Monday, December 10, 2012

The Fantasy of Detering Iranian Ambitions !

There are few foreign-policy positions more silly than the assertion, without context, that ''deterrance works.'' It is like saying air power works. Well, it worked for Kosovo; it didn't work over Vietnam. The idea that some military technique ''works'' is meaningless. It depends on the time, the circumstances, the nature of the adversaries. Yet a significant school of American ''realists'' remains absolutist on deterrence and is increasingly annoyed with those troublesome Israelis who are sowing fear, rattling world markets and risking regional war by threatening a preemptive strike to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Sure, deterrence worked during 40 years of the Cold War but deterring Iran is fundamentally different. You could rely on the Soviets but not on Iran.

The reasons are obvious and threefold:
  1. The nature of this fetid regime. Did the Soviet Union in its 70 years ever deploy a suicide bomber? For Iran, as for other Jihadists, suicide bombing is routine. Iran's clerical regime rules in the name of a fundamental hate-filled religion for whom the hereafter offers the ultimate rewards. For Soviet communists--thoroughly militantly atheistic--such thinking was an opiate-laced fairy tale. For all its global aspirations, the Soviets were intensely nationalistic. The Islamic Republic sees itself as an instrument of its own brand of Shiite destiny--the messianic return of the ''hidden Imam.''
          It's one thing to live in a state of mutual assured destruction with leaders of a historically    grounded, deeply here-and-now regime. It's quite another to be in a situation of mutual destruction with apocalyptic clerics who believe in the supremacy of the afterlife and holy war as the ultimate avenue to achieving it. To quote an al-Qaeda jihadist; ''You love life and we love death.''  Try deterring that!

     2.  The nature of the grievance. The Soviet quarrel with America was ideological. Iran's quarrel      with Israel is existential. The Soviets never proclaimed a desire to annihilate the American people. For Iran, the very existence of a Jewish state on Muslim land is a crime, an abomination, a cancer with which no negotiation, no coexistence, no accommodation is possible.

    3.   The nature of the target. America is 300 million; Israel, 8 million. America is a continental nation; Israel, a speck on the map, at one point 8 miles wide. Israel is a ''one bomb country.''  Its territory is so tiny, its population so concentrated that, as Iran's former President, Akbar Rafsanjani, has famously said, ''application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.'' A tiny nuclear arsenal would do the job. They know about the Israel arsenal, that any exchange would destroy Israel instantly and forever, whereas the ummah--the Muslim world of 1.8 billion people whose redemption is the ultimate purpose of the Iranian revolution--would survive damaged but intact.

The Way I See It....the mullahs have a radically different worldview, a radically different grievance and a radically different calculation of the consequences of nuclear war. The confident belief that they are like the Soviets is a fantasy. That's why Israel is contemplating a preemptive strike. Israel refuses to trust its very existence to the convenient theories of Obama's comfortable analysts living 6000 miles from its Ground Zero.


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