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Are You MAD?

Contemplating nuclear standoff with Iran. Also: Terms unlimited. Partial-birth infanticide. Plus much more.

11.14.06

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JOIN THE CLUB
Re: William Tucker's How About a Nuclear Standoff?:

I disagree with your premise that the American manpower necessary to fight the wars against radical Islam is not available. During the first Gulf War a little over fifteen years ago, the U.S. Army was almost twice its present size. Eight of our Eighteen active duty divisions were eliminated during the 1990's due to budget cuts, not lack of volunteers.

The Bush Administration missed the opportunity to re-activate several of these lost division during the months after 9-11. Congress probably would have supplied the funding and a national call for volunteers would have been answered -- both by young recruits and discharged veteran NCOs like myself. While that opportunity has passed, the armed services continue to meet or exceed their recruiting and retention goals.

The limiting factor in the size of our forces is political and financial willpower, not volunteers. The Republicans are now out of power in Congress because they decided to spend on pet projects in their districts rather than the military.

I hope nuclear deterrence is enough to control the growing nuclear club. If not, just ask for volunteers and pay up.
-- Chris B.
New Jersey

Williams Tucker's thinking on using nuclear deferent or MAD against one or more of the Islamist States seeking nuclear arms is flawed on several levels.

First and foremost, the reason rouge States like Iran or North Korea want nuclear weapons is not to simply drop one unannounced into the backyard of one of their imaginary enemies via long range ballistic missile. The long range ballistic missile and H-bombs required to make them truly effective as a strategic weapon are more of a blackmail weapon or trump card to prevent the very thing you say will deter them in reverse. Simply stated it isn't the nuke they will put on top of some missile that is the threat but the small one they will give to some proxy to deliver up close and personal to some place like Haifa or New York City that gets top security expert's attention. The phrase "plausible deniability" comes to mind.

The second flaw and the one that greases the skid for the first is that the people we deterred with MAD were on the whole rational people and their leaders for the most part were the same. This can not be said of Islam in general and Iran in particular. The Islamic fundamentalism we are fighting is at it most basic level a culture of death and destruction and embraces suicidal brutality as a means to an end. That end, a better life with their GOD isn't subject to our concept of rationality. To put it in pop culture terms, they believe it better to "die well" rather than "live well". Your belief they wouldn't destroy a holy Islamic symbol isn't supported by the facts on the ground in Iraq or anywhere else Muslins fight. If you seriously believe Islamists won't destroy their holy sites to obtain their goals then all Israel has to do to be safe is threaten to destroy Mecca, Medina and the Rock of the Dome and the problem is solved. Right? Sell that to the Shiites in Iraq.

The third flaw is in thinking that the producer and thus the source of a nuclear device can be determined and thus the ones responsible for its use held accountable. Please explain how a small nuclear explosion in Haifa tomorrow delivered by unknown means can be attributed to anyone after the fact? The radioactive signatures of all known quantities of such material are limited to those countries that play by the rules and register their materials. If Iran does not register its material or the signature of the exploded device can not be traced to a "known" producer then what? Does Israel just wack Iran with 100 warheads for the hell of it? What if some alphabet terrorist group claims credit for the device then what? Who gets wacked? Such devices require the manufacturing base of a Nation State to produce, particularly the small portable types.

The fourth flaw in your thinking is not listening to what the leader of Iran keeps saying. His rhetoric regarding the destruction of Israel keeps shortening the time Israel has left. When did Israel threaten the destruction of Iran in the last 58 years? What has he to gain by saying this and not caring through on his veiled threat? Israel has limited means to attack Iran in mass. We are in the way. Neither the leadership of Iran or North Korea may be as nuts as they sound but the people that surround them and support them are and have demonstrated their willingness to go to any depths to meet their GOD on equal terms. You are asking us to put our faith in people who have demonstrated they will go to brutal means to achieve minimal political results.

MAD is not the basis to deter nuclear terrorism but it will be deemed madness to believe that if you are wrong.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

Just read Tucker perspective of 11/14/06. It's about time someone besides me advocated this line. What good has years of threats of one kind or another against both Iran and North Korea done. They know we won't do anything and the constant unspecified threats just grow old. We have become the boy who cried wolf on this issue.

What we need to say is;

You want the bomb, go right ahead. You want to test the bomb, knock yourself out, so long as it is contained in your own country. You want to build a delivery system, have at it. BUT, if any weapon goes off any where on the globe outside your borders we will incinerate your pitiful country.

And we have to mean it. All political parties regardless of who is in power have to sign on. If a bomb goes off we will launch until there is nothing left to launch at. No question, no quarter,

That's how we put and end to this mess. Maybe one our fearless leaders will see this in the proper light one day.
-- Norm Freeman
Nevada

The problem with letting the Iranians (or the North Koreans) have nuclear weapons but to then try to deter them with some promise of retaliation if they use (or are suspected of using) their nukes, is that such threats are simply not credible given our track record. If we were going to take this approach, we might as well tell them that if they don't immediately end their nuclear programs (or surrender unconditionally to us) that we'll nuke them now. That at least might work, but no one has the stomach for it. That leaves deterrence against an enemy who has famously not been deterred by anything we've said or done since 1979. I am not optimistic.

More fundamentally, though, the "let a thousand nukes proliferate" approach fails to address three of our fundamental national security interests. One, it creates a condition in which the use of our conventional military power (and non-military tools like economic sanctions) against certain nations is effectively impossible. This severely limits our freedom of action while greatly increasing that of nations who routinely use unconventional methods of warfare because they will now have a shield or a sanctuary from which to operate. Two, it creates the potential for enormous disorder in the world by protecting regimes that have no interest in a transparent, rule-of-law or Western style approach to international politics or trade. Related to this is, of course, the potential for nuclear war between third-rate nuclear powers, states that don't have thousands of miles of separation (and thus warning time and second strike capabilities) between one another (a situation that helped stabilize the nuclear element of our relationship with the former USSR and, today, with China), a situation that could utterly disrupt the international system. Either of those two conditions is not in our interest. Third, and hardly least important, it creates the opportunity for nuclear strikes against us, either through terrorist supplied weapons or by smuggled weapons in the hands of agents of particular states. The threat of massive retaliation may work against the latter, assuming the enemy makes only a limited strike and we can identify the perpetrator. Both of these assumptions are less likely the more nukes proliferate and the larger any nation's stockpile becomes. Moreover, the Iranian leadership has said that it doesn't care if Israel killed most of the Iranian population because the latter represents only a fraction of the global Muslim population. Since our principal enemy is a transnational religious ideology that embraces suicide (and since Iran invented the use of suicide bombing), deterrence doesn't seem like a particularly good bet against them.

Finally, we need to consider the possibility that our enemies are playing to win i.e. that they are looking for ways to use nuclear weapons against us. Historically, the limited number of nuclear powers, the absence of effective defenses, second-strike capabilities, self-preservation and the inability of anyone to launch attacks covertly prevented first strikes. Those conditions are now breaking down. Consider this, if Iran has 100 nukes and smuggles 10 into the U.S., the blow to us will be enormous. Wiping out Iran won't give us back our cities, nor restore our economy, nor in effect, "take the other guy down with us" (unlike the case with the USSR). There will be two losers, but the Islam will go marching on, and so will China, Europe, Russia, Japan and so forth. In other words, we will have lost a lot more than they did. And, that doesn't even consider the mindset of enemies who welcome such conditions. After all, conventional suicide bombing makes no sense to anyone who values his own life, but so far it has been very effective. The administrative situation in the Palestinian Authority's territory and the quality of life in Taliban Afghanistan would be intolerable for us, but that hardly seems to have mattered to the locals. We need to consider the degree of agreement between both the statements and actions of our enemies and draw our conclusions accordingly, not project our values and assumptions onto them.

Ever since the end of WWII, we have had the luxury of being able to consider nuclear war unthinkable and nuclear weapons unusable, except in the extremely unlikely event that someone used them on us. Having concluded that nuclear weapons were effectively unusable, we continue to conclude that everyone else will reach the same conclusions. This is a mistake because in any battle between two sides, one of which believes that a particular set of options is unthinkable and thus dismisses them, the balance will lie with the side that thinks otherwise i.e. that looks to find ways to make those options practical. That was what happened on September 11. It was also why Germany defeated France in six weeks in 1940. In my opinion, deterrence will not work against Iran, nuclear proliferation will not be to our advantage, and we need to start thinking about other options.
-- Anthony Mirvish
Toronto, Ontario

Wonderful point! The only defect in the reasoning is that the same moral cowards that now wish us to make nice with the murderers of New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania would show the same lack of resolve in dealing with an Iranian nuclear weapon that hit, say, Houston. The progression goes roughly as follows: "Those *&^%$#@ murdering scum, let's crater them!" Then comes the Ted Kennedy take: "Look, we are not absolutely positive this terrible weapon came from Iran so let's have a big congressional investigation." Then the Jimmy Carter/ Cindy Sheehan faction weighs in: "America is a wicked place filled with evil intent and evil people. It is America's despicable conduct towards poor, innocent Muslims that caused this disaster. Plus, its only Houston which is filled with Republicans! Why go to war over them?"

A year later. Houston still glows, a ghost town with 3 million dead. The Speaker of the House, Ms. Pelosi and Senate President Mr. Reid are on their third trip to Iran trying to get the Iranians to accept $30,000,000 in payment for the cost of the bomb they used and to agree to demand the US President and Vice President's extradition to Iran to be beheaded for insults to Allah. Al Gore appears on the nightly news and says: "If we have to give up the Republican President, we should gladly do so. After all think of what one more nuclear explosion would do to the environment."
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

THERE WERE LIMITS
Re: Andrew Cline's Finally Term Limited:

While I am generally in favor of term limits -- and it is certainly true that had limits been put in place in the 1990s, the Republicans might not have had to deal with so many scandals leading up to this election -- Mr. Cline's claim that the GOP "chose to stay put rather than to step down" isn't really fair.

Under Speaker Gingrich and against serious resistance from the Democrats (and the scorn of most mainstream news outlets), the House GOP did vote on a constitutional term limits amendment on the House floor on March 29, 1995. The vote was 227-204, with 40 Republicans joining 163 Democrats in opposing the limits. It was backed by 189 Republicans and only 38 Democrats. In other words a Republican-led majority voted for it but because it lacked the two-thirds majority a constitution amendment requires, it failed.

The GOP did subsequently drop the issue and Cline may be faulting them for that, which would be fair, I guess. But the GOP did make a serious effort to fulfill their promise in the Contract With America. It was the Democrats who stopped it. Nor is it clear that the GOP could have done any better on subsequent attempts. Most constitutional amendments do fail because it is an extremely hard thing to do.
-- Sean Higgins
Alexandria, Virginia

I regularly enjoy Mr. Cline's pen. However, I must disagree with him regarding term limits. This election proves that there are term limits, decided by the people rather than by an arbitrary law. Term limits would make it more likely that we the people would be governed by a professional bureaucracy that is not accountable to us every two years, at a minimum. I recognize that term limits seem at first blush to be a reasonable way to restrict the excesses of politicians who have been in office too long and who have forgotten to whom they owe their service. However, I am suggesting that the cure may worse than the disease, especially since we already have an antidote: our votes! If you don't like what they are doing, throw the bums out. Let's not take that power and authority to hold our government accountable away from the American people.
-- Andy Fuller

Let's face it: the only way to get term limits is if we, the people, decide to term limit our representatives. It's obvious we can't trust a pledge by a politician in this regard. Except for a few notables, the power in DC corrupts absolutely, and the result is almost always reneging on self-imposed term limits. So it's up to us.

It will be difficult. It means that we, the people, have to give up on wanting our OWN strong leaders in Congress who bring home the bacon in favor of a Congress where parochialism is not the driving trend. It means giving up the Schumers, the Lotts, and a whole lot of others. It means electing politicians who won't be swayed by the trappings of committee power based on seniority since they know there won't ever BE any seniority outside a couple of terms. It means changing from the nanny state to the "I can do it" state.

OK, it's never going to happen. But I have a dream...
-- Karl F. Auerbach
Eden, Utah

One of the factors that doomed Senator Conrad Burns' re-election bid in Montana was term limits also. When he defeated John Melcher in 1988, he was openly in favor of term limits for the House & Senate and promised to serve only two terms if elected. When he was up for his third term in 2000 and was asked about his earlier pledge, he casually remarked that the promise "probably went away." Naturally, there are Democrats like Max Baucus and Robert Byrd who plan to remain in the Senate for their entire lives, but I hold Republicans to a higher standard of conduct and accountability.
-- Daniel McNamee
Somerville, New Jersey

Mr. Cline echoes the thoughts of many of us who have understood for the longest time that incumbency is the disease that is rotting from within the host body of Washington, D.C. Despite the intellectual gymnastics by the professional politicians to deny the obvious about basic human nature, the disease was nonetheless undeterred, as it continued to take its toll on the body politic, as evidenced by last week's elections. For me, the final dagger in the heart to the Republicans, in addition to those highlighted by Mr. Cline, was the horrifically obtuse decision by soon to be ex-Speaker Hastert, in refusing to allow the FBI to conduct a search of Rep. Jefferson's ( D. Louisiana) office, in order to facilitate the investigation of an alleged major crime, ostensibly committed precisely because of Jefferson's influence as a member of Congress. The arrogance of power crowd had found its champion. More so even than Sen. McCain and his beloved "Will of the Senate" mantra. I chuckled to myself, counting down the days before the elections, how the Democrats and the MSM were content to let this aspect of the "culture of corruption" go away quietly. After all, for the Democrats and the MSM, this one was too close to home, and besides they had Foley to focus on. Hastert had to be given a pass on this one.

But lest we forget, this problem has been many years in the making, aided especially by incumbency friendly gerrymandered districts. Not much play is given by the MSM on this either, even in discussing Tom DeLay, it's a throw away line. The MSM's story line is DeLay/Abramoff. But what of Term Limits? Have you noticed each time Newt talks about the vaunted Contract With America, that the failure to adopt Term Limits never comes up? Not to be too cynical here, methinks it was just a bone to be tossed to the faithful, never to be seriously considered. Oh well, we tried, let's move on. So here we are, with steroidal gerrymandered districts and Senatorial protections vis-a-vis Campaign Finance reform. If only Congress would focus less on Wal-Mart and more on themselves. After all, competition should flow from our leaders on down. Fat chance.
-- A. DiPentima

Great article and I am for term limits for everyone, not just Republicans.

The other side of term limits is that they know they are not going to be around and so don't care very much about what the voters think, OK I know they have not cared anyway or ILLEGAL IMMINGRATION would have been handled
long ago.
-- Elaine Kyle

My main reason for TERM LIMITS! Only those that would truly wish to SERVE, true Statesmen that are interested only in what's good for the country and not their own Power Base and Greed!
-- Mike Oberling
Overland Park, Kansas

BEYOND DEPRAVITY
Re: G. Tracy Mehan, III's Neither Partial, Nor an Abortion:

Thanks, Mr. Mehan for labeling these exercises in verbal gymnastics correctly. We could use more commentary like this to expose fraudulent and dishonest use of language. Word manipulation of this sort is a cynical maneuver used by pro-abortion zealots to disguise their real agenda and perpetuate their non-existent right to kill unborn children. How else do you suppose they have managed to hoodwink a significant portion of the populace for over 30 years? Describing what really happens in abortion clinics instantly incurs the wrath of those committed to slaughtering the innocent because they know an honest portrayal of the violence against the most defenseless members of the human family might be more than the majority of Americans would tolerate. The last thing they want is light shining on their dark intentions. Artificial constructs like the viability of the fetus, deliberately vague health exceptions for mothers-to-be and unfettered autonomy for pregnant women are transparent attempts to place the lives of one group of people over another. Abortion advocates recognize their need to obscure the truth because any acknowledgment of the value and humanity of the pre-born on their part places them in the precarious position of having to defend the indefensible.

Ignoring their own research which clearly indicates that the majority of abortions are performed on women who just do not wish to have a child, they promote the myth that all women seeking to terminate their pregnancies are imperiled by extremists driven by a maniacal craving to rob them of their personal liberties and their quality of life. Despite these shrill accusations, it should be obvious that what the pro-abortion crowd really wants is the right to engage in unhindered sexual activity with no regard for the consequences of such behavior. Unrestricted access to an abortion provides them with the safety net they seek thereby freeing them from that accountability should an unwanted pregnancy occur. Using this as the rationale, they must consign the unborn child a subhuman status because, in this twisted view, this new life poses a threat to that which they hold as sacrosanct - an individual's quest for absolute self-determination.
-- Rick Arand
Lee's Summit, Missouri

Mr. Mehan article is accurate except to the untutored it will sound like the old so called "Legal abortions," before 1973 when a baby's head was too big for the Mother to deliver naturally.

In the D & X the baby is turned to the breech position, very dangerous to the Mother as well as the child, and when the child is really, except for the head outside the womb, actually the neck must be exposed so even part of the head is out as well. The head is not crushed as in the old days. A surgical incision is made and a suction machine is placed in the neck of the baby and her/his brain is sectioned out there by collapsing the head. One dead baby with a shapeless head is the result.

Please, accuracy please.
-- Patricia

Can we now refer to a premeditated murder as "a post birth abortion"?
-- Michael Geer
Ladera Ranch, California

ONE WAY OUT
Re: James Kurth's America's Democratization Projects Abroad:

What an incredibly informative article! After a careful reading, one seems ineluctably drawn to the proposition of leaving Iraq and letting the tribes fight it out. They will eventually do so in any event, so why should we waste lives and assets to delay it?

The only thing that held Iraq together prior to 1920 was the British occupation, which brooked no uprisings which threatened their rule. Then, as the article points out, the leaderless mixture of incompatible tribes evolved into Saddam and his Sunnis. Now we have made virtually the same mistake -- depose a strong leader and try to replace him with a concept totally foreign to Iraqis; Self-Rule by democratic process based on the system existing in the United States.

There are at least two characteristics of Muslims which make such a government highly unlikely:

1. Islam preaches the establishment of a Caliphate, not a nation. From the first class attended by young Muslims, this is drummed into their consciousness. The Iraqis loved their elections because it was a new experience for them. Whether or not they saw elections as a path to self-government is debatable.

2. Muslims have known no substantial period of time without tribal warfare. From birth they are inculcated with the concept of the tribe as being the system which protects them. Tribes are not organized within national borders. Furthermore, tribes are not dependent upon central government for militia to protect them as well as other benefits of government. This is why the Iraqi army and police forces are so ineffectual. They have no ingrown loyalty to their "country."

Understanding the Muslim mindset is difficult for Americans, especially American politicians. But until we do accept this mindset for what it is, not for what we imagine -- or hope -- it to be, we are heading down a slippery slope.

Poor George W. Bush. He is a starry-eyed idealist, else he would not have attempted to reform Iraq. We should have simply gone into Iraq, wiped out Saddam, and then stepped back and watched to make sure that the next strong leader was not a carbon copy. But then Bush 41 made a similar error by leaving Saddam in control.
-- Bob Johnson
Spokane, Washington

LEFT ALONE
Re: Robert VerBruggen's Borat's Attack on the Rural World:

Mr. VerBruggen makes a valid point in his piece on the Borat character. However, I think there was more than just a "rural bias" at work here by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, whether intentional or not. I don't know enough about the man to know for sure, but after the movie's release I realized that Cohen had missed a golden opportunity to capture compelling footage of powerful anti-Semitism here in America. All he would have had to do is attend an anti-war/Bush/Iraq "peace" demonstration with his "Kazakh journalist visits America" shtick and casually chat up the attendees about the war and the Middle East in general. I'm sure they would have been very eager to talk to him (and very open as a result). He could have gotten some choice anti-Semitic comments on camera by steering the conversation towards the Jews, Palestine, and how Jews are the root cause of so many of the world's ills. Since Cohen's character does profess to hate Jews I would have loved to see him film any reactions by taking it a notch higher and saying a few kind words about Hitler and Iran's Hitler-in-waiting Amadinajad and their views on handling the "Jew Problem." The Left is soaked with anti-Semitism and I wonder if Cohen didn't realize the opportunity before him, or just chose not to go there. That is a question I'd love to hear asked of him -- it could give us a glimpse into the comedian's aims while making his film.
-- Riccardo Brognara

EUREKA!
Re: Raymond Barton's letter (under "Blue Ribbon") in Reader Mail's Comings and Goings:

Alas, I'm a primitive where online purchasing is concerned. It hadn't occurred to me to hunt up any sellers with a search. And in my quest for typewriter ribbons, I've failed to find any over-the-counter and have made do with the one-size-fits-all ribbon that the big office supply retailers sell.

But I'll look into it next time. A ribbon made for my make of typewriter might be a better fit
-- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

For a special Reader Mail section today on Michael Fumento's "Military Unfairly Blamed for Embed Problem," click here.

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