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April 22, 2008



'This would apply both to an attack by Iran directly and to an attack by a proxy terrorist group armed with a rudimentary "dirty bomb".'

I agreed with you up to this part of the piece, at which point my coffee spayed across the computer monitor. You seriously think that launching a full scale nuclear strike in response to a terrorist radiological attack (of course, there are dirty bombs and dirty bombs) is going to be a workable policy? I can't see it (and on that basis don't really see the deterrent utility of the threat). Or am I getting the wrong end of the stick?


Such nuclear deterrence works if your opponent is rational and self-interested. I do not know whether or not that is the case for the current leadership of Iran. One country where a good argument can be made that the leadership is not rational is thye DPRK (North Korea). A leadership willing to put a bomb on a plane carrying half its neighbour's Cabinet Ministers strikes me as a leadership unable to act in its self-interest, or perhaps even to calculate that interest.


It would be surely be very difficult to demonstrate the provenance of a dirty bomb, but even if it were possible your suggested retaliation would be massively disproportionate.


I think it is very silly to answer such a question is such a direct way. Kennedy was fortunately cautious - had he followed the military advice he had been given and attacked Cuba, WW3 could have started. Unknown to his military, Cuba's missiles were operational.

Any attack by Iran would have special conditions that may affect any response. Iran's economy is fragile. Take out their oil refineries and the public reaction could bring down the Mullahs. Blockade its oil ports and its financial system would freeze - it has no other exports. Go nuclear, and you could weld the Middle East Muslim world together. The result of that is incalculable.


Are you sure you don't mean suitcase nuke instead of dirty bomb? But I agree, there's no virtue in a proportionate response.

Tom Owen

I agree with Peter's point. It seems to me that the two main participants during the cold war nuclear stand-off were rational actors. This was true of the USSR in terms of nuclear strategy, however despicable we found them in other terms.

It might be pretty hard to characterise those who think that 'martyrdom' is a pathway to the ministrations of fifty virgins, or somesuch, as 'rational actors'.


Tom, I'm tempted to agree with Peter's views as well, except that I think it's worth remembering that Iran does have a constituency of more rational actors alongside the headbangers of the Revolutionary Guards et al. It may well be worth confronting them with the possible ultimate consequences of the hardliners fully indulging themselves.


The point about Iran is purely hypothetical, because they still do not have nuclear weapons (do they??)

Anyway, I think there is a certain moral problem in "obliterating" the entire people of Iran - women, children, old, and etc. How many of them actually are to blame for the actions of the rulers?

Maybe you think that is naive?

Okay, let's try a new purely hypothetical question: what does America do if Israel makes the first nuclear strike on Iran?

Do we then want to see the entire Jewish people and their culture obliterated too?
(If we are consistent, the answer would be "yes".)


The chances of Israel nuking Iran first are not just minimal but non existent, The chances of Iran nuking Israel considerably higher, Hypotheticals can be a useful tool in debate but not fantasys.

Its not about the fetishistic pursuit of 'consistency', Its about Western national interest not intellectual parlour games .

As for the moral problem i do not see it, nations must pay the price of their leaders decisions, the Japanese, Germans and the world are all better off because we did not shrink from the use of violence on a massive scale, disproportionate response is the only humane response because when its over its over.


"The chances of Israel nuking Iran first are not just minimal but non existent, The chances of Iran nuking Israel considerably higher"

No. Both chances are equally unlikely.

It's not complicated. Iran never would attack Israel with nuclear weapons because of the fear of destruction from America (and Israel.)

If you don't have moral problems with "violence on a massive scale" against civilians, okay, that's your opinion. (Maybe you see this differently if you are chanced to be born in Iran, hmm?)

But one thing is sure: you don't ever complain if the other guys also use "massive violence" in retaliation for a (hypothetical) first strike, do you?


What would Hillary do if Israel launched a nuclear attack on Iran? Would she "totally obliterate them"?

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