Iran was probably the most contentious part of the debate last Thursday at Ames, and it has re-opened the schism between neos/lamers and paleos/Paulites.
My Iran policy seems mostly Paul-ish, but pay attention to the bouncing ball before you accuse me of cutting-and-pasting my position from Ron Paul fan message boards.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is at least a little crazy, that’s clear. And he likes to run his mouth. And he’s definitely not one of our friends, and would not be under any circumstance, including if we make a drastic shift to neutralitarianism and/or isolationism in foreign policy. My problem with Paul-ite neutralitarianism isn’t so much its substance, it’s his contention that adopting it or any public policy, foreign or domestic, would lead to paradise on Earth for all. No one single public policy, foreign policy, social policy, or combination of the same will lead to paradise on Earth. As the old Ebonics saying goes, H8rs gon’ h8.
All that would matter to me, assuming I had the relevant brand of political power, is this: Does he grok MAD? (Translation from geekspeak to English: Does he understand, acknowledge, agree with and abide by the concept of mutually assured destruction?) Now, I have heard a lot of people say yes he does, and a lot say no he doesn’t. The problem is, where there is the Iran question, there almost always is the undercurrent (if not the obvious river) of the very uncomfortable Israel/Jewish/Zionist issue base. I can’t take the opinions I have heard thus far about whether Ahmadinejad groks MAD or not as credible, because those that say he doesn’t say that because their pro-Israel and/or philo-Semitic ideology clouds their judgment, and on the other side, those that think he does only think that because anti-Semitism clouds their judgment.
So I’m stuck here without a credible answer to the absolutely crucial question. But thankfully, the crucial question only has two possible answers: Yes, or no. And anything less than an emphatic yes is the functional equivalent of no, when we’re talking about having nuclear weapons.
If Ahmadinejad groks MAD, then the world should stand down. Simple as that.
If he doesn’t, then one of two things has to happen, and it has to happen on the Q.T., and by that, I mean not using conventional military force — We’ll have to topple him and install Iranian leadership that does grok MAD, or we’ll have to keep Ahmadinejad from going nuke. Of the two, the former is the cleanest solution, and you won’t even have to use black hat operatives to do that — The best way to unseat Ahmadinejad from power is to pretend to stand down, so that Iranians don’t rally around him in the face of an external threat. Eventually, Iranians themselves will un-elect him or topple him, hopefully for a sane moderate, or at the very least, a leader who groks MAD.
The long term question with Iran and nukes is this — For now, Ahmadinejad is Iran and Iran is Ahmadinejad, but it won’t be that way forever. Is Iran stable and advanced enough such that it habitually and consistently produces heads of state and high level advisory leadership that groks MAD?
One more consideration: Even if Ahmadinejad doesn’t really grok MAD now, perhaps his going nuke would actually make him do so. Jack Hunter has this to say in the Daily Caller today:
The Seattle Times’s Bruce Ramsey explains what Republican sanity might look like:
“I don’t like the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon any more than I like the idea of Pakistan having one. But Pakistan does have one. India has one. China has one. Russia has one. Israel has one. If Iran has one, maybe it won’t feel so threatened, and it will have a good effect on its government’s behavior. Maybe not. Anyway, if the leaders of Iran want a nuclear weapon the president of the United States is not in a position to guarantee they won’t get one, short of starting a war … Santorum is saying he’ll start a war with Iran.” (Emphasis mine)
“Good effect on its government’s behavior.” Now that’s one concept I myself can grok, because I have seen its application in my own behavior. I have joked in this medium recently that it wasn’t until I got a CCW permit and started carrying a pistol around that I really learned how to be coward. Translated from snarkese into English, that means that once I put the power of life and death on my hip, and covered it in some sort of fabric, and realized the others are doing the same, that’s when I realized the shit was really serious. I avoid bad situations and scenes as much as possible, and when I can’t, I try to de-escalate tensions to the best of my ability. Now, before I started packing, I never really looked for trouble or elevated the intensity of rows in which I was involved, but now I do none of that.
It might work out the same way for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — Yeah, he runs his big mouth now and scares the hell out of people. I think once he gets The Big Red Button on his desk, it’ll be like me on my first day of packing heat. If he doesn’t grok MAD in theory now, he just might grok it in reality when he realizes he has the power to incinerate a whole city and someone would likely incinerate Tehran in earnest.
That said, my Iran flowchart is more complicated than “Does he grok MAD? If yes then, if no then.” Maybe the right question is this: Does he grok MAD in the abstract? If yes then stand down, if no then: Does he have the capability to grok MAD in the concrete should he get The Big Red Button? If yes then stand down, if no then keep him from getting it or topple him.