Saturday, July 19, 2008

Suicide is painless it brings on many changes

`Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.' (Vernor Vinge, NASA VISION-21 Symposium, 1993)

Benny Morris, who often predicts that Iran is out to annihilate Israel,has another op-ed piece about why Israel needs to mount a nuclear attack against Iran in the NYT.

But should Israel’s conventional assault fail to significantly harm or stall the Iranian program, a ratcheting up of the Iranian-Israeli conflict to a nuclear level will most likely follow. Every intelligence agency in the world believes the Iranian program is geared toward making weapons, not to the peaceful applications of nuclear power. And, despite the current talk of additional economic sanctions, everyone knows that such measures have so far led nowhere and are unlikely to be applied with sufficient scope to cause Iran real pain, given Russia’s and China’s continued recalcitrance and Western Europe’s (and America’s) ambivalence in behavior, if not in rhetoric. Western intelligence agencies agree that Iran will reach the “point of no return” in acquiring the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in one to four years.

Which leaves the world with only one option if it wishes to halt Iran’s march toward nuclear weaponry: the military option, meaning an aerial assault by either the United States or Israel. Clearly, America has the conventional military capacity to do the job, which would involve a protracted air assault against Iran’s air defenses followed by strikes on the nuclear sites themselves. But, as a result of the Iraq imbroglio, and what is rapidly turning into the Afghan imbroglio, the American public has little enthusiasm for wars in the Islamic lands. This curtails the White House’s ability to begin yet another major military campaign in pursuit of a goal that is not seen as a vital national interest by many Americans. (If you are not registered at NYT, Harry's Place has the entire piece posted.)

(Emphasis mine)

So, since everyone already knows that a conventional attack will fail since Iran has already planned for a conventional attack by building duplicate sites, far underground, and dispersing facilities all over the country, shouldn't we already jump to the nuclear option?

Which means what exactly? Just how much of Iran needs to be nuked in order for Israel to be safe?

My answer is this: this kind of war will never ever be won. It is impossible. Destroying Iran as an enemy only means creating new enemies in new places.

Hey, believe me, I understand why Israel feels the necessity to have a nuclear deterrent. I understand why its survival depends on being a bad ass. Iran getting nukes scares me. Anyone familiar with this blog will know that I have consistently taken an anti-nuke stance.

I do not want to see Israel destroyed any more than I want to see Iran destroyed. I am hoping that, on all sides, calmer heads will prevail. (But, as a Sci-Fi aficionado, I fear the coming singularity.)

It is useful to note that Iran sees itself as alone among enemies in much the same way that Israel sees itself. The threats go in all directions. Iran saw itself abandoned by the world when villages in the province of Kurdistan were gassed:

In total 360 chemical bombs were dropped on Iran against both military and civilian targets resulting in 100,000 casualties. There are now still some 45-52,000 people in Iran suffering severely from these attacks, many of them civilians who were not involved in the war but were just trying to live their lives.

What’s important to say at this point is that Iran is the only country in recent history that has had weapons of mass destruction used against it, and this by Iraq in full view of the international community which did nothing to help.

(From a text by Kamin Mohammadi)

(I actually remember that the official view of the US at the time was that the chemical attacks never took place.)

In conclusion (finally!), the premise of the argument for a nuclear attack against Iran is this: the regime is suicidal and willing to bring about the end of their own world. Everyone knows that a nuclear attack against Israel will assuredly result in devastating attacks against Iran. So, the regime must be suicidal to launch such an attack.

This begs the question: is a preemptive strike against Iran also suicidal for Israel? I think it is. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.


VinceP1974 said...

It's my opinion/view that the government of Iran is motivated by its religious beliefs.. amoung them is the return of the 12 Imam.

I've read that it is believed that the Mahdi will eventually establish a Caliphate, with its capital in Jerusalem.

If that's the case, why would Iran nuke Israel.. wouldn't that render Jerusalem inhabitable?

Because of this, I think Iran is bluffing about nuking Israel... I believe the real target is the United States.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Tori, I am surprised.
I am surprised that you fear singularity. Even in the link you provided David Brin is writing: "I believe in the high likelihood of a coming singularity! The alternative [to singularity] is simply too awful to accept. The means of mass destruction, from A-bombs to germ warfare, are 'democratizing' -- spreading so rapidly among nations, groups, and individuals -- that we had better see a rapid expansion in sanity and wisdom, or else we're all doomed."
Should you rather look to singularity than fear it?

You wrote that villages in Iranian province of Kurdistan were gassed, true. It is sad that not many people know about it. However it seems that the judge in Tehran ordered US to pay 600 mln dollars to the Iranian victims of Saddam's attack. Hurray.

Now coming to the nuclear attack. It seems to me that it is more probable that IRI will attack Israel than the other way round. It also seems to me that Iran does not want to stop development and research of nuclear equipment.. As well, for the last four years NYT, Guardian and other newspapers were writing that US and/or Israel will attack Iran - next month. Now they are writing that Israel should attack Iran (will attack Iran?)using nuclear weapons. Taking into consideration the percentage of correct predictions and newspaper advices regarding Iran - the discussion and preemptive condemnation of possible preemptive israel's nuclear attack on Iran has as much sense as buying a property on the largest planet orbiting Alpha Centauri.

Shall we all wait until Iran gets nuclear weapons and see what it will do with them, eh?

Tori said...

Well, Even Vernor Vinge fears Singularity, as it means the post-human era. He says (paraphrasing here) that if it were a thousand years away it would be something to look forward to. The fact that it is a few decades away makes it something to fear.

Plus, it is the events surrounding the transition that are terrifying: the spread of radical ideas, mass destruction, etc. We are already in the time when radical ideas can spread quickly via the internet. And we are certainly capable of mass destruction.

So, in my mind, perhaps the Singularity and the Alternative are conflated.

About Iran and a nuclear attack against Israel. I don't know. There are so many possible scenarios: a dirty bomb, the threat only of a bomb, an actual explosion, negotiation...

But your argument, and the argument of many, is circular. Iran is more likely to bomb Israel, so Israel or someone else had better bomb Iran first. Perhaps in Iran they hear the opposite and draw the opposite conclusions?

This is why I feel that a preemptive strike is suicidal. It doesn't matter who strikes first.

One scenario is clear: Iran has dispersed its facilities all over the country and has built them deep underground. Many of them are close to heavily populated areas, others are deep in mountains. This is not a simple bang, bang, nuke facilities down scenario. It's naive to think that.

When I was in Iran, I always told people that if you think Israel is not working on more advanced technology as Iran gets closed to being nuclear armed, you're nuts. I stand by this.

Iranians, I believe, are at the biggest risk from their own plants. As many have pointed out, they are building Chernobyl. Here is what Ganji says:

"We Iranians should be more afraid of the government’s nuclear program. They obtained all their equipment in the black market and there is no quality control on the facilities. I’m just afraid that something like Chernobyl can happen in Iran."

Jay said...

tori, very interesting post. This is my first time here and I look forward to more thought provoking posts.

I am afraid that time is seriously running out and that Iran has made clear that it will not stop its nuclear development. From what I read one of the beliefs about the return of the hidden Iman is that by causing chaos in the world his return will be sped up. Great!!!

Let's be honest, a nuclear Iran is not an option, not only for Israel, this change of power in the Middle East will upset everything and everybody. Europe and America would suddenly face a threat beyond belief.

I am not a advocate of war but even with my pacifist views I lean to thinking that Iran has it coming and hopefully it will not escalate into anything more. From my limited resources with military experts it seems clear that Irans military is great in numbers but useless in technology and far locations. They have rockets that can fly 2000miles? but can they carry any weight? I think on their part there is lots of posturing and large shadows being cast but in essence they have nothing and would not be able to effectively retaliate any pre-emptive strike.

Further, I think the Israelis, Americans and Europeans have done quite a bit of homework to figure out how they can hit the nuclear sites successfully to at least buy more time.

It appears that all options will have causalities but to me it seems that the number of causalities greatly differ depending on who strikes first.

God be with us all, dark times ahead.

Anonymous said...


Ahmadinejad said Iran should do everything to destroy Zionist state. Khamenei couple of times said that he supports foreign policy of Ahmadinejad (he probably does not support president's internal policy). The governments of Rafsanjani, Khatami and Ahmadinejad helped and still do help Hamas and Hezbullah with money and weapons. If we go back to Khomeini, he on his part claimed that "the way to al Quds goes through Karbala, Iraq"
On the other hand tell me how many times leaders of Israel said that they will destroy IRI without any prior threats from IRI' side?

Nobody is saying that the attack, if there will be an attack, will be simple bang, bang, bang, in my view nothing of that kind is easy, and as you say IRI hardened nuclear facilities.
In the meantime - IRI to IAEA and all others:
- we do not want nuclear munition
- we do not have it,
- try to find it but you are prohibited to go .... there
- yes we have it, and you can not do a thing *snicker*
- now at last we can do whatever we wish."
and all ME "street" is going "hurray";-)

Akbar Ganji may think that the worst threat to Iranians is from nuclear power accident, but that is far-fetched. After all Russia alone has 31 nuclear reactors, (and will build 28 more), Ukraine has 14 and is building 11 and there were others in former USSR. And ONE Chernobyl accident. China has 11 nuclear reactors, some built with Russia technology and if you think Iran has .hmm...problems with quality control, you should see China quality controls.

However I think that Iranians who know how nuclear bomb and power stations works are not in favour of nuclear Iran, Iranians who do not know or who do not believe what western people claim about nukes (and there are many of these) are all for nuclear energy.

Tori said...

Anonymous, Hey, I am not going to argue about the anti-Semitism of Iran's regime. I know that it exists. I know that they support Hamas and Hezbollah and have consistently backed efforts to destabilize efforts towards peace.

Your argument does nothing to put a dent in mine that both Israel AND Iran have to be suicidal to go to out and out war with each other.

When you live in an oppressive regime, it's hard to comprehend the difference between free speech and official speech. There have been thousands of calls to turn Tehran into a parking lot. I know that they are not official. But it's not as though Iran is living in a threat-free world.

And Jay, Twelvers believe a lot of things. Christians also believe that the day of judgment will be preceded by tumultuous times. And many ayatollahs (including Khomeini) have warned against trying to speed up the return of Mahdi by purposely working towards destruction. (I'm no expert, so I am not going to go on about this. One thing I do know is that a lot of the information available on the web is also from people who have no expertise.) I think what makes everyone a bit more twelver-aware now is the fact that AN is certain that the Mahdi is coming back in his own lifetime.