate threat to the home security of the United States or to U.S. armed forces abroad.

Second, even if any devices were lost, their effectiveness should be very low or maybe even non-existent, especially if the loss occurred during the period of the greatest risk, in the early 1990s. Without scheduled maintenance, these devices apparently can produce only minimal yield and eventually possibly no yield at all, and can only serve as a source of small amounts of weapons-grade fissile materials.

That being said, open-source information has limited usefulness and can only yield probabilistic analysis instead of definitive answers.

http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/020923.htm

1/20/2006 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger Fenrisulven said...

Wretchard, do you think the West has the will to use nukes in a retaliatory strike? I don't believe Chirac - if Paris is nuked by terrorists, and the foresenics determine the device originated in Iran, I think the "nuanced elites" would not allow the government to retaliate against millions of innocent people in Iran.

1/20/2006 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger Rem870 said...

Desert Rat, at 5:54, covered what I first wanted to point out.

I think it is important to note that little would deter the Iranians from nuking Israel. Assuming that an immediate retaliation were to occur, to the Iranians, it would be similar to a remote suicide bombing.

1/20/2006 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger summignumi said...

One suite case bomb detonated in Washington would be sufficient to change the American fabric beyond ones ability to comprehend, and I would add that one in major city where a 100K death toll was the most likely result would cause the shock to the world the IRANIANS are after, I am not sure if one Nuke in FRANCE would have the same effect as in the USA.

The scale used here is an Apple to Oranges, being the cold war antagonist wanted something left in the end, IRAN and the terrorist do not, they want the end!

That is why one suite case bomb in their hands is nothing in comparison to the Russians and Chinese or even the NK, Pakistan and India having them.

Yes the IRAINS would have a lot to worry about if handing out the high number of suite case bombs but their risk is next to nil when it is a small handful in devout Homicide bombers hands and that is really all they need.

1/20/2006 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

wretchard,

Granted that Israel's nukes would be a deterrent to the Iranian people (if their opinions were ever consulted). The real question is whether they would be a deterrent to the mullahs pulling the trigger.

Whether it would be a deterrent would depend on (A) whether Israel's nukes would be able to reach Iran's rulers wherever they might decide to hide, and (B) whether Iran's mullahs really mind dying as long as they accomplish their objectives

Consider the possibility that a player behind the scenes (eg China) might find an advantage in a deniable pawn triggering a general conflict between the West and Islam which would cripple both sides, leaving the player in a dominant position afterwards.

1/20/2006 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

Hundreds of palis women cheered yesterday in Nablus when learning one of their own detonated himself, killing a Jewish OwnedFood stand, (wounding 20 humans)...

think of the glee when one of their own attempts to nuke a Jewish owned gravel pit? or maybe the glee when they attempt to nuke a jewish owned shoe shine stand... or a jewish own nail salon....

now think of the glee these animals (yes i know that's mean spirited of me) will shout when then dirty nuke a jewish hospital murdering 8,000?

complete destruction by a suitcase bomb aint the point... these impodent arab/moslems are so victimized by their complete worthlessness in the modern world, that destructions of ANYTHING jewish from a hot dog stand (on the low end) to successful murder of a dozen young jewish girls eatting pizza is victory...

1/20/2006 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

Consider the possibility that a player behind the scenes (eg China) might find an advantage in a deniable pawn triggering a general conflict between the West and Islam which would cripple both sides, leaving the player in a dominant position afterwards.

consider china with no one to sell their cheap consumer goods to...

1/20/2006 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I can't pretend to know what the Iranian leadership thinks. But I'd bet they haven't got a concious nuclear doctrine yet, just a vague idea that these weapons are "somehow" desirable. I'd further venture that they think these babies are just bigger car bombs.

But once they get the capability to make them, these weapons will pose just as much a danger to them as to anyone else. Not in the least because the infrastructure and suppliers which gave them to Iran are not bound to Teheran. Sell one, sell two.

It isn't that nuclear weapons aren't dangerous. It's that the danger is not, as some would argue, asymmetrically weighted against the West. The danger I think is even greater for Iran than it is to the West. The problem -- to return to the point that they probably have no doctrine -- is that they don't realize it.

1/20/2006 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

pd quig,

You are correct about the shelf life of suitcase nukes. Tac nukes need tritium in order to work. Tritium has a half life of 12 years, and decays into helium-3. Helium-3 absorbs neutrons readily (turning into the stable isotope helium-4), which is NOT something that will improve the working of a fission device.

Also, long term exposure to radiation is bad for the functioning of the electronic components.

1/20/2006 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

pork rinds,

In the 1930's, Germany's biggest trading partner was France

The thug thinks "why trade, when I can just take?"

1/20/2006 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

PRfA wrote:

...consider china with no one to sell their cheap consumer goods to...

Exactly. This kind of rational thought really does have a braking effect on the actions of -- at the least -- rational (if nasty) actors like the Chicoms.

Terrorism really doesn't "work" when the damage exceeds a certain scale; 9/11 is conclusive evidence of that. A nuclear weapon's detonation in any western city would be the end of Islamic terrorism, and probably of Islam itself.

We are only so patient.

Jamie Irons

1/20/2006 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger John F. Opie said...

Hi -

You all really need to get off the idea of a suitcase bomb. They never really existed (even ADMs were substantially larger) and are largely a figment of the imagination.

What everyone should be worried about is the 20ft Container bomb. This is all that Iran needs: get one of these aboard a container ship, preferably one of those 8000 container ships, shielded and hidden (i.e. adequate anti-discovery safeguards that let it look like a shipment of tagamotchi clone toys or more probably like a shipment of cheap machine tools), and that is all you need.

And that will be the mode of delivery at first until Iran learns how to weaponize...

Which doesn't mean that the problem doesn't remain: it just means that it's gonna be harder to solve...

John

1/20/2006 07:00:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Wretchard,

I wonder if you would comment on the issue of "assymetrical weighting" in the case of bioterrorism.

Doesn't your point that atomic weapons may put the holder of such weapons in as much danger as his intended target(s) apply a fortiori to bioterror weapons?

Jamie Irons

1/20/2006 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

It is interesting to note that France’s ‘use of force doctrine’, which “rules out the use of nuclear weapons in a military” would reserve it’s use as a possbile deterent to a terrorist attack. At this point, where ambiguities exist, i.e.; “one man’s terrorist is another man’s ‘freedom’ fighter, that there appears to be no ambiguity that a terrorist attack, such as a dirty bomb or a rogue nuke would inspire the ultimate retaliation. But retaliate against who?

Terrorism offers the best strategic use of nuclear weapons, the most insidious delivery vehicle possible, a suicide bomber. And if a terrorist state like Iran has innumerable agents around the world capable of delivering such a weapon, what launch codes could be used to recall them? How would this nuclear blackmail differ from balistic submarines? A secular state has much to lose. Nuclear terrorists hell bent on martyrdom do not need any reason other than they’d be more famous than Mohammed Atta.

It is ironic that France finds itself at such odds with Iran. France harbored the Ayatolla for so many years and has played diplomatically nice. That they must at this point affirm the implements of war shows how far the brinkmanship has gone.

If divorce is the final word in a dissolution of a marriage, the mention of nuclear war must be the ultimate threat in the realm of diplomacy.

“TEHRAN (Reuters) - Embroiled in a nuclear standoff with the West, Iran said on Friday it was moving its foreign assets to shield them from possible U.N. sanctions and flexed its oil muscles with a proposal to cut OPEC output.”

The clock keeps ticking.

1/20/2006 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Blogonaut said...

But surely Iranian nukes would be first and foremost defensive weapons brandished to discourage invasion. Imagine a nuclear landmine going off on Iranian soil in the midst of an advancing American force. The MSM and Left would surely say they have that right, they were only defending themselves against an illegitimate assault, etc. Second, the Iranians real targets must be their Muslim, oil rich neighbors whom they hope to destablize and coopt to their own purposes and to the detriment of the West.

1/20/2006 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I doubt the Iranians will be able to produce a suitcase sized nuke, at least in the short term. The most likely weapons Iran will build will be sized to fit on their ballistic missiles. However, any situation where we pin our hopes on the rational behavior of Iran, or terrorists for that matter, is a not a good one. Even if Iran doesn't use its nukes, it is quite possible they will consider the nukes an insurance policy against attack or invasion and become bolder in their actions against nations they consider their enemies. The real question we should be asking is not how much of advantage nukes give Iran in reality, but how much of an advantage do the Iranian leaders think nukes give them. Iran may feel embolded to take greater conventional actions against the the West, their neighbors, and Israel, including greater and more open support for terrorism. I can easily see Iran becoming a greater safe haven and training center for terrorists once they have nukes.

1/20/2006 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

"The suitcase nuke game is not one which always favors smaller powers."

You are perfectly correct that in a world in which we are the kind of country we would become one minute after the detonation of a nuclear device in a Western country, we would be quite safe from these weapons.

We live in a different world though, one in which we continually broadcast that we will likely run away if we are attacked in a sufficiently shocking fashion. This is the only imaginable way to actively invite an attack of this sort, and yet many of or people and most of our media do so every day.

The greatest service GWB has done for us has been to signal to the contrary, that we will strike back hard and effectively.

1/20/2006 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

If developed, suitcase nukes would not be used to destroy the U.S., France or any other nation. If used it would be to intimidate and blackmail the targeted country.

1/20/2006 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

The young intelligent population of Iran has to realize the dangerous road their current leadership is travelling down. They have to convince themselves, as did the "let's roll" victims, that they can choose to die courageously defying these demons or silently, hopelessly vaporized in their homes.

1/20/2006 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Brett L said...

fenris:

"I don't believe Chirac - if Paris is nuked by terrorists, and the foresenics determine the device originated in Iran, I think the "nuanced elites" would not allow the government to retaliate against millions of innocent people in Iran."

Don't buy the 'nuanced elite' act. France is one of the most coldly calculating nations on earth. Especially when run by M. Chirac. They would nuke 'ze leetle brown peepul' without hesitation. While France was not successful in either Algeria or Vietnam, it was not because they didn't fight dirty.

1/20/2006 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

It's overwhelmingly important for Iran to get credit for whatever attack is made against the West or Israel. Anonymous attacks or "deniable" ones don't enhance their reputation as jihadists. And that's far more important to them than whatever trivial damage they can inflict on Western society. I think Anadamadingdong is a little annoyed that he hasn't been attacked yet as Saddam was.

1/20/2006 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger michaelson said...

You are correct in pointing out Israel's retrun strike capability. (Although Israel has not confirmed the assumed nuclear capability of their Dolphin class submarines, it is widely reported. Israel would be very vulnerable to the suitcase nnukes though, wouldn't it? 1 or at most 2 bombs would, in fact, bring them to the knee.

1/20/2006 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Diodor Bitan said...

Would the mullahs attempt to plant suitcase nukes in western cities for deterrance even if they cannot hope to destroy the west in one swift blow?

If they try, can that be stopped?

What happens if they are caught in the act?

What if they claim they have already planted some nukes? (even if they didn't have)

What would happen to those nukes if a successful revolution overthrows the theocracy?

1/20/2006 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Paine said...

The Islamic fascists really want to repeal the modern world.

The financial system is the modern world’s “Achilles heel”.

My “nightmare scenario” is a nuke in, say, ten of the major financial cities of the world.

If, e.g., two-thirds of the trained people and infrastructure necessary to keep the capital flows of the world economic system moving were to suddenly disappear, the world might experience a depression that could make anything we’ve ever seen look trivial.

I am not convinced that modern pluralist political systems would not degenerate into authoritarian systems under that kind of shock.

One more reason Iran must not get nukes.

1/20/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Fleming said...

So the degree of urgency of the Iranian crisis depends on the degree of irrationality of the Iranian leaders?

1/20/2006 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger speaker-to-animals said...

wretchard, you presume the goal of the Iranian nuke program is dissemination of terrorism.
I do not think that is so.
I think primarily the Iranian long term goal is primacy of leadership in the muslim world.
Nuke tech is a status enhancer more than anything.

And remember, a strike against an operational nuclear facility is equivalent to detonating a nuke within the territorial boundaries of the state. Iranian scientists are well aware of this.

Ahmadinejad is clever and goal-directed. He is not unstable and bellicose, except to a purpose.
Read George Friedman of STRATFOR in the comments of this post.

1/20/2006 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

peter
That, and the timeline to nuclear capacity.

If the Iranians process their own fuel, they are years, 2 to 3 or up to 10, from having weapons capability.

If they have bought enriched Uranium from NK or Pakistan, 3 months to a year.

If they really obtained 2 or 3 weapons from Ukraine, they are armed up, now.

Each of these scenarios have their own downside. But the second is by far the most worrisome.

If they already are armed up, their sanity is more sound than many think, in as much as they have not been used.

If they are years away, we have time to manipulate their society.

If they are just months out, there will be a War, a real one.

1/20/2006 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

jamie irons,

I haven't given much thought to bioterrorism. The same calculus from the nuke case probably applies. Limited bioterror attacks don't necessarily favor Third World countries with small medical resources. A people-killer attack would have the problem that any sufficiently deadly pathogen would automatically blow back. There would be no scenario in which Islam survived on earth, 'successful' or no.

One of the most interesting things about real WMDs is their limited utility as weapons. They are not very usuable in the context of obtaining concrete political goals. Speaker to animals argues that it would give them leadership of the Islamic world. But the US Army War College paper on Iranian nukes describes it as the first step a wider process of proliferation. How much of an advantage would accrue to Teheran if Sunni extremists got their own bomb? If the Kurds got theirs? Things reach another equilibrium at a higher and riskier level.

So the question arises: what would the ayatollahs do with nukes if these gave them no stable advantages? I'm going to guess that they don't actually know.

1/20/2006 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Fleming said...

Desert rat:

If we combine both factors, what is the most likely scenario?

War in March?

1/20/2006 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger speaker-to-animals said...

But the US Army War College paper on Iranian nukes describes it as the first step a wider process of proliferation.
but i agree with the war college.
even now, the iranians are probably promising nuclear technology to islamic states that join their cause.
As long as there is the common enemy, Israel, sunni and shi'ia, twelvers and seveners, persians and arabs will all be joined in a common goal.

1/20/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmm.

1. Assuming that Iran really gives a damn about any particular nuke they hand out. Either they could verify the ideological "purity" of the recipient or they could simply not care. In which case the overall operational "footprint" would be rather small.

2. Israel might be a primary target but I think it's possible that Iranian nukes could be used "in-house" so to speak. Possibly as a means of wiping out the mullahs in the opening bid of a coup by the Iranian President.

3. I think a very likely scenario involves further "red on red" situations where a Shiite dominated nuclear nation seeks to overwhelm the Sunni dominated Islamic world. We in the West see them as divisions within a whole. Frankly I think that they are two very separate ideologies with some common ground.

A nuclear Iran would have some mojo to influence and terrorise Sunni dominated areas.

4. The most likely scenario involves a nuclear first-strike on American military bases in Iraq. WIth a subsequent follow-on invasion of Iraq by Iran in an attempt at both subjugation and annexation.

1/20/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Piercello said...

My concern is that the Iranian mullahs may already believe their current long-term prospects for retaining control of Iran to be untenable, and therefore they would have nothing to lose by an all or nothing type throw of the nuclear dice--perhaps somewhat akin to the Kamikaze tactics of the Japanese in WWII, which were not aimed at winning the now unwinnable war, but rather at avoiding losing it any further.

Also, if Iran goes hot, watch out Taiwan, or anywhere else China may be able to pick up more subtle chips globally...

1/20/2006 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmm.

Of course, they Iranians may or may not understand the nicities of the North Atlantic Treaty whereby a nuke on one NATO member could result in massive retaliation from the Big Dog.

Of course the real problem is that the reverse is not at all true. I.e. if America took a nuclear bullet all we'd get from Europe is the classic French shoulder-shrug.

Someone remind me why we're still in NATO.

1/20/2006 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmm.

Ebrahim Sheibani, Central Bank governor, told reporters on Friday that Iran would “transfer the foreign exchange reserves wherever we consider expedient” and confirmed a shift from Europe had begun. ... "

I bet they shifted them to China.

Wouldn't it be delicious if the Chinese banking system finally failed with their cash reserves there? We all know the Chinese banking system is largely a combination of Enron-style accounting and a systematic ponzi-scheme.

Now that's worth a ticket and a bag of popcorn to watch.

1/20/2006 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Primacy, however, might and probably will require a showdown with the USA, the current regional hegemon, and Israel, "the tumor" in the midst of the lands of the Caliphate.

Second, how much influence over grand strategy are we to attribute to Ahmed's Shi'a eschatology?

From Wikipedia (caveat emptor) -

Shia sources
The 6th Shia Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq, is reported to have said:
"Before the appearance of the one who will rise, peace be upon him, the people will be reprimanded for their acts of disobedience by a fire that will appear in the sky and a redness that will cover the sky. It will swallow up Baghdad, and will swallow up Kufa. Their blood will be shed and houses destroyed. Death will occur amid their people and a fear will come over the people of Iraq from which they shall have no rest."
There will be an insurgence by the Sufyani, a descendent of Abu Sufyan. Abu Sufyan is considered by Shias to have been one of Muhammad's greatest enemies, along with his son, Muawiya I and Muawiya's son, Yazid. According to Shia narrations, the Sufyani's revolution will start from Palestine/Jordan, and his reign of tyranny will span the Middle East from Iraq to Egypt.
A loud call from the sky signals the Mahdi's appearance.

Strikes me that it would be foolish to underestimate how closely current realities match this description, at least the first part, for a true believer, and therefore how much Iran/mullocracy might be inclined to interpret "a loud call from the sky" as a nuclear detonation. Hard to know though.

1/20/2006 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger NN said...

Analyzing the inner workings of the Iranian regime has its limitations. If, as quite a lot evidence indicates, the Iranian president is moved by a religiously inspired doomsday "narrative", any such analysis involving the danger to the host nation becomes academic: They simply wouldn't care. Take this together with the intense religious conviction of the jihadists and weigh the conclusion. Carefully.


"The Americans are fighting so they can live and enjoy material things in life. But we are fighting so we can die in the cause of God." (Taliban official)

"There are thousands of the Islamic nation's youths who are eager to die just as the Americans are eager to live." (Osama bin Laden)

"If one day, he said, the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons currently in Israel's possession [meaning nuclear weapons] - on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end. This, he said, is because the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam." (former Iranian president Rafsanjani)

Also, read this.

1/20/2006 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

John F. Opie,b 7:00 am
Agree with your comment about the real threat being nukes in shipping containers. For that matter, a ship mounted missile launcher.

Annoy Mouse, 7:04 am
The tough talk could be posturing bluster and panic.

Brett L, 7:29 am
I agree, France, when it decides to take action, can be calculating and cold blooded.

Speaker to animals, 8:01 am
Do you think Amadjihadi may use nuclear terror hoping to cow the west into dhimmitude?

What do you make of reports of the Mahdaviat (too lazy to look up spelling) and the Mullahs expectation of his imminent return? Could the Mullahs be provoking the awaited apocalypse?

1/20/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Brett L said...

Wretchard:

Your scenario of Iran not having a nuclear policy - or worse thinking of nukes as "just bigger car bombs" is the one that terrifies me.

If Iran wants nukes for deterrance and influence, stability can be achieved. Pakistan moves closer into the US camp, Iraq might be willing to let the US stage nukes in any permanent US bases, etc. If the Iranians are honest they cannot escape the fact that lacking submarines and a high payload missile system makes the use of nuclear weapons suicidal.

This would be an interesting scenario...especially if the Iraqi and Afghani governments let the US stage deterrant missiles(like the Minutemen in Germany). Iran's expanding sphere of influence could be channeled north and NW. Essentially, they'd have to contend w/ Russia and China in a "Great Game" redux.

OTOH, if they don't have any plans, we'll have a hard time countering. Although, we could ransom them. Just make it policy that if any Muslim group uses a nuke, we're going to strike Iran unless they've told us everything they know in a timely fashion.

1/20/2006 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

Blast effects go up roughly as the cube root of energy released.

You see space is three dimensional not counting time and the other six or seven hidden dimensions.

1/20/2006 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

It's possible that both the subnational terror groups and 'rogue' states like Iran are taking their flawed premises to their fatal conclusions. Bin Laden got the fight he wanted on September 11 but it didn't turn out the way he thought. In his last audio Osama kept talking about his imaginary victories like a man who's lost his shirt in a casino and yet keeps talking the big time. His premises didn't lead to victory but to defeat.

I don't doubt the ayatollahs think they've got winning strategy but I question whether it is a winning strategy.

The Iranians, Saudis and Syrians must been so sure their game was going to pay off. Totalitarian regimes from Hitler's to Tojo's have always put their faith in these fantastic schemes for world domination, confident in their success. But on inspection they were all delusions. So Teheran thinks the nukes and bluster will bring them invincibility and power. It may bring them death instead. And I agree with many posters here who think that many ordinary Iranians are probably aware their leadership is preparing to go over Niagra Falls in a leaky barrel.

1/20/2006 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/20/2006 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger jsk said...

Summignumi said:

"One suite case bomb detonated in Washington would be sufficient to change the American fabric beyond ones ability to comprehend ..."

An excellent observation, and one that I have wondered about many times. Wrechard and the regulars on this site have so much more knowledge and perception than I, and I would welcome your thoughts on the following:

How would America (and the world) react to even a single nuclear blast in a U.S. city? How devastating would such an attack be on our economy and on the world economy? How would the U.S. population react: would they be willing to wait for "forensics", or would they demand an immediate and massive strike on the likely suspects? Would Martial Law be declared, and if D.C. were hit, would our government survive at all? Would the U.S. military "stay on base"? In social, economic and political terms, would we even recognize our nation and our world after such a strike?

Also, has our government articulated a response to such an attack? During the cold war, the doctrine of MAD helped keep our finger (and the Soviet's) away from the trigger. In the runup to the Gulf War, we warned Saddam that any use of WMD would trigger a massive (read nuclear) response. Have the mullahs gotten a similar message that a suitcase bomb in D.C would result in mushroom clouds over Tehran, Damascus, Mecca and all other Islamic cities not currently occupied by the US Armed Forces? Would such a doctrine deter Islamists, or as one writer suggested, induce China or another state to incite such a war? What's the answer?

Thoughts from the host and readership would be most welcome.

1/20/2006 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

Here's an interesting development to watch for:

A mass exodus from Iran.

1/20/2006 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Tom,

It's even more nightmarish than that. A nuclear weapon set off in a country, would not only cause a devastating flight of capital, it would also cause total devastation as a result of "brain power" flight. A couple of nukes going off in New York and Los angeles and all the cities in between will empty themselves of those inhabitants that can afford to flee. People are not going stick around waiting for the next nuke to vaporize them.

1/20/2006 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

The damage would be primarily from the psychological and economic effect. You don't need a big nuke for significant impact in those areas.

1/20/2006 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

VDH believes the Iranians are thinking clearly. That they are not insane, at all. They have a plan and they are working it.

" ... Their uncanny diagnosis of Western malaise has now convinced them that they can carefully fabricate a Holocaust-free reality in which Muslims are the victims and Jews the aggressors deserving of punishment. And thus Ahmadinejad's righteously aggrieved (and nuclear) Iran can, after "hundreds of years of war," finally set things right in the Middle East.

And then a world that wishes to continue to make money and drive cars in peace won't much care how this divinely appointed holy man finally finishes a bothersome "war of destiny." ... "

VDH

No, I do not think that there will be a War in March. If the US instigates it, December '06 is the first open window of opportunity.

No chance, IMO, prior to UN Resolutions and defiance from Iran. Also there will not be a US preemptive attack prior to November US Elections.
All of which, UN and Elections will run together, this scenario will benefit the Republicans in the Election and build some public support for the Action.

If there is a terrorist strike in US and the Admin can spin it to Iranian culpability, then we would act prior to the Election, but not without an attack here.

1/20/2006 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger speaker-to-animals said...

Wretchard, what is the current greatest threat to the theocracy in Iran?
Iraq. Sistani threatens the religious authority of Khameni. He has the genetics. Najaf is the holy city of the shi'ia. The Mahdi will come from the line of Ali, whose shrine is in Najaf.
Successful elections in Iraq are the death knell of the theocracy. The mullahs know this.

Islam incorporates the value system of the tribal bedouins. Mohammed was sent to live among them to soak up those values. These are the cultural values of Islam, also. A part of the structure of the classical Arabian Ode was the Boast. the Boast was also used in tribal warfare. Ahmadinejad is using it now. If Iraq comes on line as a viable democracy, the mullahs are finished. I don't think the Iranians have enough nukes to do much yet, so they are bluffing.

The Iranian theocracy is not insane. They have goals and plans, they are clever and patient. But they do not think like we do.
Dissing them as a bunch of religious fanatics in turbans and zz-top beards is dangerous.

1/20/2006 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Brett L said...

"One suite case bomb detonated in Washington would be sufficient to change the American fabric beyond ones ability to comprehend ..."

All I can say is: I hope it's in the middle of a Congressional session, preferably towards the end when everyone's in town. It would come as no surprise to me to find out that the US could survive for 2-5 years on our current laws, budgets, and taxes without missing a beat. Maybe we could get an amendment through to make it illegal to legislate in even numbered years. Talk about changing the fabric of American society!

1/20/2006 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

desert rat, 9:02

I don't think there will be a preemptive strike. Period.

1/20/2006 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

one in D.C. and one in the financial district of NYC and we are about brought to our knees. I can't even imagine the hysteria it would cause, the panic and anarchy and financial disruption which in turn would cause more panic and hsyteria. Can you imagine the implosion of figer pointing and blaming? I see more hope than reason in a number of the responses here. How long would it take to determine who to retaliate against? Did they come from NK, Pakistan or Iran, or even china for that matter? I have no doubt the US and allies will take out Iran's nuke potential in due time. There is no other alternative.

1/20/2006 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

Reliability calculations assume a probability chain.

1. Probability of detection of delivery mechanism (which involves a whole sequence of probabilities)

2. Probability of detonation (as opposed to a squib) on command.

Suppose there are five events which must take place each with a probability of 80%. The chance of success is less than 35%.

So would you take a 65% chance that your intentions would be thwarted and discovered? It would mean pre-emptive war.

Take suicide bombings in Israel. It takes ten to a hundred attempts to produce one attack. Iran understands that sort of calculation. They pay for the attacks.

My guess is that the nukes will be used for deterent and coercive effects.

As to the loud rhetoric. Perhaps we are goading him by pin prick special forces attacks. Perhaps he is losing face among his crowd by not fighting back.

We do after all prefer that he make the first move.

1/20/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

""One suite case bomb detonated in Washington would be sufficient to change the American fabric beyond ones ability to comprehend ..."

I don't think this is even remotely true. A sub-10kt weapon detonated in NY or DC would piss us off (I hope), and depending on where ground zero was might kill some important people, but I don't think it would "change the fabric" of our society at all, much less more than we can comprehend.

10,000 tons of TNT (likely less, much less, in fact) would make a big bang and a big hole, with little or no effect beyond 1-2 miles.

If they do it, they're really, REALLY stupid.

1/20/2006 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger NN said...

I caught this article on Sept. 11 last year, the content of which I thought to be a positive sign:

"The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons." (Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan--Strategy includes Preemptive Use against Banned Weapons)

Has anyone heard where this went?

1/20/2006 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger speaker-to-animals said...

whit,
Do you think Amadjihadi may use nuclear terror hoping to cow the west into dhimmitude?
No. He is hoping to unify the army of the caliphate and secure Iran's primacy of leadership. He is meeting with Syria even now.
The Mahdi is why i suspect Ahmadinejad may not be a true believer. According to shi'ia tradition, the Mahdi will come from the line of Imam Ali. The Mahdi cannot be persian.
Perhaps Ahmadinejad uses religion to cement his power in a theocracy. He plays the role of the karim, the generous hero of Islamic tradition. He is quite dangerous. Don't think about how he sounds to westerners--think about how he sounds to the ummah.

1/20/2006 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

jsk, your question is my largest fear. i don't think the iranians quite realize the position they're in. if anything, and i mean anything nuclear related were to happen in the US in the not to distant future, tehran will cease to exist. even if the iranians aren't directly responsible for it. the "american street" will not stand for waiting around for conclusive evidence and they will be in no mood for the american left appeasement either. i fear the blood lust will be too great to ignore (we saw just the slightest glimpse of it post 9-11). Nuclear, will make it magnitudes worse.

1/20/2006 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

Why are we in NATO?

To keep an eye on the Euros.

We have twice paid directly for their stupidity. Why take another chance on them.

This way we keep their militaries tied down with string (France didn't like that) and provide our troops with significant R&R opportunities while keeping them forward deployed.

Plus we can keep an eye on the Russkis.

Yeah. It has its downsides. All in all a small price to pay to be up close and personal with the French and inside Germany. You especially got to keep an eye on those boys.

1/20/2006 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Knucklehead said...

Just to toss a slightly different angle into the discussion.

Suppose, for a moment, that the leadership of Iran is not a gang of Islamofascist fundies or simply political leadership from an Islamic or Iranian perspective but, rather, nothing more than a garden variety organized criminal enterprise.

The trump card the Iranians brandish against the threat of international (or unilateral) action to attempt to prevent them from becoming a nuclear weapons power is to cut oil supply and drive the price of oil up. This would, of course, require them to cut their sales of oil and would drive up the price paid to other producers. My mom used to call this "cutting off your nose to spite your face".

On the other hand, once acquired, the Iranians could use nuclear weapons to either threaten other suppliers or destroy other supplies. This would deliver into their hands the higher prices paid for oil. It might take hundreds of nukes to destroy the US as a functioning nation but it probably wouldn't take more than a handful to wipe out Saudi production. Then, instead of $105 being paid to everyone else but the Iranians for crude they'd have $150 being paid to them.

Just tossing it out.

1/20/2006 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger nittypig said...

I agree that the analysis is impeccable if the goal of the state in question is something along the lines of world revolution. Certainly the analysis applied to the USSR is flawless.

But the critical question is: "what is the goal of the mullahs?"

If indeed their longterm goal is a universal caliphate, whether established by revolution or conquest, then the deterrence argument holds in full force. Such a goal would certainly be consistent with a radical reading of the Koran.

But if their long term goal is simply the destruction of New York or Tel Aviv, then that goal is almost within reach.

Game theory tells you that in the former case the Iranian mullahs ought to be signalling like mad that their value systems are built around world conquest or world revolution, and emphatically emphasizing that the destruction of Israel and the United States is simply a means to that end. I can't think of any domestic political considerations that would make such signalling difficult.

I haven't seen or heard that message lately.

1/20/2006 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger NN said...

One nuclear bomb against a major US city would be like the shots in Sarajevo, I think--the economical, political, cultural consequences would be enormous. It would similarly herald the dawn of a new age (or perhaps, more fittingly the setting of the old).

It is said that you would've had to have lived during the pre-WWI belle epoque to understand its culture, its immense optimism and good will among men that still prevailed.

I think that one or more A-bomb attacks could spell the end of our world, the largely innocent, silly and benevolent world of tv-sitcoms, unlimited travel, iPods and all the other things we take for granted.

If this is not worth fighting for, we will loose it. Simple as that.

1/20/2006 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

This was mentioned earlier but it needs to be said again. There's an excellent commentary on the Iranian nuclear crisis by George Friedman of "STRATFOR" at:

http://biglizards.net/blog/archives/2006/01/offered_for_you.html

You have to scroll half way down the page to find it. BTW, the re-posting of the commentary was a violation of STRATFOR's copyright. However despite being ripped-off, STRATFOR should do the right thing and make this commentary openly available (people need to read it).

After you read the STRATFOR commentary, scroll further down to a comment by "matoko kusanagi". He also has some good insights.

I think it is possible to show that the Iranians have a rational political agenda with their nuclear program (this is not simply an act of crazed national suicide).

The Iranian leadership may actually welcome an American or Israeli preemptive action because it would enhance Iran's status as Islamic revolutionaries and distract their internal political dissatisfaction towards foreign enemies. However the Iranian leadership may not realize the long term consequences of opening the nuclear Pandora's box. Our central problem is addressing those issues of unintended consequences. We may be compelled to swallow the Iranian bait because the long term consequences of Islamic fascists having nuclear weapons are unacceptable.

This is a tough problem: Do we accept short term pain for enhanced long term security? Does launching a preemptive raid even really provide us with any long term security?

1/20/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Yanni Znaio said...

Wretchard: I am quite astonished that you haven't read Richard Miniter's book "Disinformation".

One of the myths which he thoroughly debunks in it is the myth of "suitcase nukes".

Cheers,

1/20/2006 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger jp said...

Powerlineblog is usually right on the money, but with their post on Olmert I must disagree most strongly, and would comment there, but it is not possible.
The US should stay out of Israeli politics much like the reverse, but to be against Olmert is to be against Sharon’s policy, which has proven effective in furthering Israeli and American security in the long view. My explanation here:

http://americansforfreedom.blogspot.com/2006/01/powerlineblog-is-wrong-on-olmert.html

1/20/2006 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Jesse Clark said...

Yanni said:

"I am quite astonished that you haven't read Richard Miniter's book 'Disinformation'. One of the myths which he thoroughly debunks in it is the myth of 'suitcase nukes'."

Miniter also wrote an article on the subject, which can be read here.

1/20/2006 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

eggplant,

If you liked that take down of the left you will love this one.

1/20/2006 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

"I think Iran will discover that its nukes will be just as unusable as those possessed by France."

All war is based on miscalculation, by one side or the other, or both. (Why fight a war, if the outcome is known to both sides)

Isolated regimes inevitably end up suffering from "Group Think". Their isolation also makes it improbable that they have a firm enough grasp of their potential opponents strengths and weaknesses to make well thought out decisions.

Osama references "Polling Data" in his most recent proclamations. He doesn't understand that polling data in the US rarely includes "depth of belief" and can swing wildly on relatively minor events.

1/20/2006 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Adam Sullivan said...

One way to overcome the "possessor detonation" problem is to simply hardwire a GPS chip into the detonator assembly. The bomb maker could simply program it to go off upon arrival in a given area.

For synchronized deployment, a clock can be set (on the same chip) with a "no earlier than" instruction for the same detonator. Other logic could be introduced, like adding a GSM chip to activate in case the GPS signal is shut down which could then used call phone carrier signatures of adjacent towers to get an idea of where the device is.

Done properly and shielded, such a bomb doesn't have to have a possessor - put it in a cargo container and explode it as it enters any one of many populated port cities. It is an area weapon ("... horseshoes and handgrenades")

1/20/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Philomathean said...

Wretchard quite rightly points to the "command and control" problem involved in giving nukes to terrorists. But what about the command and control of Iran's regular nuclear forces? In a short time Iran will have a force or nuclear-tipped missiles. No doubt these missiles will be kept at a high state of readiness, leading to a "use 'em or lose 'em" mindset. I believe that allowing Iran to get nukes will greatly increase the chance of an accidental nuclear war.

1/20/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger summignumi said...

I don't understand why most of you miss the biggest points involved with IRAN;

1. New leader, previous ones were moderates (not as eager to die)
2. New leader wants the "12 IMAN" to appear.
3. New leader is very devout MUSLIM, i.e. I kill non believers I get more sex then any man still alive. (Past leaders not quite as sure about that)
4. America is very much alone (not completely, but lets face it our old allies are a lot fewer and more wobbly)
5. 9/11 example to rest of ISLAM, two tall buildings and a small section of pentagon with a hole in a field = Paralyzed west for days and disrupted world for months. Bomb that takes out 10 times as many in one or two WESTERN cities and the cliff edge is reached!
6. BIO weapons not nearly as easy to achieve desired effect as Nuke. i.e. one bomb a couple hundred pounds vs. many hundred pounds, wind must be right, air needs to be dry, High altitude and all sorts of other conditions just to come close to a nukes ability.
7. IRAN was a part of 9/11, may not have been the core sponsor but their fingers were on the process.

Ya, plenty a reasons then should be necessary to get some payback.

1/20/2006 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

There are other ways to reach the knee besides population pruning.

The problem is that there are too many problems. Nukes that target economic choke points could be just as deadly as ones that target population centers, though their grim effect would be spread out over a larger period of time. How many petroleum choke points are there? A devious mind, sitting on one choke point in the Middle East, could bomb others and wait on the retaliation to finish the job.

Or how about the Halo Combo? What would stop Iran from an EMP attack on the Eastern and Western seaboards, then a couple suitcase nuke infiltrations to harry the locals as they struggle to find clean water? Or a biological attack on the water supply after the EMP shuts down the treatment plants? A little bit of chaos goes a long way. Casualties aren't always the worst that can happen.

Or what about the loss of freedom due to security demands in an age of widespread nuclear, chemical and biological proliferation? Our threats are not limited to what is on the Iranian agenda. Unintended consequences abound when such entropy enters the system.

Then again, maybe Iran just wants a piece of the pie. Maybe they are rational. Maybe we should look at their rhetoric as a cultural oddity, instead of a hint as to strategy. Maybe this is the way Muslims play realpolitik, the equivalent of a Canadian saying 'Eh' and 'Hoser'. Maybe this scenario is far more likely than the worst cases I described above.

Maybe. Maybe not. There are many ways to use nukes, and not all of them are vulnerable to the operational security concerns that adhere to the suitcase. The problem is that men are creative, evil men even more so. Their limits and parameters are not moral, only conceptual, so their options are as wide as the sky.

Looking back, the military doctrine of mechanized blitzkrieg seems inevitable. But it took peaceful men by surprise.

1/20/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

A line that has always stuck with me is Conrad's "the passions of men short-sighted in good and evil."

From Nostromo:

'Do you know,' I cried, 'what surrender means to you, to your women, to your children, to your property?'

I declaimed for five minutes without drawing breath, it seems to me, harping on our best chances, on the ferocity of Montero, whom I made out to be as great a beast as I have no doubt he would like to be if he had intelligence enough to conceive a systematic reign of terror. And then for another five minutes or more I poured out an impassioned appeal to their courage and manliness, with all the passion of my love for Antonia. For if ever man spoke well, it would be from a personal feeling, denouncing an enemy, defending himself, or pleading for what really may be dearer than life. My dear girl, I absolutely thundered at them. It seemed as if my voice would burst the walls asunder, and when I stopped i saw all their scared eyes looking at me dubiously. And that was all the effect I had produced! Only Don Jose's head had sunk lower and lower on his breast. I bent my ear to his withered lips, and made out his whisper, something like, 'In God's name, then, Martin, my son!' I don't know exactly. There was the name of God in it, I am certain. It seems to me I have caught his last breath--the breath of his departing soul on his lips...


Another line sticks out:

It would be unreasonable to expect him to survive. It would be cruel.

1/20/2006 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Bigger Diggler said...

Iranian nukes presents such a terrible dilemna because we have long enabled the "plausible deniability" aspect of Jihadi terror groups and preferred to be ostrich-like in ignoring the obvious connections to their state sponsors. This terribly morally muddled thinking is our responsibility and now we are reaping the whirlwind. We have allowed this to happen because of our addiction to oil.

It would seem that Iran's so-called "achilles heel," its oilfields, presents a supreme opportunity if correctly exploited to clarify both Iran's and our responsibility in this situation and to cut right to the nub of our irrational previous foreign policies.

1/20/2006 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Pascal Fervor said...

Western deadly-meme infused nihilists could very well be the fly in the ointment. Any one of them (an ELF for instance) with knowledge on the sort clearly available to the likes of the Unibomber could set off a chain reaction of retaliations.

BTW, is it a certainty that Clinton really got rid of all neutron bombs?

1/20/2006 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger whit said...

If Amadjihadi is sane, pragmatic and intent on asserting Iran's dominance of Islam and the Caliphate doesn't that put them on course for a head-on collision with the the Sunni Wahhabis? And if so, shouldn't we just let that little scenario play out?

1/20/2006 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger david bennett said...

It amazes me how 2 1/2 years ago you had such low opinions of the enemy's intelligence that you confidently predicted that while we were adapting to the insurgents methods they couldn't adapt to ours.

Now suddenly you are claiming our enemies have such deisn capacity that they can match our smallest bombs and those of the Russians created after decades of work.

Here are some basics:

http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/News/DoSuitcaseNukesExist.html

Yes a small bomb is possible. No it is unlikely that people who had to borrow basic technology from Pakistan who in some cases could not even unpack it (Libya) are going to hit us with highly sophisticated designs.

Still you can put a big bomb in a container and the ship carrying it will hit ports on scheduled times like clock work.

Control of container ships is one area were the administration has been criticized for not alloting funds or resources.

Such bombs can also fit into panel trucks and the like. But people hauling around 100 pound suitcases with 100 ton yields is not a high probability problem.

1/20/2006 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger WhidbeyIslander said...

Aristides, I think that you are considering a capability that Iran will not have for many years to come. The ability to launch an ICBM or, alternately, to sea-launch an EMP device, and to co-ordinate those launches with containerized nukes is way beyond Iran's near-term capability.

Wretchard makes the statement that Iran may find itself in the same position as the other nuclear powers--holding weapons that it dare not use. I can agree with him for the current regieme; I believe that they see nukes as a primarily deterrent against western invasion.

But Iran's current government is not based on popular consent--it could be overturned by any of several stressors. They may approach nuclear policy from a much less rational viewpoint. Remember we had John von Neumann and John Nash at the creation of our cold war policy. Right now we see Ahmedinajad talking about the 12 Imam and know that it could be worse.

To quote Nicole Kidman in "The Peacemaker," "I'm not worried about a man who wants a dozen nukes. I'm terrified by the man who wants only one."

1/20/2006 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The difficulty with the GPS or timer solutions are that you cannot alter the moment of firing because you remove the man-in-the-loop. The nukes cannot lie dormant and be fired on signal or withdrawan on concession. They are "fired" at the moment of deployment. Even the synchronized firing would not prevent the annihilation of its user and probably the entire Islamic world in the bargain because the survivable Triad would ensure retaliation. So it would be nothing but a suicide pact, a Doomsday device, including the suicide of the Islamic world. Insofar as it has the potential to trigger the death of a large proportion of the human race, including Islamic populations, this approach has some usefulness. Beyond that it has none whatsoever, I think.

1/20/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger truepeers said...

Maybe this is the way Muslims play realpolitik, the equivalent of a Canadian saying 'Eh' and 'Hoser'.

-and all this time I thought I was telling those nutbar "realists" to hose off, eh?

1/20/2006 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Chirac had to be responding to a threat, probably verbal, delivered to him from Iran. The threat could have been nuclear, or an intifada, or a combination of this plus sapper strikes against economic targets in France. This must have come about via France's own diplomatic channels and deep relations with many of the older players in Iran.

If one reads the mood across time in the EU3 - there was an inflection point a few weeks ago. One wonders what evidence changed the perceptions and hardened the resolve?

For France to find some backbone - it must be a terrible secret obtained by their own National Means and corroborated by other Nation's services.

The capital flows out of Europe must be an Iranian response to failed diplomacy and a realization that France and hence, Europe, KNOWS.

The rise in the price of oil is another indicator - it has gone up over 10% in just as many days though the underlying demand equation has weakened. The oil markets are already pricing the Iranian supply out of the equation.

1/20/2006 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

The ability to launch an ICBM or, alternately, to sea-launch an EMP device, and to co-ordinate those launches with containerized nukes is way beyond Iran's near-term capability.

Let's lay it out straight. Actions are constrained by capabilities, and intent. Once Iran gets a nuclear deterrent, it doesn't matter what their short-term capabilities are. Under nuclear protection, their capabilities will expand and we won't be able to do anything about it. Limits on capability will become exclusively controlled by Iran, and Iran alone, which means, in effect, they will have no more limits.

So our only hope will rest with their intent, and our ability to impact it. Does that give you hope? Does that make you feel safe?

But, of course, you already underestimate their capability. Iran purchased 18 disassembled BM-25:

[The BM-25 missiles that Iran purchased] can easily be launched from [a] freighter modified with launch tubes and blast channels. They give Iran a projection of force capability far beyond the 2000-3000 km range of the missiles. It is possible -- though not confirmed -- that Iran may not use the BM-25's but only bought them to get the R-27 rocket motors for a missile of their own design.

Soon, we will no longer have a say on Iranian capability. All of our hopes will rest on the rationality of a regime of eschatological true believers who chant 'Death to America' in their parliamentary sessions. But, you might say, it's impossible that an entire country, an entire people, could actively desire martyrdom, actually have a death wish. Is it? Is it impossible? 19 men attacked America and cost 3000 lives and over a trillion dollars in damages, willingly trading their lives for this grim purchase. If 19, why not 1000? If 1000, why not 1?

Another question you must ask yourself is whether you would allow a nuclear-protected sanctuary to the fanatics of Al'Qaeda and place your hopes in their restraint? If not, why would you be inclined to do so for the Mullahs?

Even if the probability of a worst case scenario is only 15%, why allow this game of chance to play out? We have to power to avoid that future with a probability of 1.0. Let's use it before it is too late.

The enemy in the age of nuclear and biological proliferation is the man who wants to die.

But even if we aren't talking about nuclear weapons being used, Iranian nukes would drastically alter the current international system, to the detriment of America and everything she stands for. Nukes are 'strategic' weapons for a reason. Unused strategic weapons still have a terrible gravity, a force that, if wielded by evil, could rip this fragile world apart.

But perhaps this is our choice. Perhaps right now the ring of power is before us. Perhaps we must surrender some of our power and influence to save our soul. Perhaps our time has come, and we must 'diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.'

But I do not believe it. There is another way:

Guns blazing, soul intact.

1/20/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

David Bennett,

In the event I was correct about the inability of the insurgency in Iraq to adapt to US methods. They fell further and further behind the curve and that's why they lost. Their mass base defected and participated in the election. Bill Roggio and the MSM are now reporting US forces are shifting from "offensive operations" in Anbar to "counterinsurgency". US troops will soon be drawn down. They can still kill, but the outcome is already foregone.

The amazing this is most people assumed the reverse. That US forces could not adapt to the guerilla; could not fight the unstoppable IED; could never chase the ghostly Al Qaeda. Even Richard Clark believed al Qaeda invincible and he was no fool. Juan Cole only last month was saying that the US couldn't control any part of Anbar after dark.

In Iranian case the essential thing to grasp (at least in my view) is that the regime is the problem. And like Iraq it is hard, but not a hopeless task. The problem of Iran then, is the search for a mode of regime change. In my view its nuclear ambitions are the seed of its destruction. It is going to unleash forces and reactions that will be fatal to the regime. Unfortunately, that self-destruction may encompass large parts of Israel and some Western cities into the bargain. The thing then is to find a strategy which minimizes those risks. I can't see further than that.

Intuitively I feel that a technological solution should not be the primary approach. Technological defenses should be there to deter, delay and defend. To catch the leakers. But our offensive weapon must be human. And it is here that I am most perplexed because I have no sense of vast covert forces massing to undermine the ayatollahs. If there is one area in which the US is deficient it isn't in hardware but in this human component, which I think is a vital ingredient to achieving victory without a human catastrophe.

1/20/2006 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

red river

While I agree that the French must have developed some evidence of Iranian involvement in the Francofada, or as you say one of the other options.

I would disagree about the markets predicting a sanction regeime. It seems to me, on reflection, that the Iranians are attempting to drive the oil markets.
The short term benefits to the Iranians are huge, their revenues increasing with each price spike.

They rattle their sabre, their accounts prosper.

As long as both the Chinese and the Russians are in their corner, their economic position is secure. They both have indicated it is to soon for Sanctions.
The Chinese will be able to buy Iranian oil under the World market price, the Russians cash-in along with the Iranians.

Mr Reagan used the oil weapon against the Soviets, the KGB would, I'm sure, like to return the favor to US.

1/20/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Red River,

My hunch is you're right: something has changed and another commentator on the blogosphere comes to the same conclusion (can't remember who) that France knows the Iranians have crossed some line. But if you put it together with the fact that Iran has no conventional delivery system, then you come to the subject of unconventionally delivered nukes; those delivered by truck, container or van. That's the only threat I can see in the short-term. Remember Chirac said "terrorist" attack so he wasn't referring to a bomb slung underneath and Iranian air force jet. And that means the kinds of nukes I've been talking about on this post.

I hope I've convinced most that because of C&C problems it is the most problematic of all modes of delivery because there is no inherent positive control. "I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to ground I know not where ..."

1/20/2006 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

My fear is largely based on what Rumsfeld would call 'unknown unknowns.' We have never lived in a world where Iran had nukes. We have no way of knowing what it will be like, how bad it will be.

The past is our best guide to the future. If you shudder to think what Hitler would have been like with nukes, then you should have nothing but fear and trembling for nukes owned by Apocalyptic Islam.

1/20/2006 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Mr Chirac did not mention a nuclear attack upon France as the "Standard" that had to be met for a nuclear strike.

"... Nonetheless, his speech yesterday at France's main nuclear submarine base, at Ile Longue, near Brest, in Brittany, took French defence policy into uncharted waters.

He appeared to imply that any large-scale, state-sponsored terrorist attack on France - whether or not it used weapons of mass destruction - would invite a closely targeted nuclear response from France.

"The leaders of states who use terrorist methods against us, as well as those who consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would expose themselves to a firm and appropriate response on our part," President Chirac said.

"This response could be a conventional one. It might also be of a different kind."

"Against a regional power, we should not have to choose between inaction and obliteration... the flexibility and reactivity of our strategic forces should allow us to respond directly against his power centres, against his capacity to act.

"All our nuclear forces have been reconfigured accordingly. To this end, the number of warheads has been reduced on some missiles on our submarines." ... "

The fewer the warhead, apparently, the more accurate the delivery.

Bet the French were threaten with Phase II of the Francofada.

1/20/2006 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger 11A5S said...

I once had a book of Robert Heinlein's essays, which unfortunately I've lost. Most of you would be surprised to that almost this same exact conversation was taking place in the US from 1949 until the mid-1950's. There was a lot of speculation that the Soviets would infiltrate bombs into US and allied ports and set them off.

What grew out of those debates was beginnings of policies like "Massive Retaliation" and the evolution of SAC as an elite, on alert 24 hours a day strategic force. Those policies evolved as the threat evolved.

Chirac's pronouncement the other day tells me that our current debate is starting to be translated into policy. Chirac's policy is essentially defensive. He is not going to disarm Iran. He is merely letting them know what his vital interests are and how he intends to defend them.

A lot of the debate now centers on whether Ahmadinejad (A-N) is unstable enough to use his nukes before he has the capability to use them decisively. Let's call that the enemy's most dangerous course of action. As many here have pointed out, if A-N pulls the trigger too soon, he is likely to be annihilated after he executes his most dangerous course of action.

If we template what the Islamists have been doing for the last 30 years or so, then we find that they have used the oil weapon (and informational weapons) to pressure their enemies to back off while conquering from within by means of Dawa, demographics, and emmigration. Nuclear weapons give the Islamists (both Khomeinist and Salafist) even more leverage against their enemies -- to pressure them to tolerate Dawa, immigration, and the rapid growth of semi-autonomous, easily radicalized population subgroups within their midsts. Some here would call it blackmail. I would call it the enemy's most likely course of action.

Nukes give the Islamists time. We should have destroyed the Pakistani regime along with the Taliban. A.Q. Khan allowed it to stay intact. A-N knows this. The Soviets knew this, too as they attempted to expand their system under the umbrella of their nuclear aresenal.

Generally, if time is short in military planning, you plan to counter the enemy's most dangerous and his most likely courses of action (COA). To deal with the Islamists' most dangerous COA, a sneak attack, we will have to be prepared to destroy their nations. How much we destroy will depend on how large and how cooperative their networks are. A.Q. Khan's network seemed to involve countries from Malaysia to Mauritania. Everyone of them must know that they will be punished if the West is attacked without warning.

To respond to the Islamists' most likely COA, we will have to do what we did in Vietnam, Korea, and El Salvador: fight them with our most valuable possessions, our sons and daughters. Otherwise, scores, if not hundreds of jamaats, ansars, and hezbs will attack us even more energetically, both within Dar al Islam and within our home countries.

I'm sure that people a lot smarter than me have performed the same analysis. I'm not sure how our leadership communicates this to the people without seeming like so many racist paranoids since the Tranzis have been so successful in framing the narrative in accord with their own goals. I'm afraid that we are going to get even less support in this war from the Europeans and elites than we did during the Cold War. I am also confident that if our elites fail this time and we suffer a substantial loss, that a new elite is crystalizing even as I write this and that the people who read this blog and others will constitute a new yeomanry that will see this war to victory.

1/20/2006 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger speaker-to-animals said...

In Iranian case the essential thing to grasp (at least in my view) is that the regime is the problem.
Well then.
the regime is a theocracy.
how does one bring down a theocracy?
use religion.

1/20/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger speaker-to-animals said...

whit, very cleverly, the Iranians are letting the US weaken al_Qaeda.

1/20/2006 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

I am also confident that if our elites fail this time and we suffer a substantial loss, that a new elite is crystalizing even as I write this and that the people who read this blog and others will constitute a new yeomanry that will see this war to victory.

A sufficient, but perhaps not necessary, development to replace the elite. Morality, rather than education or riches, will determine it. The new elite will be nursed on American ideals, and forged in the fires of Iraq.

1/20/2006 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger 11A5S said...

Astrides,

If our current elites fail, the new creative minority is going to get forged in something a lot hotter than Iraq.

1/20/2006 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Doesn't Wretchard's post argue for the fact that an immediate strike was warranted on 9/11?

If Kandahar had become Second Nagasaki before the sun set over the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 ... would we still be facing this protracted war?

Would NoKor and Iran be playing this fool's game, at the same time "Osama" threatens us right now, if we had responded more forcefully to 9/11?

Super-hawk seems an eccentric position, but not when facing such a suicidally fanatic enemy.

1/20/2006 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger The Beak Doctor said...

We need to get this over with soon, while there are still 'only' 20 million Muslims in Europe rather than 200 million. A nuclear Iran would be bad news, but British and French nuclear technology in the hands of Islamists would be a whole lot worse.

1/20/2006 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

"If there is one area in which the US is deficient it isn't in hardware but in this human component, which I think is a vital ingredient to achieving victory without a human catastrophe."

The US has many friends that can help in that department. I'm sure they already have and will continue in the future.

1/20/2006 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Desert Rat: Fewer warheads on each missile means longer range and most things in Europe are notoriously short ranged (the whole place, outside of Russia, will just about fit into Texas) If you want to nuke something further away than Poland you probably have to take some of the warheads off the missiles.
We were considering doing the same thing with Minuteman, based on arms reduction treaty requirements.

1/20/2006 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"Well then, the regime is a theocracy. how does one bring down a theocracy? use religion."

When the Bab and Baha'u'llah lived and taught in Islamic Iran, their Message was radical, freeing and empowering of We, the People! It is now, and even more recognizably so, with 162 years of practical implementation.

Their Message was SO empowering and SO direct ("I have given power to the people,") that the mullahs KILLED the Bab and exiled and imprisoned the Glory of God.

THIS is the motive behind the entrenched orthodoxy's vigorous denial and destructive attacks: an outmoded, power-crazed and power-addicted theocratic elite want to keep power for themselves, no matter how many they kill to do it!

Speaker-2 has some real wisdom: change our focus, frequently and regularly, from the outer 'symptom' of nukes, threats and diseases, to the inner, core realities of thought, convictions, beliefs and conceptual sets.

We can win BIG by dealing with the diseased mullahcrats with a public, practical application of concepts brought by Baha'u'llah: the collective security of nations, the oneness of humankind, the equality of men and women and the independent investigation of truth!

1/20/2006 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger alzaebo said...

The simplest scenario:

Iran pays Syria, No. Korea, Palestine to act up to buy Iran time-
Stages Parisian riots as reconnaisance-
Brings out crazy Mahmoud and the threat of Iranian proliferation-

A "cold war" between the US and Iran that masks--
THE IMPENDING SEIZURE OF FRANCE AND ITS NUCLEAR ARSENAL

p.s.- about the Palestinians- didn't the Grand Mufti of Riyadh declare that "After the Jews, the ones we hate most are the Palestinians"- lose the war, you lose your vote, I suppose-

Having the bomb is more important than using it...

update: four oil engineers captured in Nigeria- oil futures in turmoil- looks like the terrorists are attacking our vulnerable flank.

Proof of danger? Look what Islamic expansion, with Arab petrodollars laundered thru the UN, has done to an entire continent. Africa is a bloodbath without borders.

Is Bush ramping up our bomb, ammo, and equipment production? Are we preparing?

1/20/2006 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Tony,

I actually argued in 3 Conjectures that unless we find a successful conventional way of fighting terrorism as it attempts to get WMDs, we will wind up with a catastrophic outcome. Instead of a pre-emptive strike after 9/11, what we needed to do was win the war on terror with vigor so that it would never become a nuclear exchange. I felt that the classic peacenik position achieved the opposite: do nothing until things got so bad that only a nuclear exchange would resolve the problem. Hope this clarifies.

1/20/2006 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger alzaebo said...

"Consider the possibility that a player behind the scenes (eg China) might find an advantage in a deniable pawn triggering a general conflict between the West and Islam which would cripple both sides, leaving the player in a dominant position afterwards."

Quite right- China and Russia both have been arming the Mideast with high tech (and a little help from Mr. Clinton's co-conspiritors).

I'm certain that this was allowed with the intent of weakening the US geostategically. Russia has been deeply humiliated and China needs resources from Africa and South America.

But, they have as many players who would weaken their nation for personal gain as we do. I refer mainly to military brass fattening their bank accounts. I believe much of the arms buildup happened because of corruption, and the governments hoped to manipulate the situation to their favor.

I believe they are now having many second thoughts.

Nascent Islamic republics in the 'Stans are right next door- and Moscow and Beijing are both within striking range of a Shahab 3 missle fitted with a Noedong warhead.

Have they cleaned up the new billion dollar airport yet? They had to close it down, last year, when the first plane arrived- and spilled their first large shipment of radioactive plutonium from North Korea on the runway.

1/20/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger alzaebo said...

One last thought. The GCC is plumb terrified at the thought of strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities on the coast. They're afraid of an Iranian Chernobyl that will contaminate the Mideastern waterways all the way to Dubai.

Already noise is being made that the US behind the rising rebelliousness of Baluchis, Kurds, Arabs, and Sunni areas in Iran. Perhaps we can spread the story that we hold the trigger codes to Soviet suitcase nukes in Tehran and Qom?

1/20/2006 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

What has deferred the world from going up in a nuclear Valhalla since 1945?MADD worked because the Reds "loved their kids too"Is that it?Maybe.Maybe they were dumb enough to believe Marx's rhetoric of the inevitability of their triumph.
How much does that work with an ideology that welcomes ?A key to the depth of the horror in that mindset is Ramzi Yousef.Who was he?Reports are he wasn't even a very devout Muslim(girls and gin).Yet he built a device which he hoped would cave in one tower of the WTC on another and take out 150,000 people.
If an apostate muslim is willing to inflict that sort of pain,what exactly are we up against?
I heard a story somewhere that what got Egypt to Camp David was secret Israeli threats to fire a nuclear tipped missile at the Aswan Dam and drown Egypt.Can we secretly tell a few key players in the region that every Islamic capital dies the day a nuke goes off in America?
We might find out who really believes the 72 virgin myth and who's blowin' smoke.
We better give some serious thought to who's strapping on the POTUS six-guns in 2008.A casualglance shows most of these jokers aren't up to the task.

1/20/2006 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

Wretchard I hope your assumption that the Iranians are rational is accurate. I do not believe it is though. Furthermore I believe that using McNamara's numbers to explain a terror states objectives is misguided. Go back and take a look at the panic in the faces of those who watched the buildings come down on 9/11. Then consider this scenario.

At 10:00 AM a bold terrorist attack occurs in the french quarter drawing the attention of the national media through the local affliates. Hostages are taken, some are beheaded immediately on camera to insure national attention.

At 7:00 that morning a container ship had docked in New Orleans. As soon as the terrorists in the french quarter are sure they have national attention a 50kt device explodes inside the ship in one of the hundreds of thousands of containers shipped daily. Immediately the French Quarter and major portions of the Business District are destroyed by the overpressure and resulting fires...the river comes down upon large portions of the remaining city as murderously radioactive rain. One of the largest ports in the world is effectively shut down on National TV.

At the same time on the east coast a missile is fired from a junk cargo ship in arc that will carry it over New York City. The missile detonates at an altitude of 40,000 feet. The effects of EMP are not uniform but they are still widespread...the New York area is shut down.

At 11:00 Al Jazeera has a telecast from Al Qaeda. Surrender or more weapons will go off...now no doubt that we will retaliate. I grant you that bit. But tell me how many people do you expect to remain in cities after watching others die in New Orleans? This country would be effectively shut down with the expenditure of 2 weapons.

Now if those clever lads have several weapons, say three weapons emplaced in cities. I don't see it getting any easier. If we bomb them back to the stoneage, they still remember how to cope with that condition. If they bomb us back to the stoneage...its a somewhat longer journey back for us.

Pierre Legrand

1/20/2006 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Our revenge on Iran would be against the wrong people if they managed to nuke the U.S.

A missile from our subs unless at a very low altitude would be reported to the Mullahs by either the Russians or China.

The Mullahs have very modern bomb shelters equipped with every convience and built to withstand a direct hit.

They have spent billions of dollars on defense in the last twenty years, while their population got very little.

So, we would kill the wrong people and still would not be any closer to getting the bad guys.

Thats where the boots come in. But would we want to risk their lives sending them into radioactive rubble?

Let them starve in their holes.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

1/20/2006 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger anonymouscoameq said...

I think the premise of the post is misguided. It only takes a credible threat of one boat sized nuke in New York harbor or SF Bay etc to act as a deterrent. A 1 for 1 exchange of nukes may be acceptible to countries run by dictators but it is not acceptible in a democracy like the US. Any credible threat of a nuke attack is a deterrent US policy makers have to either preempt or cave in to.

1/20/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

One thing I know about the Chinese is that they love their children with all their hearts. Family is more to them than it is to most people.

Whatever China is, its not foolish with regards to the future.

1/20/2006 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Pierre,

I do think the container problem won't go away as AQ and UBL have been known to use these modes.

There are a handful of major ports which if destroyed or damaged would bring global trading to a halt. Antwerp. NO. NY. Long Beach. Seattle. San Fran. Tokyo.

The dirty bomb is a very simple thing to accomplish and would render areas unihabitable and would require expensive cleanup.

I wonder then how much material is required for a "knee" effect if you are just distributing U-238 in particulate form?

What are the major water reservoirs for NY? Chicago? Los Angeles? Seattle?

If the Iranians have some Pu pits then it gets even more deadly.

1/20/2006 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

Rat:

"The fewer the warhead, apparently, the more accurate the delivery."

No, but for MIRVs, however many go up must come down. It makes sense on a 12 tube sub to keep a couple of singles and a couple of doubles (I think US boomers carry missiles that have 4 warheads each). I wouldn't be surprised to learn that we, too, have done the same. Now that we do not need to strike the entirety of Europe and Asia for a retaliatory strike, this makes sense.

1/20/2006 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

rr:

We survived a month-long strike in Long Beach 2 years ago. Or at least, the world's largest carrier did. I don't remember if it went beyond Maersk. The point is that the intermodal network in the US and Europe can probably handle a single point attack. Also, those yards are BIG. It would take a massive bomb, even a dirty bomb, to contaminate or shutdown Long Beach, Rotterdam, etc. Far more effective to sink a big one in a harbor entrance.

1/20/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

OT

I don't know if this has already been posted.

Revisions In Need Of Revising: What Went Wrong In The Iraq War

www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB637.pdf

1/20/2006 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger HK Vol said...

How accurate are the missles that Iran possesses?
That is, if they fire a nuclear tipped missle at Israel and it misses by hitting the Gaza Strip or in fact Jerusalem, which has many Muslims and the third most holy site in Islam? I can't think they'd be winning friends and allies with a mistake like that.

1/20/2006 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Sardonic said...

Why should we assume the Iranians will be rational? The idea of self-preservation does not afflict them with moral doubt. They may very well assume that they can launch suicide nuclear attacks against Western targets because 1) Allah will save them from retaliation, 2) that if he does not then their people will be "martyred" and go to recieve their 72 raisins, 3) that the Western leaders will in fact be too vacillating and Liberal to actually retailiate as the West will feel guilty to kill innocent women and children 4) that a massive retaliation against one Muslim nation is an acceptable sacrifice as it will cause all of the rest of the Muslims to rise up and attack the West 5) suitcase bombs are not the real threat - it is the EMP weapon from the boat off shore that is the real threat, and they are now laughing behind their sleeves at this ridiculously flawed discussion.

It seems to me that if there ever were a case for a pre-emptive strike it would be this one. I fail to see why we do not at this point tell Iran and other Terrorist supporting Nuclear Weapon seeking states: If we catch you moving forward on these plans we WILL Nuke you. And we do not mean tomorrow or the next day. EMP Weapons can most certainly strike both ways, and we have very many more of them than you do. And by the way, stop the Terrorist activities because we now consider them acts of war. You have been warned.

And then be prepared to launch one non-lethal Nuclear EMP weapon over Iran. Bingo. Problem solved - deterence maintained - and look, the other Terrorist Sponsor states shrivel up and die in their beds out of stark and well founded fear.

I would not be morally outraged at this solution.

Conversely, we could simply pre-emptively EMP them without a warning, and I would not be morally outraged at that either, actually. These are very bad and evil people who want to destroy us completely and have no moral limits at all.

And furthermore, Carthage must be destroyed!

1/21/2006 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmm.

And then be prepared to launch one non-lethal Nuclear EMP weapon over Iran.

1. EMP is line of sight.
2. EMP bursts have to be done at high altitude.
3. A high altitude EMP burst will have a very far horizon.
4. A high altitude EMP burst with a very far horizon will have very large footprint.

I.e. an EMP burst over Tehran will knock out power in Cairo. Possibly it would burn out every bit of electrical and electronic gear in the Middle East, including Israel, Southern Russia, Northern and Eastern Africa, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern bits of India.

Google is your friend

1/21/2006 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Griswel said...

I don't understand this post.

Try a different thought experiment: one nuclear device explodes in Manhattan. Is this A) proof that the terrorists are far from destroying the US; or B) a huge success all by itself?

Is there really any doubt about whether a terrorist nuke in NYC makes them successful or unsuccessful? How many nukes it would take to destroy the US or reach the point of diminishing returns is utterly irrelevant.

1/21/2006 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Sardonic said...

"For weapons purposes EMP producing sources other than nuclear detonations have been successfully developed. Several nations, with United States at the forefront, are reported to have developed non-nuclear bombs capable of generating EMPs. Electromagnetic bombs (E-bombs) are specialized, non-nuclear tools designed to destroy information systems. These devices are primarily intended for battlefield application, and their effects would be restricted to a relatively small area."

From: http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/air/factsheets-pdf/FactSht41.pdf

Since this is the case, I would suggest that it is therefore feasible to make one that effects an area roughly the size of, oh, say... Iran, maybe?

I think the science is on our side on this one.

1/21/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

The impact of a nuclear Iran will be felt even without the use of one nuke. Let’s remember that it was the unwillingness to tangle with nuclear powers that restricted our military to fighting limited wars in Korea and Vietnam. Such restrictions limited our ability to fight, prolonged the war, and increase the casualty rate to the 30,000 – 60,000 range.

A nuclear Iran will restrict our ability to fully retaliate against Iran if it entered Iraq. A limited war with 10,000s of casualties is unacceptable to the American people today. We would have to abandon eastern Iraq and, most likely, Afghanistan to Iran. It would also endanger eastern (Shiite) Saudi Arabia. The withdrawal, like our withdrawal from Beirut, would galvanize the Islamist movement and we’ll be facing a far greater enemy than today.

1/21/2006 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Let me add that China and Russia will block any move in the UN to stop Iran because they want us weakened either by casualties, humiliation, and/or internal unrest and demoralization.

1/21/2006 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmmm.

Since this is the case, I would suggest that it is therefore feasible to make one that effects an area roughly the size of, oh, say... Iran, maybe?

uhhh. No.

The best EMP weapon we've got today is able to take out a couple city blocks. Is hugely expensive and may or may not have any effect at all on a site hardened against EMP.

Might as well wish for phasers, lightsabers and mobile battlesuits.

1/21/2006 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Norman Rogers said...

I have an idea that I'd like to get some comments on -- Here goes:

We need to formulate and announce a doctrine to achieve two goals:

One, to deter Iran et al from launching an atomic strike on their enemies.

And Two, to make the acquisition of atomic weapons less necessary for the defense of nation states.

MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was such a doctrine that worked rather well to prevent the Cold War from heating up. But MAD doesn't work well if only one side can assure destruction of the other.

As Wretchard has artfully demonstrated, the US of A doesn't face an existential threat from Iran or Al Q & Co. But Israel does!

So, how do we accomplish the goals set out above? Try this:

Retaliatory Assured Destruction (RAD):

Participating Nation States promise to obliterate any Nation State that uses atomic weapons in a "first strike" against any other Nation State.

Suppose the US of A promulgated this doctrine and invited other nuclear powers to join in. This would go France one better, and we'd likely get France and Britain to come along. I'm not so sanguine about Russia or China -- but no matter.

What would this accomplish?

A. RAD tells Iran (and India and Pakistan and China) that any first use of atomics will result in their total destruction. This is an existential threat. They don't get a free or low cost opportunity to obliterate Israel (or Pakistan or India or Taiwan). It would no longer be the simple calculus of comparing the retaliatory capabilities of their targeted enemy vs. their own first strike capabilities. Uncle Sam et al would guarantee their total destruction.

This would make the acquisition of atomics by a Nation State less useful for offensive purposes by an Iran or an Egypt, say -- and likely not worth the expense. And, it would make the acquistion of atomics by a Nation State less necessary as a deterrent against a the use of atomics by another Nation State.

Again, this would make the cost to acquire these weapons compare less well to the costs of other defensive measures. It would thus be less likely that an atomic arms race would break out in the middle east.

And, back on topic, I agree with Wretchard that we could trace the explosive residue of any atomic blast back to the creator of the weapon (or make the creators think we could) and RAD would apply to whomever made the weapon and occasioned its use (by selling same to a terrorist, for example).

What would be the reaction to RAD by the mad mullahs?

I think the Iranis would think a little harder about the costs and benefits of their atomic programs.

I think the Saudis would be satisfied.

I don't think Egypt or Syria or Yemen have the economic resources to develop their own atomics.

Would Israel be satisfied?

No. But they might not feel as compelled to neutralize Iran by themselves, and they would be deterred from firing their own first atomic strike -- which would work for them in the short term but would guarantee their wars would never end. Israel cannot kill all of their enemies. Bus the US of A can.

1/21/2006 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

norman

Ask President Diem, of South Vietnam, or the Shah of Iran about US promises of support. For that matter ask the South Vietnamese post Diem about the value of US military assistance assurances.

While past performance is no guarentee of future behaviour, I certainly would not trust US to act according to our past promises.

griswel,
In a War, battlefield losses can be a bitch, but we would soldier on regardless.

The destruction of Moscow and Stalingrad did not destroy the Soviets in WWII, nor would the loss of NYC or Washington destroy the US in the Mohammedan Wars, any more than the loss of New Orleans, last summer, did.

If the enemy got a couple of good licks in, it would just cause US to behave as if we were really at War, not like Policemen seeking criminals.

Hopefully it will not come to that, but if it does, it would be truely be time to get serious about the Mohammedans and double down.
We would certainly focus on the Mohammedan Challenge, then.

1/21/2006 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Sardonic said...

Well, so it would seem that a large area of effect would be inevitable. OK - nevertheless, EMP is the lesser of all the evils mentioned so far as far as I can see and I would certainly be prepared to use it, even at the cost you are suggesting. I know a lot of people would be inconvenienced, and some percentage of them might be severely so, or even fatally so. We did not worry about that in WWII when fire bombing cities or using the nuclear bomb to stop the enemies of Civilization then. We were fighting a ruthless determined enemy and we fought to win and I think we must continue to do so. We need to remember that the enemy is running around sawing peoples heads off, including little nine year old Christian girls. They are the very essense and definition of evil and must be stopped. Period.

Allowing Iran to get the nuclear option is simply a recepie for absolute long term disaster for everyone in the world. I suggest we be prepared to do whatever it takes up front to stop them from getting their act together and establishing a global Caliphate ruled by Terror and Fear. It would not be very nice to live under, despite whatever the past Caliphates might have been like. You can forget it. Just take a peek at the Taliban's ways of doing things and reflect on what that would be like for the world. It would not be very fun except for their secret police and brutal goon squads. Forget that.

A EMP Pre-emptive strike, I argue, would be a relatively low-cost-in-lives way to ensure that the Mullahs of Iran do not get away with global nuclear blackmail. It would also reestablish the basis of Deterence (which is we have the power to stop them and the will to use it) and ensure that the world really "gets it" about Terrorism and Nuclear weapons.

I argue that the use of the pre-emptive EMP option even at the cost of ruining some of our allies infrastructures would be better than the alternatives. We can help them as quickly as possible to rebuild - at a savings of having avoided the entire panorama of evil sounding scenarios presented in this discussion.

I believe the pre-emptive EMP strike is still the best option on the table. I have not seen any suggestions as to how to handle this situation any better so far, all of which seem to involve the deployment of massive armies and global war.

What would be less destructive, an EMP on Iran and that region now, or WWIII later?

1/21/2006 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Sardonic said...

Correction: The post just prior to my last one seems sensible and might work as an effective strategy for deterence.

However, I would not rule out the pre-emptive EMP option even so. Deterence relies on not ruling out your options. That is what "deters" the enemy.

1/21/2006 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

I don't think RAD would work due to the time frame involved in id'ing nuclear residue. But the time it was determined who developed the bomb materials, leftists worldwide would mobilise against a retalitory strike. Waffling governments could not withstand the peacenik onslaught.

1/21/2006 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The Saudis, Egyptians, etc. would never believe the US could be relied upon to deliver on a RAD Policy, as promised.

If aQ obtained even one of the Pakistani's 48 nuclear warheads, they would not care a hoot about RAD.
If the Iranians are a bit insane, they may not care, either.

The US started the Iranian nuclear program, back in the days of the Shah, so obviously the US thought the Iranians needed the electrical generating capacity, then.

The Chinese will ally with the Iranians, they need and want those 2.5 million barrels of oil pumped each day. They will finance any of the infrastructure costs required.

This article explains why.
Oil Production & World Reserves

"... in a world as enduringly addicted to oil as ours is, others are going to be looking for their own supplies. Russia and China will be among them. As one global-security analyst recently put it: "I am afraid that over the years we will see China become more involved in Middle East politics. And they will want to have access to oil by cutting deals with corrupt dictatorships in the region, and perhaps providing components of weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles and other things they have been involved with, and that could definitely put them on a collision course with the United States." Oil dependency could yet prove to be the route to a Third World War. ... "

They have done so in Sudan, and have stymied UN Resolutions concerning the Genocide there. Look for that stance to continue across the ME and the World.

Many here do not believe there will be a Worldwide Oil shortage, they do not speak for the Chinese, though.

Look for Iran to sign more Defense Pacts, in addition to the one they signed with Syria.

" ... Beyond the Middle East Five, the Bush strategy of supplier diversification will look to eight main sources, which Klare calls the Alternative Eight: Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Angola. These countries and their oil operations are characterised by one or more of the following attributes: corruption, organised crime, civil war, political turmoil short of civil war, and ruthless dictators. The US military is being forced into deeper relationships with such regimes, including joint military exercises.

The bottom line for Klare is this. "Any eruption of ethnic or political violence in these areas could do more than entrap our forces there. It could lead to a deadly confrontation between the world's military powers." ... "

Nigerian is in the throes of it's own Insurgency, Venezuela is in the hands of Marxists, Mexico is about to elect an anti US Socialist and Columbia is under attack from Marxists.
Angola, now that is a secure source, as well.

The Iranians are years away from Nuclear Capability, even further from Offensive capacity.

What if the Chinese decide to side with the Iranians, would we trade Taipai for Tehran?

A Chinese counter strike against Israel?
They DO have capacity for that, today. They also believe that they would survive a MAD exchange with US, while US would not. Check the chart.

Who would have thought an assassination of a Duke in Sarajevo would lead to the death of millions.

1/21/2006 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Did the Israelis or the Americans, Europeans, give any good reason(s) as to why Israel should not be included in NATO? Norman, I think Israel being part of NATO would very much complement your idea of Retaliatory Assured Destruction (RAD), no?

1/21/2006 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

mika
Do you believe France or Germany would allow an attack on 'that shitty liitle country' to commit it to War with it's Oil Suppliers?

I certainly do not.

I do not think the US has a defense pact with Israel, though I could be wrong.

1/21/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

d'Rat,
Would they rather take their chances on Israel making good on the use of the Samson option?

1/21/2006 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I would, if I was them.

If Israel were to strike at KSA, Syria, Iran, etc in it's death throes, it would hit the population centers of those countries.

In the KSA and Iranian the oil fields would be out of the direct line of fire. The oil fields could then be occupied by the "west" and all the current problems solved.

The Mohammedans would be back to herding camels and goats, the Zionist Jews wiped out and the World could start refreshed.

I believe that both the Japanese cities have been rebuilt, have they not? Las Vegas was never evacuated during the above ground test blasts. So what would the negative long term effects be, for France and Germany?

1/21/2006 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

d'Rat,

Just to clarify what I mean by the Samson option. If Israel gets hit with a nuke, the age of the cockroaches ensues thereafter.

1/21/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The Israelis use their arsenal against the Mohammedans, do they not?
Washington, Peking, Berlin, Paris or London are not on their target list, I'd bet.

Damascus, Cairo, Tehran, Mecca, etc., those are, I'd bet, on the list.

Actually it would be a final solution, in more ways than one.

Not that I advocate such an outcome, but how about the Russians or Chinese, let alone the French, Germans or Brits.

Two birds with one stone, as the old saying goes.

1/21/2006 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

It is a scenario that SPECTRE would just love.
How about those ChiComs, are they manipulative enough to set the stage?
Let the Proxies fight it out and try to pick up the pieces when it's over.

1/21/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Israel need not even bother using nukes. It can unleash its bio weapons. Those don't discriminate against national borders, and would kill every mammal roaming the planet, including you and me.

Of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death), the Bible only names one: Death. That's guaranteed. :)

1/21/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

If that is the case mika, we had best preempt those Israelis.
They are, as you say, a greater threat to World Peace than Iranians could ever be.

The US had better nuke Tel Aviv, today, then.
More rational for that then attacking Tehran because of capacity the Iranians may develop in the next few years.

1/21/2006 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Hmm,.. Why not preempt the US of A? The US has an equal capacity to do infinite damage to the global ecosystem. I would think the Russians and a select group of others also have such capacity. Why the double standard when it comes to Israel?

1/21/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

Let me go a step or two farther by stepping back for a moment to comment that I believe Wretchards use of Suitcase nukes as a probable weapon by the Iranians was a strawman. There is no way they have the capability nor the actual need to build weapons that small.

Not in todays age of container ships and the 9 million containers delivered every year to our shores. Los Angeles receives upwards of 30% of that total each year. Without the constraints of size the yield is likely to be somewhat larger than those targeted might want it to be. Containers have the marvelous advantage of moving from the port to any city in the nation by rail, never once being opened nor inspected.

All of this time an enterprising enemy might have been preparing for just such a scenario. Though I am sure that our ever vigilant Homeland Security Department is all over that sort of attack. Soooo....so much of suitcase nukes. Iranians don't need them and wouldn't want them anyway, easier to get by in containers.

desert rat I disagree with your comparison of New Orleans after Katrina to our nation after a Nuclear strike. First off New Orleans is still dark perhaps, and its a mighty big perhaps, 100,000 people are living there now vs a total of 500,000 previously. That was the result of a miss by at most a cat 3 hurricane.

A nuclear blast of 50kt weapon on the docks would be a mite more significant than Katrina, and anyone who knows my blog knows I don't minimize Katrina. This weapon would be about 2 to 3 times larger than the ones used against Japan assuming a 50kt yield.

If they are really creative the blow one up in New Orleans shutting down one of the worlds largest ports for an undetermined time and also set one off in Los Angeles. The EMP Blast off the east coast and effectively this country steps back about 75 years in time. Why?

Because in my scenario an ultimatum is received directly afterwards that is broadcast over the web and over any surviving TV and Radio stations offering a truce if we pull out of the ME. At that point I believe that most people in the remaining port cities will suddenly go on vacation to get away from possible follow on attacks.

Not sure what sort of incentives we could use to get them back into cities that might at any time blow up but telling them that we have launched a counter strike against Iran would not likely be viewed as a carrot to most people. Most people and I include myself in that group would simply assume that the leadership in Iran was unaffected by the counter strike and that the terrorists here in the states probably had instructions one what to do once the Counter Strike occured.

The problem we face is that the United States is the most advanced computer in the world and Iran isn't. If you hit us with a hammer stuff is going to break and we won't be able to function for a good long while. We simply are not used to not having all the technology we own at our hand. We don't know how to live without refrigeration, we will wilt without our medications, our hospitals our doctors and most of all that stuff will stop functioning if people panic as I believe they will under the scenario I pain.

I don't want to say I am certain that this would happen but I do believe it is in the realm of possibility. 2 Years ago I wrote to Victor Davis Hanson asking him to consider that subject for one of his fine articles...would the American people stand and fight by remaining in their cities under such a threat or not.

Finally desert rat I disagree with your belief that Iran is years away from aquiring nuclear weapons.

Pierre Legrand

1/21/2006 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Isn't the Double Standard
a Worlwide Standard?
SOP

1/21/2006 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"The US started the Iranian nuclear program, back in the days of the Shah, so obviously the US thought the Iranians needed the electrical generating capacity, then."

I gather they need it in order to industrialize. At or past peak now, the reserves aren't going to last forever. 35-40% is being consumed domestically. More of that needs to be turned over to lucrative export, which in turn has to pay for industrialization/diversification. Otherwise they're just depleting/consuming their sole export and when that's gone there's nothing to take its place.

What did the Iranian President say? He wants Iran to be an Islamic Japan.

Nuclear weapons are a superb deterrent and if I were the Iranians I'd certainly want them. But is that what's driving the program? I don't think so.

In any event, absent a clear and present threat it would be a tragedy to make of the Iranian economy what's been made of the Iraqi one. Since those on the Right are the new (the REAL!) "progressives," I'd expect that to be generally understood.

1/21/2006 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"He wants Iran to be an Islamic Japan."
---
Glad Japan is not threatening to eradicate other countries and exporting terror worldwide.

1/21/2006 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Additionally, Iran is rich in uranium ore, not coal. They get a much better return on the nuclear power.

1/21/2006 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

mika,
I was trying to be sarticial, I may have missed.

But if the Israeli have violated the NPT or while not signing it, developed Nukes, anyway. They are already guilty of whatever the Iranians are accused of trying to do.
If they have developed Bio Weapons, as you've described, and have a Doctrine to release them on the World, they are Criminals with intent.
More so than the Iranians, whom want to kill non Shia, the Israelis, according to you, are prepared to destroy the World.

If TRUE, they should burn in a Nuclear Fire, soon, before their Bugs can be released.

They have attacked US Naval ships in the past and really are not to be trusted, not any more than Iranians.

Pierre,
Based upon what do you base that believe?
What source do you have that our Government and the IAEA do not?

RAD, from one US Administration to another, we cannot even maintain a definition of a terrorist.
A Past President thinks Hamas is not a Terror Organization because they are not "Corrupt".
What will the next Administration or the one after that thimk of a RAD Policy?
Why would any Foreign Power expect continuity of Policy from US?

1/21/2006 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Wretchard,

Thank you for your kind clarification. I'm familiar with the Belmont core, incl the 3 Conjectures. What gives me pause is the fact that it has now been longer since 9/11/01 than the four years between Pearl Harbor and Nagasaki, and even you are writing in the past tense:

Instead of a pre-emptive strike after 9/11, what we needed to do was win the war on terror with vigor so that it would never become a nuclear exchange.

If what we are doing now is taking too long, in the sense that Americans' historic isolationism and disdain for foreign wars may soon eclipse the perceived need to fight this world war, then we are heading for the next Vietnam.

Only, unlike Vietnam, this enemy is determined to put our World at risk.

No one really believes that our reticence on first use has any effect on our enemies. So, why be reticent?

1/21/2006 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

d'Rat

I was being serious, I may have missed.

The US was threatening the WHOLE world with a nuclear winter and extinction; was the stated MAD policy, you may have missed. Suffer the apocalypse, criminals that you are, you will. :-)

1/21/2006 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

/channeling yoda

1/21/2006 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

mika

Exactly, the Iranians should get the same pass that the Russians & US, as well as the non compliant NPT countries of Israel, India, North Korea & Pakistan get.

To prejudge the Iranian's intent has no basis in Fact or Law.

The calls, here at Belmont, to have Iran "glow in the dark" or become a "sheet of glass". To bomb their electric grids, invade their country and kill their Rulers has the same intent as their guys wanting to 'Wipe Israel off the Map'.

The posters here do not have the capability to do what they announce as their intent, neither does the President of the Iranians.

The US is not at War with Iran, perhaps we should be, but we are not.

There is a moral equivalency to calls for Genocide, they all suck.

No matter whether the target of the Genocide is Jew, Persian or Sudanese.

1/21/2006 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

How is turning off the electricity
"Genocide" ?

1/21/2006 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

The Iranian intent is stated, clearly.

1/21/2006 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I Vant to Kill Jew!

1/21/2006 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

I wonder how dear Portia would have solved this conundrum.

1/21/2006 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

desert rat,

Personally I don't have a lot of faith in United States intelligence, at least the stuff for public consumption. With the CIA virtually at war with President Bush even after almost a year of reform under Peter Goss they have no credibility.

So their estimates don't give me warm and fuzzy feelings.

Course El Baradei has a different view of the matter than US Intelligence.

IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel's assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb.

If Teheran indeed resumed its uranium enrichment in other plants, as threatened, it will take it only "a few months" to produce a nuclear bomb, El-Baradei told The Independent.

On the other hand, he warned, any attempt to resolve the crisis by non-diplomatic means would "open a Pandora's box. There would be efforts to isolate Iran; Iran would retaliate; and at the end of the day you have to go back to the negotiating table to find the solution.


Iran has been a continuing set of unwelcome surprises for the last 5 years.
Revealed: Iran’s nuclear factory
At the end I asked how much UF6 had been made at Esfahan. The latest information published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose inspectors visit every three to four weeks, showed that 40-45kg had been produced by last June.

“The IAEA has been informed that in October three tonnes of UF6 were made,” said one of the scientists.

The information was highly significant: it proved that Iran has the capacity to produce UF6 on an industrial scale. Would it be able to make enough to feed 50,000 centrifuges planned for the Natanz enrichment plant, I asked? “Yes,” came the reply.

Iran says it would need enriched uranium from 50,000 centrifuges to sustain a domestic nuclear power industry and sell nuclear fuel commercially abroad.


What an unpleasant surprise to find out that a regime that is arguably the biggest supporter of terrorists in the world has underground operations going to produce exactly the sort of material it needs to produce nuclear weapons. Cool.

I still haven't forgiven Iran for the sponsorship of Hezbollah and the murder of 240 Marines. That was an act of war.

Not real hip to the idea that your idea and my idea of a terrorist might be a bit different.

Also was curious about your statement that Israel has attacked US Ships...plural. Know about the Liberty, not convinced that wasn't a terrible mistake made by an over eager commander. No doubt that the Liberty should not have been where it was during a fight for survial between Israel and others. But you seem to imply that other ships were attacked, didn't know about others.

Exactly, the Iranians should get the same pass that the Russians & US, as well as the non compliant NPT countries of Israel, India, North Korea & Pakistan get.

Not sure I understand this reasoning. To me that is akin to saying that because the police have weapons I should allow the criminals to have weapons. But I pray I misunderstand you.

Certainly we would have stopped Russia if we had been able to. No doubt keeping the technology out of Pakistans hands would have also been a wise action.

Israel is and remains a different proposition for most of us in the United States. Israel loves her children and we can trust her to not start flinging nuclear weapons about willy nilly.

Iran has repeated stated that she is in a global war for Islam. I suspect that taking her at her word might be a wise thing to do. We didn't buy a certain Austrian coporal rants soon enough and look at where that led.

If you are standing on the corner shouting at the world that you will have your revenge no one pays attention. If you are standing on the world stage as the head of one of the largest and richest countries in the Middle East and you have already been shown to be pursuing weapons...well then we take your rants a bit more seriously.

Stated simply had Iran not been calling for the death of infidels the world over no one would be upset enough to go to war. But when you have a nation whose leader utters such priceless lines as this: But Ahmadinejad's animus isn't simply directed toward Israel. To hear Iran's president tell it, a titanic struggle is underway between Islam and the West, and his country is on the front lines. "The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny . . . a historic war between the oppressor [Christians] and the world of Islam,"

If it walks like a terrorist thug, and talks like a terrorist thug and smells like a terrorist thug...well. Leaders of countries with nuclear ambitions are simply not allowed to have those sorts of wet dreams without someone attempting to thwart that dream.

Again what makes them so particularly dangerous is the same thing that made Iraq so dangerous. Their willingness to use terrorists as proxies in their war with the Infidels.

Nope sorry that won't fly. We should not let Hitler-II hae a free ride into a war of truly epic proportions without at least trying to stop him and his cohorts.

We should also be very afraid that he has not been stopped by those who surround him.

1/21/2006 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Norman Rogers, a few posts up, very clearly articulates one exemplary implementation of Baha'u'llah's principle of Collective Security of the Nations of the World: "Should any one amongst you rise up against another, ALL others must rise up against that nation."

There IS strength in unity.

1/21/2006 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mannning said...

France is making the simple point in advance that ANY nuclear attack from ANY source will result in the destruction of Iran, among other targets. Thus Iran handing off weapons to terrorists would not protect them from being decimated.
I believe we have made the same point, but with no fanfare. What this means for NK and Pakistan I have no idea, but just to make reasonably sure...

1/21/2006 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Carridine, jihadis managed to turn that old maxim on its head:

United we fall, divided we get the puck outta here.

1/21/2006 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

God, you guys just hyperventilate and carry on all the time. Chill. George said he won't let them have nukes. Has he ever lied to you, before? Of course, Gas is going to $2.75 while we take care of this little problem, and the Dems might get Congress back. Worry about that. Dubya's not gonna let them hav'em, okay? Relax!

1/21/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

rufus
Mr Bush is correct, they will not have nukes during his Presidency. He has three tears left. They will not have a bomb 'til after that time period, unless Mr Bush is lying about Iran's WMD.

Pierre,
Totally agree that Iran is at War with US. The US how ever is NOT at War with Iran. Congress could set that straight, but will not. There is not even a public discussion of that in Congress or at the White House.

The key word in the excerpt, from your quote " ... 50,000 centrifuges planned ... " is PLANNED. They do not have them, yet. It will be about three years 'til they do.

Ships should have been ship.

Country's are responsible for the actions of their Armed Forces, whether the Commanders are over enthusiastic or not. Was he tried and imprisoned for his actions, the deaths, as I recall, of multiple US Sailors. Don't think so, but I could be wrong, if so how many multiple life sentences was he given?

The Iranians have not violated the NPT, when they do the IAEA will report them to the UN Security Council which acts, I guess, as the Judge & Jury. The Chinese will never, IMO, agree the Iranians have violated the Treaty, and so goes the Law.
I dislike that system, but it was a US designed Treaty, so there you go, the US Standard that must be met before the Iranians are considered in violation of the Treaty.

Israel, India & Pakistan all have nuclear weapons and are our "friends".
Of that group, the Israelis have killed US Servicemen in an unprovoked attack, Pakistan is home to aQ and founders of the Taliban. Only India is a nonbeligerent country of those three.

North Korea, a country that is also at War with US, has withdrawn from the NPT, is a Criminal State, commits Genocide against it's own people, has committed terrorist acts in the past and gets a free pass from US. More than that we have paid them to build their bombs.

Maybe, someday, Iran will be considered a real threat, when it is the US should declare War and destroy them, 'til then... it's eyewash & propaganda.

1/21/2006 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Greetings to all from Barili Cebu in the lush Philippines.

I am at the local internet cafe and am once again reminded why this is my favorite blog (not written by myself ;-) ).

Many people see the horror scenarios being presented in the media and assume they only carry weight against the West. They work against both sides as you so often point out Wretchard.

While, the Islamic nuttoids may proudly boast how ready they are to cross the River Styx very few of the leaders are certainly not lined up for a ride on that ferry. What must be remembered is in order to control a field after the battle you must at least be alive.

1/21/2006 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Even after the Hostage Crisis, the Reagan White House was doing business with Iran, remember Iran/ Contra?
I was helping to train the Contras, Mr North and his bosses were dealing with Iran's Mullahs, hot and heavy. No State of War with Iran then, Mr North's office was in the White House basement.

Do the Mullahs a favor, give 'em a few air strikes, go at them less then full out, without the support of the majority of the US Public. The Mullahs will win, with the Iranian Public & the World.

Destroy what they do not have, giving 'em exactly what they want and need.
Not a good way to fight a battle for the Minds of Men.

1/21/2006 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Hey, Chirac did not say France would only use nukes in response to nukes:

"The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part," Chirac said in a speech at a nuclear submarine base in Brittany.

He certainly seems to be saying that if 9/11 had happened in Paris, Afghanistan would have "laid themselves open" to nuclear response.

1/22/2006 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

desert rat,
You don't seem to be very clear about your beliefs always seeming to beat around the bush at least it seems that way to this old man. Please excuse me if it is my fault for being dense.

You skipped over the fact that both Israel and El Baradei have said that if Iran gets processed U-235 it is only a matter of months till they are able to field a weapon.

The key word in the excerpt, from your quote " ... 50,000 centrifuges planned ... " is PLANNED. They do not have them, yet. It will be about three years 'til they do.

Yes planned but it is worth noting that El Baradei has been shocked before by their underground efforts. Matter of fact the fact that they had already processed tons of the material was a complete surprise to the IAEA.

This is completely aside from their efforts to simply purchase what they needed in the form of refined uranium.

Regards to multiple life sentences, well this will get under the skin of some but needs to be said. If you are cruising within 3 miles of a country obviously spying, in a full on war you are responsible for the results. Furthermore if you have been told by one of the parties in the war to alert them if one of your ships is offshore and you fail to do so then you are even more responsible. Never answered in all the conspiracy theories offered by such luminaries of political thought like Lew Rockwell and others is exactly why would Israel deliberately bomb a US Ship?

It was a simple case of Blue on Blue. There was no reason to punish the commanders involved. Just as there was no reason to punish the Commander of the Vincennes for killing 290 civilians in an Iranian civilian jet.

You are dancing around with your definitions of an enemy. Unless you truly believe that all of the parties you name are roughly equal...in which case we might have a problem coming to a mutual conclusion.

Pierre

1/22/2006 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Bob Smith said...

A summary of comments that channel my own thinking, in no particular order:

1. I know exactly how Americans will respond given a limited or a ‘knee’-bending nuclear attack. Military will have carte blanche to activate every toy in their arsenal. Some will remain in precautionary mode, to use an environmental term, but they will be an increasingly shrinking minority. The institutional memory is “Let’s roll.”

2. And then a world that wishes to continue to make money and drive cars in peace won't much care how this divinely appointed holy man finally finishes a bothersome "war of destiny.” The emergence of a new yeomantry to assume the responsibilities attendant to physical survival will not emerge from the ‘Bourgeois Bohemians’ born during the digital revolution. The differential development on the planet became too great to sustain. The gaps sucked us in.

3. The internal divisions within Islam - Arab and Persian, Sunni and Shia - are as great if not greater than the external divisions with western countries. One suspects that this is being employed to drive psychological operations. The West is not holding a weak hand - a matter of having a very subtle poker ‘tell’.

4. … a technological solution should not be the primary approach. Technological defenses should be there to deter, delay and defend. To catch the leakers. But our offensive weapon must be human. And it is here that I am most perplexed because I have no sense of vast covert forces massing to undermine the ayatollahs. If there is one area in which the US is deficient it isn't in hardware but in this human component, which I think is a vital ingredient to achieving victory without a human catastrophe. The lack of the human element in foreign policy. As I listen to the tired cliches that dominate the public debate, I believe that the governing paradigms are - to a degree - obsolete. This is not a call for another ’60’s type revolution to keep our young people busy. It is a suggestion that the intellectual concepts leading to the institutions that allow western societies to function - with reasonable equanimity, more or less - are deficient because they cannot be stretched to address the different set of problems faced by developing societies. Western concepts articulate the desirable ends - personal liberties, minority rights, free press, law and contracts - but not the means. I believe host is on the right track in suggesting that first step to formulating new approach is to define the problem - supporting (not necessarily creating) stable societies and discouraging non-functional social structures.

5. What I have called the ‘delivery systems’ - NGO, charitable aid, World Bank and IMF, international diplomacy, in general - have failed. Badly. A market economy would have put the For Sale sign up on these enterprises several decades ago.

6. The young intelligent population of Iran has to realize the dangerous road their current leadership is travelling down. To that end, I too have wondered to what extent the educated younger generation in Iran is willing to support the machinations of their secular and religious leadership - and to what extent the US has communicated a willingness to support their efforts. I recall that Tony Lake under Bill Clinton refused to support a local effort to remove Hussein from power because UN resolutions were lacking - the international community would not approve. And so.

7. War by proxy is not a concept unique to the West. The diabolical genius of what we consider the bellicose attitude of suspect stability from ME leaders is their embrace of strategy and tactics that give them an indisputable operational edge. Wretchard has observed their inability to adapt operationally in the past but my suggestion is that this is changing. The example is the way Iran ’may’ be allowing the US to weaken - play the proxy enemy for - the Wahhabists elements that create internal divisions on a par with those of western civilization.

8. the goal of the Iranian nuke program is dissemination of terrorism.Ahmadinejad is clever and goal-directed.Dissing them [Iranian theocracy] as a bunch of religious fanatics in turbans and zz-top beards is dangerous. Another element of their diabolical genius is the ability of the more secular leaders to camouflage themselves within the bellowing of the more radical religious leadership so that the west literally cannot identify the enemy. There are two different personality profiles. One is dangerous by dint of cold sanity, and the other is dangerous by dint of cold fanaticism. Cooperation derives from mutual convenience. Failure to acknowledge some of the complexities within the leadership has obscured the foreign policy focus, not to mention shutting down personal dialogue between leaders - a serious and significant communications loss since all the debate is being conducted in the media.

9. Pending failure of federal leadership in 2008 to engage in foreign policy with red button issues. No, I doubt many Americans would support sending Peter Sellers off on a rocket to the desert, but neither are many of us prepared to accept boarding a rocket to another planet as the only remaining option on the table. I personally have not discarded this [essentially Malthusian] option, but since I am too old to be allowed in and for the sake of argument, any of the alternative scenarios will require focus, purpose, and balls of steel. And this is not a metaphorical trick to rule out the women. They may well have what the future demands.

1/22/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Bob Smith said...

I have been away for awhile and missed this, probably among others, which I will add to an appropriate place on my list:

10. The multiculturalists have got it wrong. Technology is nothing. Culture is everything. The world can more easily be indifferent to technology than to culture. Australia can build a nuclear weapon. Japan can build a nuclear weapon. New Zealand can build a nuclear weapon. And no one will care. It is the culture that bears the threat. [Wretchard] And the Brave New World is not even here yet.

1/22/2006 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

An interesting discussion on Iran at:
www.windsofchange.net/archives/007981.php

I haven't read all the comments yet, but #2 & #27 seem particularly illuminating.

1/22/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Pierre

" ...
This is the USS Liberty Memorial Web Site
honoring the memory of thirty four Americans
who were brutally killed by the Armed Forces of Israel
on June 8, 1967.

This web site is dedicated to the memory of thirty-four fine young men who gave their lives on June 8, 1967, defending the USS Liberty against a sustained air and sea attack by the armed forces of the State of Israel.
During the Six Day War between Israel and the Arab States, the American intelligence ship USS Liberty was attacked for 75 minutes in international waters by Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats. Thirty-four men died and 174 were wounded.

The attack, which was a war crime, has been a matter of controversy ever since. Survivors and many key government officials including Secretary of State Dean Rusk, former JCS Chairman Admiral Thomas Moorer, and nearly every senior American intelligence professional say it was no accident. Israel and its supporters insist it was a "tragic case of misidentification" and charge that the survivors are either lying or too emotionally involved to see the truth.

Israel claims they mistook our ship for the out-of-service Egyptian horse carrier El Quseir and that we brought the attack upon ourselves by operating in a war zone without displaying a flag. Not so. We were in international waters, far from any fighting, and flew a bright, clean, new American flag. The flag we flew when the torpedo boats approached is on display at the National Cryptologic Museum, Fort Meade, Maryland and can be seen there, or in the USS Liberty Images Archive. The flag we flew during most of the air attack will be permanently displayed at the Cold War Museum near Washington, DC.

Our commanding officer, Captain William Loren McGonagle, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty during the attack. The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award our country can bestow. To avoid embarrassing our attackers, Captain McGonagle's Medal of Honor was presented in a quiet ceremony in the Washington Navy Yard instead of in the White House by the President as is customary ... "



I'll stand with the US Sailors that survived the attack and their accounts. The deny being inside the 3 mile limit.
You are welcome to stand with War Criminals, as you wish.

Israel is looking for immigrants, you ought to check it out. As for myself I will remain loyal to the USA and it Service members.
I will remain skeptical of those that target Americans and the lies they tell. Whether the liars are Israeli or Iranian.

1/22/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

d'Rat,

Whatever its "flag", Israeli commanders were correct in putting that suspicious vessel out of commission. The ship was a spy ship and was too close to Israeli shores. It was close enough to spy on Israeli military communications, and therefore close enough to subsequently jam Israeli military communications. To leave that ship meandering where it was, at a time of war and during highly sensitive operations, would have been extreme negligence. That it turned out to be an American spy ship, is highly unfortunate.

1/22/2006 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

desert rat,

Ah time to get personal? Didn't realize we reached that point. Again someone with a weak argument reaches out and instead of reaching for a better argument decides to slime his opponent.

While it may be difficult to stay on task I would hope that you would make a grander attempt. Your arguments are weak and that is obvious...challenge your premises before you insult others. My patriotism is not to be questioned by the likes of you.

You have not answered the most important point about the Liberty...exactly why would Israel attack their only ally? Did they feel like 5 armies attacking them wasn't quite enough?

What was the Liberty doing so close to a war? Why did it go in alone?

Did we deliberately target the Iranian airliner? Was the captain of the Vincennes prosecuted? Was he even reprimanded? War is dangerous, you approach a war at your own risk. If there is blame it is with the commanders who sent the Liberty in so close without escort.

You still have not responded to the fact that it is entirely possible that the Iranians can have weapons in months as stated by El Baradei and Israel...oh thats right Israel is the enemy.

Do you post at Lew Rockwell?

Pierre Legrand

1/22/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

We could have spied from the skies, although the tech for that in '67 was not what it is today.

If you fire on the Stars & Stripes, you fire on US.

In matters little whether in Beirut or the Med. Those that do attack US are not to be trusted in the future.

When the Israeli later sold US tech to the Chinese, they sealed the deal, in my mind.

I reealize that on a scale, the Israelis are better for US than the Mohammedans, but rest assured, as you know, mika, the Israelis operate in their own best interest, not the US's.

An Iraqi General died while being questioned, the Warrant Officer that was in charge was just found guilty of Manslaughter. The US, in the '60's, prosecuted the commander on the ground at Mi Lai. That Lt. served time.
We gave Israel a pass in '67. We were busy, elsewhere.
In '06, the Enemy of our Enemy is our Friend.

Bet we give the Iranians a pass in '06.
We do that alot.

1/22/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

pierre
Slime you, not at all.
You choose to believe those that attacked the US Navy. I choose to believe the US Sailors.

Your defense of the attackers would be admirable, if you were an Israeli.

I think that voting with one's feet is the best way to articulate one's real position.

I'm sitting here watching an Israeli General saying that the Iranian Challenge will end in the destruction of Iran. tit for tat, I guess.

Everyone in the Region will be wiped from the map.

Can't wait.

1/22/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Bob Smith said...

The USS Liberty. I had another point to make before this subject intervened. My question is why the leadership of Israel did not contact President Johnson before the attack. I am aware of the controversy, but, if Mika's explantion is correct, it could have been subsumed with upper level communication between leaders.

Back to my original point.

What is interesting about the culture wars is that the concept was introduced as a counterbalance to rule of law. The objectivity of laws is validated by the effectiveness of our legal institutions just as the subjectivity of cultural beliefs is validated by their sustainability within the culture. One is explicit and institutionally focused and one is implicit and socially distributed. Social cohesion is defined by two systems and one seems to be out of balance.

There is, of course the ever-present third system - the markets. The chicken and egg debate continues about the temporal sequencing of laws preceding markets or vice versa but so far the role of culture has not been introduced into that discussion, which I think is what the host is or may be suggesting.

1/22/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

"The Israelis operate in their own best interest, not the US's."

Both countries are operating on the same mutually inclusive interests. I also think there's no other country more politically aligned to US interests than Israel, not even Britain.

1/22/2006 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Bob,

Israeli commanders say they identified the target as a hostile. Given the suspicious activity of the vessel, I would have reached the same conclusion. Maybe given the extreme sensitivity and secrecy of the ongoing operations they decided it was more prudent to shoot first and ask questions later. These things happen.

1/22/2006 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Kulick said...

That's the *Natural* Resources Defense Council.

1/22/2006 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

That large US Flag, mika, was quite suspicious.

I can understand that the Israel thought US may have been forwarding intel to the Egyptians. I can understand attacking the ship in multiple waves, for over a hour.
If I had been an Israeli, I may have ordered the attack, myself.
I'm not an Israeli, though.

Today, you're right, the Israelis are amongst our best friends. Tomorrow, who knows.
If the loose those bugs you spoke of yesterday ...

1/22/2006 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Papa Bear: ...You are correct about the shelf life of suitcase nukes. Tac nukes need tritium in order to work. Tritium has a half life of 12 years...

I agree. I assume when Wretchard is talking about "suite case nukes" he is talking about and nuke artillery shell, or a reentry vehicle or "bomblet" of a multiple warhead ICBM. Those certainly must be maintained.

summignumi: One suite case bomb detonated in Washington would be sufficient to change the American fabric beyond ones ability to comprehend...

Basically, you are correct. But, you can sort of comprehend what will happen looking at 9/11 history and extending that 30 times. Yes, lots of fear, panic, financial dislocation, and residual radiation...

John F. Opie: You all really need to get off the idea of a suitcase bomb. They never really existed (even ADMs were substantially larger) and are largely a figment of the imagination.

What everyone should be worried about is the 20ft Container bomb. This is all that Iran needs: get one of these aboard a container ship, preferably one of those 8000 container ships, shielded and hidden (i.e. adequate anti-discovery safeguards that let it look like a shipment of tagamotchi clone toys or more probably like a shipment of cheap machine tools), and that is all you need.


I concure. I would expect a crude gun style bomb could be built and delivered via a container, large boat, rail car, large truck or any other large vehicle. It would be heavy and crude but, if it was the size of the Hiroshima bomb and was detonated in a populated city it would instill terror and panic. Once the capability is demonstrated, then a whole series of new threats emerge.

I will say the attack will probably come in some unexpected form - somewhat like the 9/11 attack.

whit notes: ...real threat being ...For that matter... [could be] a ship mounted missile launcher.

Yes, that could be real problem. In fact, a large civilian ship could do the trick.

I could see Iran using nuclear water mines to choke shipping lanes. The size of the device would not be so important just the ability cause a 25 Kt explosion. Look, who wants to be near a device like that.

Diodor Bitan: ...If they try, can that be stopped?

What happens if they are caught in the act?

What if they claim they have already planted some nukes? (even if they didn't have)

What would happen to those nukes if a successful revolution overthrows the theocracy?


All good questions.

Wretchard: jamie irons,

I haven't given much thought to bioterrorism. The same calculus from the nuke case probably applies
...

I am not so sure. Just a few letters with anthrax spores had a disruptive effect. Remember parts of DC being evacuated? The anthrax attack was not very deadly but it caused a lot of fear.


Jason_Pappas: The impact of a nuclear Iran will be felt even without the use of one nuke. Let's remember that it was the unwillingness to tangle with nuclear powers that restricted our military to fighting limited wars in Korea and Vietnam...

Yes, unfriendly states with nukes can be very constraining. Just one more reason to keep Iran de-fanged.

Philomathean said: But what about the command and control of Iran's regular nuclear forces? In a short time Iran will have a force or nuclear-tipped missiles. No doubt these missiles will be kept at a high state of readiness, leading to a "use 'em or lose 'em" mindset...

I believe, the real danger is not the nuke - it's the idiot who has his finger on the button (or his willingness to bully others with it). It may be more effective to cut the head of the snake off instead of trying to beat in to death from mid-line up. Ahmadinejad and his crew seem to be the head. I know what I am about to say is unpopular. But, why not just cut off the head? Sure, there are risks, but Ahmadinejad is a loose nuclear cannon on the deck. He sooner or later his bound to attack someone or some country - he has openly stated so. We might as well take him out before he takes us out (or some of our friends). And, there must be a number of people he has crossed who could help with the job.


Here's an interesting development to watch for: A mass exodus from Iran.

- or a mass exodus of Iranian capital from Wester banks to unknown locations.

[since I can't seem to preview this post I'll just post it]

1/22/2006 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

No desert rat you have resorted to the oldest debating tactic in the book. Don't like the message then attempt to attack the messenger. If you can convince others that the messenger is nuts, traitor or worse then you are off the hook.

Slime you, not at all.
You choose to believe those that attacked the US Navy. I choose to believe the US Sailors.


No I choose to believe the fact that in war mistakes are made and then people try to rationalize them the best way they can. We murdered Canadians by mistake, do you advocate trying the pilots for murder? Are you satisfied that one of the pilots only recieved a reprimand which consists of 30 house arrest?

Know what? I am. I am also satisfied with the fact that the Commander of the Vincennes was not punished at all....and he murdered 290 innocent civilians. War is hell, that is not a cliche' that is fact. If you go around a war you must expect the worst.

NSA Declassified report stated clearly that the Liberty was ordered to not sail closer than 100nm to the shore. A cock-up in communications screwed up that order and they ended up in a war zone, international waters or not. We are damn lucky they didn't provoke the Soviets who were backing the UAR at the time. Matter of fact it took a Hot Line communication to alert the Soviets to our rescue attempts. Those rescue attempt were called off because of Nassers response to the US. NSA REPORT

Your defense of the attackers would be admirable, if you were an Israeli.

No my defense of the truth is inviolate regardless of the nationality. Reality doesnt appreciate being dicked with. Because you believe that Jews are just as bad as the terrorists two birds one stone, you chose to believe the worst. I chose to believe that some of the worst tragedies of war are the mistakes...and there tends to be a lot of them.

I don't want to see people getting tried for murder in Blue on Blue because by and by the US because of our size tends to have more of them then anyone else. Finally Israel did pay reparations to the dead, the wounded and to the US Government.

Pierre Legrand

1/22/2006 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Bob Smith said...

Moshe Dayan was also a hothead.

Which is why sobriety of speech and considered thought are requisite for public dialogue and hopelessly absent in the ME, and too many venues within the western world.

Which is why the tornado-driven turbines of rhetoric emerging from the ME generate debate over gravitas versus yesterday's garbage. The dialogue must elevate. The emotional rhetoric must decline.

Moshe Dayan giving Lyndon Johnson a redline call. How absurd.

1/23/2006 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Maybe moishe needed some love.

1/23/2006 10:28:00 PM  

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