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Iran, Nukes and Anti-Missile Shields

The IAEA announced, almost simultaneously with the US unilateral withdrawal of its planned eastern European anti-missile shield, that Iran now has the capability and materials to build a nuclear weapon. Why did the IAEA come to that conclusion?

• The IAEA’s assessment that Iran worked on developing a chamber inside a ballistic missile capable of housing a warhead payload “that is quite likely to be nuclear.”

• That Iran engaged in “probable testing” of explosives commonly used to detonate a nuclear warhead — a method known as a “full-scale hemispherical explosively driven shock system.”

• An assessment that Iran worked on developing a system “for initiating a hemispherical high explosive charge” of the kind used to help spark a nuclear blast.

Additionally it noted, “The agency … assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device (an atomic bomb) based on HEU (highly enriched uranium) as the fission fuel.”

And it has enriched enough uranium for fuel that it could be turned into enough weapons grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon.

So we have the capacity for a nuclear weapon and apparently proof, or at least some pretty heavy indications, that Iran has been working assiduously toward developing a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as well as developing and testing an explosive trigger for such a device.

Obviously this didn’t come as a surprise to the US. Iran’s capability in both missiles and nuclear weapons technology continues to grow.

So excuse me if I don’t buy this “redefinition” of the threat the Obama administration is claiming is better addressed by its focus on short and medium range Iranian missiles. Any defense against missiles is a layered defense. That means you address all possible missile threats.

The fact remains that the only threat to Europe, for whom the Bush-era anti-missile shield was intended, is ballistic missiles. Iran (or Russia) must use them to reach that continent. Iranian short and medium range missiles are not a threat Europe.

The point, of course, is should Iran develop an ICBM, Europe would be defenseless because the systems which are designed for the short and medium range missiles aren’t designed to go after ICBMs.

Or said another way, the proper announcement would have been “the US is adding the missing two layers to the anti-missile defense system, thereby making the system complete.”

Instead we pulled the long-range system. Why?

Well that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Most feel it was a capitulation in answer to Russia’s fears of the system. Russia had claimed that the small and supposed defensive system could be turned into offensive system aimed at them. Of course that would require a completely different sort of missile than would have been deployed there, and, probably, a different sort of radar system as well.

Speaking of the radar system, Russia objected to the sophisticated X-band radar saying it would be able to look in 360 degrees and would be monitoring Russian missiles much too closely. Seems a bit absurd to make that claim when Russia knows we have satellites that can read the bumper numbers off their mobile missile launchers at will.

Then there was the claim that the US and Russia had an agreement that US troops and weapons wouldn’t be stationed or deployed in the former Warsaw Pact nations. The US doesn’t seem to remember that, but Russia claims its the case. That certainly can’t be the concern since Obama has said that in the future the new anti-missile systems might be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Obama says his decision was driven by the “unanimous advice” of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Said the man who recommended the deployment of the missile shield to President Bush three years ago:

“Those who say we are scrapping missile defence in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing in Europe,” said Robert Gates, US defence secretary.

In a word: nonsense!

Someone please explain the spurious claim that the best missile defense system for Europe – which can only be hit by an Iranian ICBM – is one which targets short and medium range Iranian missiles. It makes absolutely no sense.

It makes no sense until Russia is dragged into the equation. Then it starts to become somewhat clear. This is a risky bet meant to appease Russia while at the same time hoping Iran is unable to develop a long-range nuclear capable missile before its nuclear weapons program can be stopped. It is also clearly a bow to Russia and a part of the Obama administration’s unilateral attempt to “reset” relations with that country. And it is a display of weakness.

What about our allies? How do they feel about this? Well perhaps the best way to answer that is to understand why they were so interested in the anti-missile system promised by the Bush administration:

During negotiations with the Bush administration, Warsaw pushed hard for a missile defence agreement that would reward them with a Patriot short-range air defence unit supported by US troops. In the end, Poland agreed in principle to host the US base during last year’s war between Russia and Georgia, which sparked fears about Russian intentions towards central Europe.

Eastern Europe doesn’t trust Russia as far as they can throw them (a lesson we should have learned as well). The invasion and virtual annexation of two provinces of Georgia underscored Russia intent to dominate what it calls it’s “near abroad” (or Post-Soviet Space). Russia literally thumbed its nose at the US and the rest of the world with its military incursion there. Poland and other former Warsaw pact nations took the lesson for what it was – a declaration that Russia was back and intended to play hardball.

Max Boot reminds us of the last time this sort of thing happened:

That Obama has now bowed to Putin’s demands sends a dangerous signal of irresoluteness and weakness—similar to the signal another young president sent when he met with a Russian leader in Vienna in 1961. Nikita Khrushchev emerged from his summit with John F. Kennedy convinced that the president was “very inexperienced, even immature” and that he could be rolled. We all know the result: the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Except this time we’re playing in Russia’s backyard, not our own. Again, leadership is absent in a very critical area of national security.

~McQ

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56 Responses to Iran, Nukes and Anti-Missile Shields

  • Interesting parallels with the Cuban Missile Crisis. This move does seem to be improving relationships, obviously with Russia, but also with Eastern Europeans who did not support their governments’ collaboration with the program. http://tinyurl.com/nrretn

  • Once again regarding leadership in the Obama Administration: Leadership – Not Observed!

  • STOP.

    Eastern Europe has nothing to fear from Russia. Comrade Erb decreed it.

  • Part of me wonders why we are worried about defending Europe against Iranian missiles. After all:

    1. During Bush’s term in office, the Euros demonstrated to Iran that they will do everything short of handing over their daughters to the mullahs in the interests of appeasement. The Iranians publicly laughed their a**es off at the Euros. So, why would they use a nuke on Europe when all the have to do is say “Boo!” and the EU will cave to any demand that Tehran cares to make?

    2. When Bush was in office, many people (including me, from time to time) wondered why we are in effect using US tax money to pay for Europe’s defense. Most of the Euros pay a pittance for their own defense (with one result being that they had to ask us for help in dealing with Bosnia, which was in their own back yard). If they are concerned with Iranian missiles, let THEM pay the jack to develop a defense.

    On the other hand, Eastern Europe has tried very hard to work with us over the past several years. They rely on use for some security from the Russians. The missile shield was supposed to be tangible evidence of how seriously we take that security commitment. It was also supposed to serve as a not so subtle warning to Moscow that the days of the Iron Curtain are most assuredly over.

    Well, now the Eastern Europeans know that Uncle Sam has no problem running out on his friends when it suits him (they might have asked expatriates from various Southeast Asian countries about this). The Russians know that we can be bullied. “Dust off those hotel brochures for Warsaw, Vasily!”

    I wonder how the rest of the Euros are taking this? Are they cheering because Uncle Sam has been humbled? Or are they wondering (quietly, perhaps) if they are next to be sold down the river?

    • If we defend Europe from ICBMs, we also defend ourselves.

      • I would guess that the interceptors we had planned to deploy to Europe were designed to knock down a missile or warhead in the terminal phase of its flight and would only be effective against threats directed toward Europe (I may well be wrong about this). Presumably, ICBM’s headed for the United States would be outside the range of the interceptors (except, perhaps, ICBM’s launched from European Russia that might be knocked down in their boost phase).

        Certainly the radars associated with a European-based system would be useful to us in the event of a strike against the United States, but I’m not sure that the interceptors themselves would be.

        While I have given arguments against deploying ABM’s to Eastern Europe, I don’t subscribe to them myself. My thought is that the system would serve a very good dual purpose: helping to prevent Iran OR Russia holding Europe hostage and also demonstrating / cementing our security alliance with the Eastern Europeans. Are these good enough reasons to spend billions of dollars AND p*ss off Moscow, whose help we apparently need in dealing with Iran? I say that they are, but others can make a good argument that they are not.

        My ultimate concern is that this sorry episode is merely the beginning of the end of our ABM program: TAO will find some reason to scrap the seaborne aspects as well as the ground-based interceptors in Alaska.

        What is is about liberals that they LIKE the idea of American cities being wide open to ICBM attack???

        Oh, and a final note about the super-duper sea-based system that TAO proposes to deploy instead of the ground-based system in Poland and Czech Republic: I thought it was axiomatic among libs that no ABM system could ever POSSIBLY work, and that spending even a nickel on such a pie-in-the-sky project would be a complete waste of money. But now we have their messiah, the smartest president EVAH, The Annointed One, not only effectively telling us that the sea-based system will work, but will work pretty well. Is this another example of him selling out his own loopy base?

        • Maybe I gave the wrong impression, but I wasn’t suggesting the Eastern European system would protect the US. A like system here or here or near here.

          • Absolutely agree. A big system. Deployed in several locations in the US and (if they agree) Canada. Say, about 5000 interceptors. And work on space-based, too. And that airborne laser system the USAF has been working on. SM-3 on ships. I think the Navy has been working on a laser system that might be useful, too. The goal is to make it practically impossible to get an ICBM warhead anywhere near US soil. THAT’S worth spending money on.

    • Speaking for myself at least, I will never conflate any given administration with Uncle Sam. There is a certain consistency, however, to the letter after the name of US politicians who screw our allies, reward our enemies, and pimp up Uncle Sam to be Uncle Sugar.

  • I wonder if there was any kind of deal.

    I could easily believe Obama would deliberately give a nod to increased Russian hegemony in the region. Afterall the US is too powerful and its influence needs to be dialed down. And it fits his favoring of dictatorial rule over constitutional rule. His favoring of ‘control’ over perceived ‘chaos’.

  • SO WHAT if Iran has a nuclear weapon? Does anyone think they’re going to attack Europe? They could be destroyed many times over by NATO forces — have you forgotten mutually assured destruction. And don’t give me bigotry (those Muslims are crazy!), since Iran’s Guardian Council has proven very strategic and rational in pursuit of its foreign policy aims since 1979. These aren’t a bunch of crazies. They want to be taken seriously as a regional power. So would we if we were in their shoes.

    I praise Obama’s leadership for not maintaining a costly and unnecessary plan that does not serve the US interest, harms our relations with Russia, and isn’t supported by many of our allies. The easy thing to do would be to placate the right wing, who hasn’t quite realized how much the world has changed, and just keep the missile shield up. Obama is a true leader, this proves it.

    • SO WHAT if Iran has a nuclear weapon?

      ***

      “Some men just want to watch the world burn”

      I’m convinced more than ever that’s the kind of person you are Scott.

    • And don’t give me bigotry (those Muslims are crazy!),

      ***

      Are you seriously trying to play the race card here!?!?

      If that’s the case I certainly WILL give you bigotry- those guys in charge are f**king crazy as sh*thouse rats and if you think that’s racist I couldn’t give a flying crap about it.

      I tend to take nations at their word. And the heads of that nation have made it quite clear they wish to destroy another nation with a nuke once they acquire it.

      That’s enough for me to say they should get slapped out.

      • Awww, Shark, you know they’re really all the same as we are! We shouldn’t judge. We’re all alike, we’ve done good things, and bad things, and, admittedly as Americans a lot of what we’ve done has been bad and evil, but surely the peace loving leaders of Iran will forgive us for those transgressions.

        So when Ackpffft Onmydinnerjacket comes out, YET AGAIN, and says the Holocaust was a lie, and that Israel’s continued existence will be short lived, we should not let our poor interpretation of his world view and his language to think he means what he says. Instead we should know that, like us, he understands the difficulties of reconciling the troubles of the poor Hamas electing Palestinians with the needs for Israeli existence and security.

        And when the IAEA points out they are probably developing what amounts to ICBM technology that is nuclear capable, we should realize, that, like any 12 year old kid, they just want to be taken seriously, and they don’t really mean any harm. After all, we can all just get along if we admit we’ve done some bad things, and we apologize, and we hold dialogues with them. Worked for Europe in the 1930′s, no reason it won’t work today.

      • Mao’s rhetoric was wilder than Ahmadinejad, but Nixon realized that you look at actions not red meat rhetoric. And Ahmadinejad isn’t all that powerful, you need to look at the Guardian Council and what they do. And even if Iran gets a nuclear bomb or two, it’s unusable except at the destruction of their country. Of course, if you’re an anti-Muslim bigot, there’s no reasoning with you, no evidence that can get you to look at this rationally. This summer I’m probably going to teach an on line course on American foreign policy. It might help you understand these things.

        • Scott – Some questions:
          1.) What do you think the odds are that an Iranian nuke will prompt other Middle Eastern countries to develop their own nuclear weapons? Would this strike you as a negative development?
          2.) You may believe that the odds of the current Iranian regime using the nuclear weapon in anything other than a defensive capacity are very low. How low would you say? And are you willing to trust in any Iranian regime that could possibly displace the current one?
          3.) Do you believe that nuclear proliferation generally improves security and stability, or undermines it?
          4.) Given their history, would you blame an Israeli for not trusting Iran with nuclear warheads and delivery capabilities?
          5.) What will your reaction be if you turn out to be wrong about the fundamental intentions of the Iranian government?

          • Bryan, I’m sorry you took the time to write down a set of rational questions for Scott. You see, he’ll ignore them as he randomly posts his ‘deep thoughts’ on other posts.

            But it would be nice to see how he would handle #3…

          • Bryan:

            Far enough questions, and clearly the implications make my “so what” comment far too careless. (And I generally respond to people in a way that reflects how they respond to me — if asked questions or argued against without insult and attack, I’ll respond as respectful as possible, which I’ll do here). I was thinking of Poland — I don’t think it matters to Poland. But you’re right, there are implications that are serious. The “So what” comment was clearly off base.

            1. That is a danger, given the India-Pakistan example. But it’s not easy to develop nuclear weapons, and Libya has already given up its program. I don’t think the Saudis would see it in their interest to go that route. If they did, a worst case scenario is an India-Pakistan like balance of terror (with a danger it could fall apart). Best case, the Sunnis make up with Israel out of a mutual interest in limiting Iranian power.

            2. Iran knows Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons and delivery systems far superior than theirs, and NATO/the US have a world class arsenal. I think Iran will act much like India and Pakistan with their nukes — try to enhance prestige and power, but I’d put the odds of offensive use at near zero (though higher if there is a crisis and screws are put to Iran). I believe MAD works, though it is better to avoid proliferation.

            3. I’ve long believed that nuclear proliferation is probably inevitable, and its impact on security depends on the way it plays itself out. I also think that it is possible to create incentives, even for Iran, that makes it in their interest to avoid it. One thing is to acknowledge their right to nuclear power (which would be rational for them to produce — I’d recommend the Saudis pursue nuclear energy too, as should the US again).

            4. Israel has a right to be worried, but it’s complex. I think they realize attacking Iran would be extremely risky. The real fear Israel has is of Hamas and Hezbollah, who create a level of threat that is far worse than the Arab armies of thirty five years ago. Iran with a nuclear weapon could provide cover for Hezbollah. The threat is not so much that Iran will launch an offensive attack on Israel, but that Iran’s capacity will be used to deter and counter an Israeli threat of potential nuclear force should Hezbollah and Hamas create such unrest that there is a threat to Israel’s stability or even existence. Now Israel has that trump card. It would be severely weakened if Iran had a credible force.

            5. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I’m not making decisions, or even influencing them. I’m just stating my opinion.

            But think of this: what if the shoe were on the other foot? What if we were countered by a nuclear power who threatened us if we dared try to achieve that same capacity, and what if the world was telling us that we didn’t have the right to do what we think necessary to protect our interests? Part of what might help with Iran is to treat them with some respect and to try not to bully them. The US doesn’t really come off credibly with bullying any more — Russia or Iran — given our recent weaknesses on the world stage. I’d still try to convince Iran to stay with a path of non-proliferation, and of course it would be foolish to take sanctions, military action or other possibilities completely off the table.

            I do know a few Iranians — Iranians who hate the current government (most have become US citizens). They don’t want attacks on Iran, and they tell me US pressure on Iran often helps the hardliners. We have to somehow also recognize that it is a limited democracy, far more advanced than anywhere else in the region but Israel, and there is a good chance it can evolve into a more open system. That’s one reason I think we need to engage Iran rather than threaten it at this point.

          • I’m going to confess off the bat that I’ve been influenced quite a lot by Philip Bobbitt on these matters, so I’m not being terribly original…

            1. That is a danger, given the India-Pakistan example. But it’s not easy to develop nuclear weapons, and Libya has already given up its program. I don’t think the Saudis would see it in their interest to go that route. If they did, a worst case scenario is an India-Pakistan like balance of terror (with a danger it could fall apart). Best case, the Sunnis make up with Israel out of a mutual interest in limiting Iranian power.

            It’s not just a danger; it’s easily the most likely outcome.

            It is, in fact, not very hard for determined states with enough cash to develop nuclear weapons — or rather, to acquire them. The technology is increasingly commoditized. Libya bought a complete nuclear program off the shelf. All external knowledge, very short timeframe.

            And the worst-case scenario is much worse than a balance of terror. If you have a bunch of nuclear states (and possibly a nuclear-armed terrorist group) out there, especially operating outside of international monitoring, you introduce the possibility of a weapon being delivered clandestinely, and nobody knowing for certain where it came from, at least for a while. That means no deterrence, no MAD.

            Now, what state has a very recent history of outsourcing aggression to a terrorist network? Of launching attacks from another state’s territory?
            And even if we suspected Iran was behind, say, a nuclear warhead going off in a major city in Israel or Russia or the US, what could we (or anyone) do to Iran if it had nuclear-tipped missiles? Can’t exactly park aircraft carriers nearby.

            And have we seen any indication that the Sunnis care to “make up” with Israel?

            2. Iran knows Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons and delivery systems far superior than theirs, and NATO/the US have a world class arsenal. I think Iran will act much like India and Pakistan with their nukes — try to enhance prestige and power, but I’d put the odds of offensive use at near zero (though higher if there is a crisis and screws are put to Iran). I believe MAD works, though it is better to avoid proliferation.

            India and Pakistan each have a unique issue preventing their use for compellance: each other. And with Pakistan, that’s only the case while they still have a fairly sane government.

            If Iran had nukes, they could not only “enhance their prestige and power”, but they could also use their weapons to deter anyone from messing with them while they attack their weaker neighbors; the gloves could come off in their support of international terrorism.

            3. I’ve long believed that nuclear proliferation is probably inevitable, and its impact on security depends on the way it plays itself out. I also think that it is possible to create incentives, even for Iran, that makes it in their interest to avoid it. One thing is to acknowledge their right to nuclear power (which would be rational for them to produce — I’d recommend the Saudis pursue nuclear energy too, as should the US again).

            We might just be able to bribe Iran with security guarantees and nuclear power. But you have to acknowledge what is very likely going to go down if Iran gets nuclear weapons. Our anti-proliferation efforts are going to collapse. It will be easier than ever, after that, for anyone who wants a nuke and has the cash to acquire one. And then the world becomes a much, much more dangerous place.

            4. Israel has a right to be worried, but it’s complex. I think they realize attacking Iran would be extremely risky. The real fear Israel has is of Hamas and Hezbollah, who create a level of threat that is far worse than the Arab armies of thirty five years ago. Iran with a nuclear weapon could provide cover for Hezbollah. The threat is not so much that Iran will launch an offensive attack on Israel, but that Iran’s capacity will be used to deter and counter an Israeli threat of potential nuclear force should Hezbollah and Hamas create such unrest that there is a threat to Israel’s stability or even existence. Now Israel has that trump card. It would be severely weakened if Iran had a credible force.

            Right. And what conclusion does that lead you to, in terms of how we and Israel should respond?

            5. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I’m not making decisions, or even influencing them. I’m just stating my opinion.

            So if your words, here or in the classroom, lead people to support a course of action that leads to millions of deaths and worse, you won’t be embarrassed?

            But think of this: what if the shoe were on the other foot? What if we were countered by a nuclear power who threatened us if we dared try to achieve that same capacity, and what if the world was telling us that we didn’t have the right to do what we think necessary to protect our interests?

            Difference: I don’t talk about utterly destroying countries just because they offend my superstitious sensibilities.

            Part of what might help with Iran is to treat them with some respect and to try not to bully them. The US doesn’t really come off credibly with bullying any more — Russia or Iran — given our recent weaknesses on the world stage. I’d still try to convince Iran to stay with a path of non-proliferation, and of course it would be foolish to take sanctions, military action or other possibilities completely off the table.

            I think there’s still a lot of fear/respect of American military power in the world. Our shortcomings in Iraq and Afghanistan are due in part to the restraint we’ve used in the pursuit of political objectives. And we stuck around despite all the bleeding in Iraq a lot longer than a lot of people thought we would.

            There’s still a chance for us to reclaim the status of paper tiger, but right now? I don’t think anyone with a return address wants to pick a fight.

            I do know a few Iranians — Iranians who hate the current government (most have become US citizens). They don’t want attacks on Iran, and they tell me US pressure on Iran often helps the hardliners. We have to somehow also recognize that it is a limited democracy, far more advanced than anywhere else in the region but Israel, and there is a good chance it can evolve into a more open system. That’s one reason I think we need to engage Iran rather than threaten it at this point.

            The strenuous application of goodwill won’t do the job alone. Better would be to publicly offer them a grand bargain, bribing them to stop their worst international shenanigans (terrorism, stirring unrest in Iraq, pursuing a weapons program that threatens global stability) in exchange for external security guarantees, closely supervised nuclear energy and broad trade rights.

            And we let them know that if they are determined to pass by this awesome offer, they signal to the world that nutjobs are in charge, with all the attendant consequences.

            In the meantime, perhaps we should allow trade with the sectors/firms of their economy that aren’t state-owned, to give the Iranian people a taste of what they’re missing (even knowing that the government will try to take advantage… giving them their own taste).

            That’s something one could support even if one expected them to reject the bargain, because it would clarify where everyone stands.

        • Oh, well we all know Mao was a swell fella who never did anything bad.

          Silly me.

          And go f**k yourself with your “bigot” ploy here. I’m not a bigot, I simply take people at their word, and these particular people say they want to hurt Israel and America.

          Like you.

          • Touchy, touchy! I said “IF” you are a bigot, not that you are. Read carefully. And you make my point about Mao — Nixon could still deal with him, get China to start to change direction, and now they are “Communist in name only,” the most successful economy on the planet in recent years, nay, decades.

    • SO WHAT if Iran has a nuclear weapon? Those noble brown savages are just as good as us, better even, because they are in touch with their primitive, primal nature that we in the West have lost. When I think about those noble savages in their swirling robes brandishing their weapons… I just get all gooey inside. And it’s obviously unfair that we have nuclear weapons and such enlightened noble savages don’t, because we might take advantage of that to commit imperialist acts. Don’t you see?

      Does anyone think they’re going to attack Europe? Just because their religion tasks them with taking over the world, do you really think they take that stuff seriously? You deluded, dense righties! It’s all just an act! Can’t you see it? They’re really just like us, and can be counted on to be rational when it counts. They could be destroyed many times over by NATO forces — have you forgotten mutually assured destruction. And them being so rational means they know that, so they might get some nuclear weapons, but they would never actually do anything with them, so what does it matter? They would never ever bring a nuclear conflict upon the world, and for goodness sake shut up about that twelfth imam thing! It doesn’t mean a thing! I decree it!

      And don’t give me bigotry (those Muslims are crazy!). They would never, ever facilitate terrorism with nuclear weapons. I mean, yes I know they fund terrorists such as Hezbollah and cheered in the streets when we lost 3000 people and were the source of much of the terrorist unrest in Iraq, but that’s all our fault! Because we shouldn’t have been there, and neither should the Israelis, and if we got out and they were able to dictate terms to those mean Israelis the way the wise Jimmy Carter prefers, then after that they would be nice to us forever because they would see how fair and equitable we are. And no fair bringing up all that apocolyptic rhetoric, because that’s just for show! I decree it! Why should we take them at their word, when we know they are rational people who are just responsing to our imperialism.

      Iran’s Guardian Council has proven very strategic and rational in pursuit of its foreign policy aims since 1979. Especially in Iraq, where they figured out exactly what acts of war they coult commit against us and get away with. These aren’t a bunch of crazies. They’re certainly smart enough to play us like a fiddle. They want to be taken seriously as a regional power. So would we if we were in their shoes. So it’s only fair that we let them! Anything else is imperialist. I decree it.

      If we believed that our religion gave us a god-given right to rule, we would act just the same way as them! And the fact that we wise leftists act like we have a god-given right to rule does not mean we compare to them in any way, so don’t even think about accusing us of having leftism as our religion. That’s just the kind of unfair, wacky, wingnut stuff I expect from you ex-military basket cases around here.

      I praise Obama’s leadership for not maintaining a costly and unnecessary plan that does not serve the US interest. We need to be as vulnerable as possible so that everyone likes us, and that will certainly deter war, which is just icky. And I don’t say that because I’m a coward who can’t emotionally cope with the violence of war, so stop saying that! You guys really need to stop with the psychoanalysis stuff, because you’re so incredibly bad at it. I don’t either come here to lecture down to you and reinforce my own self-image, so stop saying that!! I come here to get a broad range of views, and the fact that nothing you say makes any sense is completely beside the point, because I need to see the views of insane ex-military basket cases to truly understand the beauty and wisdom of leftism.

      Bush’s plan harms our relations with Russia, and isn’t supported by many of our allies. And the fact that most of our allies have slammed us over this is completely beside the point. They have to say that because we gave them an outstanding opportunity to do some prime America bashing, and of course they need that to stay in office.

      The easy thing to do would be to placate the right wing, who hasn’t quite realized how much the world has changed, and just keep the missile shield up. Yes, the world has changed, and fundamentally evil people are gone forever. I decree it. There is just no chance that a rogue terrorist will use a nuclear weapon to destroy an American city. I decree it, I tell you!! It won’t happen! Obama is a true leader, this proves it, because he thinks like I do. And his missionary healthcare effort is going to sway enormous numbers of people any time now, you’ll see. Oh wait, I’m sorry, I’m reading last week’s talking points. Let me see now… Oh, yes, here it is. Obama is a leader and that means he doesn’t care what you dense righties think, and besides, if this does someday lead to an incinerated city, it will probably be after Obama leaves office, so we can blame on it on whatever dense righties are minding the store then.

    • These aren’t a bunch of crazies.

      We certainly know they aren’t stupid (they outwitted a nitwit of a POTUS named Obama), but the jury is still out on whether they are crazy.

  • “They could be destroyed many times over by NATO forces have you forgotten mutually assured destruction.”

    Stupidity. All it takes is one group of loonies, regardless of the ‘response’ or the potential response that can be massed against them.

    The ‘rational’ Sadam Hussein, certainly no one’s fool, calculated he could overrun and presumably hold Kuwait. Just recently everyone was running around in a tizzy because the Taliban appeared close to being in a position to acquire Pakistani nukes, and a certain North Korean loon is constantly stirring up the global ant pile.
    As always, you don’t get it. The monetary cost ALONE of maintaining readiness to knock DOWN an incoming ICBM pales in comparison to the cost of a strike on a metropolitan city, regardless of WHAT the response might be in the end.

    • Yet, of course, this fantasy that all of ones’ opponents are crazies is just pure hogwash. Iran has a very rational ruling class. The country itself is diverse. Moreover, getting a small number of nuclear weapons and a meager missile capacity is nothing compared to what could hit them back. They know that.

      You guys are so scared of things you fantasize, that require absurd scenarios. Yet we kill, maim and destroy innocents every day because of that fear. The most powerful country is so afraid that it feels it can intervene in the affairs of all others and dictate what other states can do. That arrogance is quite literally our downfall. It’s based on fear.

      • Scott, even if the ruling class is as rational as you suggest, that does not mean there is nothing to fear if Iran gets a nuclear weapon. For example, Iran is also building an alliance with Chavez. Now, noting that Obama is weaker than Carter in foreign policy, it is not a stretch at all to see nuclear for Venezuela become a part of that. So, the next question would be about how rational anyone Iran deals with turns out to be.

        The earlier question for you is also appropriate. We have heard the Saudi wanting to go nuclear as a counter to Iran. So, not only do we need to be concerned with Iran’s alliances, we need to also be concerned by “proliferation for protection” by those opposed to Iran.

        Rick

        • I think foreign policy is Obama’s strength so far, even though the direction he’s taking it probably looks like weakness to hawks. So I reject any claim he’s weak, only that he recognizes bullying doesn’t work, especially given the weaknesses demonstrated the last ten years. After failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one takes bullying seriously. We have to restructure US foreign policy to recognize we’re not some bombastic power who can push others around, but we have to work with others to compromise and protect our interests. The Bush policies failed because they over-estimated US power, and the fear other states would have of the US.

          We can’t bully Venezuela (our attempt at a coup there years ago failed utterly) or Iran. It’s time to approach this in a more realistic way, recognizing that tough talk without the means to back it up is worse than moderate talk with the means to back up the threats we do feel we need to make, with sticks always accompanied by carrots.

  • “Obama is a true leader, this proves it.”

    True, leader, and prove: Three words you have demonstrated unequivically that you don’t know the meaning of.

    “Surrender will do them more harm than good.”
    Remember this statement? It applies to foreign policy too, except here instead of weakening his party’s position, he’s weakening the country.

    • Ted, I don’t believe Obama surrendered anything. I think the missile system was a costly boondoggle, given to Poland mainly because they helped in Iraq. They don’t need it, it doesn’t help us, it’s in our interest to cut it.

  • Obama and Putin sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g!

    Here is an article I wrote about the Obama missle “catastrophe”:
    http://www.powderroomgraffiti.com/shout-it/obama-blows-off-eastern-europe.html

  • I’d expect we should be surprised when, having destroyed all of our defensive capacity, and had negotiations rendered as nothing more than an absurd western delusion, the only other option is offensive. Perhaps Barack wants his own “conflict”, just like Clinton, JFK and Truman got.

  • Missing from the discussion is that the reality that relying on a short range ABM system to keep the peace is a lose : lose-a-little-less policy at best.

    The hope always was that with long range missile defense the destroyed incoming missile would still be subject to re-entering the atmosphere where much of the debris would be consumed. With short range missile defense, this is not nearly as much the case, so, at best, the damage from the missile is reduced to that of the infamous “dirty bomb.”

    Estimates at the financial cost of a “dirty bomb” in New York City are in the tens of billions. For a city like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, probably something less than a quarter that, but it would still reduce relatively large areas to being uninhabitable, begging the question … is this really a defense at all ?

    This prospect has got to be clear to the Israeli government, which means we can expect them not to wait for an attack before they do something about Iran.

  • /not so sarcastic on

    One can only hope if the US is attacked, they’ll take out a Blue state…like Maine.

    /off

  • I just posted this comment at This Ain’t Hell:

    A poll or two showed that the Polish people support this move by a solid plurality. Not 65%, mind you… but 48% thought it was a good decision for Poland, 31% thought it was bad, and 21% were not sure.

    Y’know, sometimes I see these things and think to myself, or aloud to my friends: “What if we just held a referendum in each country, asking if they thought our presence was a net positive or negative, and if they said Negative, we’d start packing our bags immediately? We take all of our troops, our nuclear umbrella and Navy, and all of our money, and we wave goodbye and let them discover what the world is like without us?”

    Just think: no more politicians telling their people that they hate us, while they tacitly approve of our presence. No more subsidizing the defense of people who think that they don’t need to be defended.

    If we’re really not needed, then great: we go home and save ourselves the cash and resentment. If it turns out that we are needed and the real bastards of the world pull out their long knives in our absence, a whole new generation gets a fresh outlook on those ugly imperial Americans.

    I think that, sometimes.

    65% of Polish people supported Obama compared to 19% for McCain. On the 70th anniversary of the Soviets invading their country, the US retracted its missile defense umbrella, and they approved of it 48%-32%. Maybe they don’t deserve what’s coming, but they’ve sure asked for it.

    • I’d suspect the Polish people are about as well informed by their media as we are here, and the polls just as trustworthy.

    • Maybe they realize Poland isn’t being threatened and that such a shield is totally unnecessary and probably counter-productive. Maybe the polls recognize that this isn’t harming them in any way.

      • Erb;
        The shield wasn’t just for Poland, it wasn’t even primarily for Poland. Both the U.S. and Poland need to build alliances. Since you don’t want to acknowledge even the most basic facts of the discussion, it’s safe to assume your conjecture about the polls is, at best, unfounded.

        • Yet many West Europeans did not agree with the proposed shield and were not consulted. Many in the West of Europe are praising the move. The shield simply was unnecessary — it likely wouldn’t work (offensive capacities can be altered to avoid such hard to change technologies), would have been expensive, and created needless provocations. It was the kind of “our way or no way” policy that we are finally moving away from. Bush’s approach to foreign policy didn’t work — that is clear to pretty much everyone by now.

  • nowadays lots of countries are capable of building nuclear weapons, not just Iran

  • The rational, peace-loving Iranian leadership funnels Russian, Chinese, and indigenous military systems and weapons to Hezbollah, Hamas, and other surrogate terrorist organizations in order to terrorize and murder the population of the only democracy in the Middle East. How smart and rational they have proven themselves to be! Given their history, albeit completely rational, of arming terrorists with conventional rockets and bombs and launching systems, I submit it would probably be a bad idea to sit by and watch them attain nuclear weapons. When one country, whose rational leadership murders members of its own populace for protesting a suspect election, threatens the very existence of another state and its allies, a response to their attempted attainment of the means that would provide the capability of accomplishing that end should not be, “oh, they won’t really do it”.

  • Bryan, you make a number of good points, though this does really deal with issues outside of the missile shield debate and Poland. You’re certainly right that states with the incentive can develop nuclear weapons. In fact, I agree with most of what you wrote. I am pessimistic about the long term ability to hold back nuclear proliferation, but assuming that you’re right that Iran’s getting nuclear weapons will threaten the non-proliferation regime, endanger Israeli, upset the Mideast balance of power, and cause a reaction by Sunni states to develop their own bombs, the question really is what can be done.

    That’s difficult. It’s not clear that a pre-emptive strike can actually take away Iran’s missile program, assuming it has one. It’s also not clear that Iran is serious about developing a nuclear weapons capacity. Assuming they are, what should the international community do? What is in the US national interest? If Iran was pushed too hard, or the regime faced an existential crisis, it could wholly disrupt the region, spread terror into Israel, and potentially disrupt oil supplies to the point of causing a major global economic crisis. US military planners have gamed a potential war with Iran, reportedly without good outcomes. So we need to avoid a situation where Iran is pushed into a corner — there has to be carrots along with sticks.

    Clearly, peace between Israel and the Palestinians would help immensely, but that’s not something we can just conjure up magically. Iranian-Saudi relations are also complex, Iran would have an interest in trying to improve those in order to prevent proliferation (how we should react to that kind of eventuality is unclear). Sunni-Shi’ite hostility is rooted less to the theological differences and more towards Iran’s stated goal of spreading Islamic fundamentalism. If Iran could convince the Saudis they no longer had that goal, that might weaken the drive for regional proliferation.

    For now, I think the best response is to shift towards a real diplomatic effort and shelve the talk of sanctions and military options for a while. It would be nice if the “hawks” could support this as an effort to truly test Iran’s willingness to deal if treated with respect. I suspect that Iran calculates that threats against it are bluffs because the cost of following through on those threats is so high, and the US and Israel don’t have much international support for those threats. The only way threats will be taken seriously is if Iran truly believes the world is united (relatively) in its approach. The only way to achieve international consensus is to convince the Europeans and others that the US has made real, legitimate efforts to negotiate with Iran as a legitimate state with legitimate interests, not part of some axis of evil.

    If Iran does not respond favorably, then the best option is probably containment (unless we really can eliminate their missile program pre-emptively — I doubt we can, but I don’t know the details of intelligence on that issue). If Russian cooperation on Iran is now going to be forthcoming due to the dropping of the shield, it’s a price worth paying (and Russia has to be concerned about Iran as well — though cynically a crisis in that region would make Russian oil very dear).

    So yeah, no easy answers — and the real question is what are we or others truly capable of doing, what would the cost be, and what would the likelihood of success be. I’m not sure how to answer those questions.