Does Ted Koppel read the blogs?
Do you think Ted Koppel's been reading the blogs? Westhawk quotes Koppel's column in the International Herald Tribune, in which he coincidentally ideas to deter nuclear proxy warfare that were earlier circulated on the blogs.
If Iran is bound and determined to have nuclear weapons, let it. … But this should also be made clear to Tehran: If a dirty bomb explodes in Milwaukee, or some other nuclear device detonates in Baltimore or Wichita, if Israel or Egypt or Saudi Arabia should fall victim to a nuclear "accident," Iran should understand that the U.S. government will not search around for the perpetrator. The return address will be predetermined, and it will be somewhere in Iran.
The idea of an unacknowledged tit-for-tat against roge state sponsors of terrorism was not only bruited by Westhawk before Koppel, it was described on the original Belmont Club site in February, 2005.
Long before a faculty lounge in Islamabad or Riyadh realizes it can build a bomb alone and secretly, the same thought will have occurred to individuals in Tel Aviv, New Delhi or Palo Alto. Any Islamic group that believes it can attack New York deniably should convince itself that no similar group can nuke Mecca at the height of the pilgrim season. In fact, the whole problem that Coll describes should be generalized. The only thing worse than discovering that New York has been destroyed by persons unknown is to find that Islamabad has been vaporized by a group we've never heard of.
The idea appeared again somewhat later in September 14, 2006 in the post entitled A Joke at the Kremlin, which described Vladimir Putin's warning to Nathan Sharansky that the West could be struck by suitcase bombs carried by terrorist proxies. Nuclear weapons without a return address. The idea of unmarked retaliation was contined in my fiction reply to Putin:
But how if Sharansky told Putin. "Yes, Vladimir. Imagine a wonderful dusk in Moscow, or Teheran, or Damascus. The work of the day is done; and strong, capable men lock their safes and wait for the limousines to carry them to the secret policeman's ball. There will be women, wine! Especially in Teheran there will be wine! And somewhere on those darkened streets a man may take a suitcase from a car and sets it very carefully in a bus station locker. Quietly. As if he were afraid to awaken something sleeping. Not from my country, Vladimir. But from some other, lawless country, one that doesn't want to get its hands dirty — who will perpetrate their attacks without a return address. What should we do about that Vladimir?"
But unattributed retaliation against terrorist sponsors only works as long as the terrorist sponsors are sole producers of nuclear weapons. If fanatical cultists like Osama Bin Laden had an independent capacity to manufacture nukes, no regime of proportional retaliation would result in stable deterrence for reasons described in the Three Conjectures. The murderous cycle of retaliation would continue until someone willed himself to do the unimaginable.
Consider a case where Islamic terrorists obliterate a city, causing five times the deaths at Hiroshima and an American limited response. ... In a war between nations, the conflict might stop at this point. But since there is no one with whom to negotiate a peace and no inclination to stop anyhow, the Islamic terrorists will continue while they have the capability and the cycle of destruction continues. ... At this point, a United States choked with corpses could still not negotiate an end to hostilities or deter further attacks. There would be no one to call on the Red Telephone, even to surrender to. In fact, there exists no competent Islamic authority, no supreme imam who could stop a jihad on behalf of the whole Muslim world. Even if the terror chiefs could somehow be contacted in this apocalyptic scenario and persuaded to bury the hatchet, the lack of command and control imposed by the cell structure would prevent them from reining in their minions. Due to the fixity of intent, attacks would continue for as long as capability remained. Under these circumstances, any American government would eventually be compelled by public desperation to finish the exchange by entering -1 x 10^9 in the final right hand column: total retaliatory extermination.
Islamic terrorists which do not represent states but only themselves; which consist of groups answerable to no more than a handful of fanatics yet have the power to kill millions can only be met — if they can be met at all — by the most radical form of excision. There is no stable plateau at which the process of retaliation would naturally halt. There are no ledges on which the falling stone of destruction will catch. Stopping the serial destruction of the world's cities would require a response so dreadful and so unthinkable that almost any effort to win the war on terror to prevent this fantastic exchange would be well worth it. We are living in the last minutes of what I called the Golden Hour — the window in which this WMD-enabled terrorism can be prevented with a minimum of human suffering. And we are probably frittering the time away. But at least, maybe Ted Koppel reads the blogs, or the idea has occurred to him independently, so there's hope yet.