Saturday, February 18, 2006

Iran's right to nukes: a MAD idea?

Maia at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty notes the way that the Iranian nuclear crisis has produced the rare spectacle of a rational debate on indymedia, but takes issue with my support for the right of Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Maia is not alone in taking this stance: at least half a dozen commenters at indymedia have made the same argument, though I hesitate to call it an argument, because typically the statement that no country has the right to nukes is not buttressed by any supporting statements, let alone evidence: it is allowed to sit in splendid isolation, as a self-sufficient moral law. It is as if a proscription on nuclear weapons had been set down in stone, in the mists of time, by some farsighted liberal God, and anybody who dares question it is a heretic, or worse.

But is it really impossible to think of a situation where the development of nuclear weapons would be permissible? Let us imagine that an asteroid was discovered travelling on an orbit that made it due to collide with the earth in 2023, and that the only way this devastating collision could be prevented was the creation of a supernuclear device that could be fired into space to deflect the asteroid onto a new orbit. Could any rational person oppose the creation of this nuclear device, when the alternative would be the destruction of most life on earth? That is, of course, an extreme, hypothetical example, but it should at least disabuse us of the notion that the 'argument' against nuclear weapons has some untouchable, universal status, and does not need to be considered in terms of a dialectic between means and ends.

How about a less hypothetical example, then? What about a US President who is asked by the head of his army for permission to explode 30 atom bombs along the border of a small country, in an effort to end the resistance this country is putting up against US troops and conventional arms? If the only factor that would make the President in question refuse his C in C's request was the possibility of nuclear retaliation, who would not wish that the potential for this retaliation existed?

Luckily, it did, and in 1950 President Harry Truman was forced reluctantly to turn down the demands of General MacArhtur for a massive nuclear attack on North Korea. The Soviet nuclear programme and the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction had saved North Korea from annihilation, and in the coming decades it would save the world from US hegemony. Without the Soviet nuclear stockpile not only Korea but Cuba, Vietnam, Angola, Algeria, Mozambique, Iran, and countless other countries would have been doomed to indefinite colonial or neo-colonial status, as the US and its NATO allies used nuclear weapons or the threat of nuclear weapons to contain progressive and anti-imperialist movements. As Don Franks put it, during the debate on indymedia:

[E]motional rejection of "all nuclear weapons" will not cut it here.The imperialist powers in possesion of nuclear arsenals will do anything to retain their monopoly of nuclear weapons and thereby strengthen their military domniance over the globe. Monopoly is no guarantee the things won't be used - the only time they were was when the US had a monopoly.

Who can blame Iranians for wanting nuclear weapons today? Many commentators say that support for the country's nuclear programme is widespread, cutting across social and political barriers. Here is the Washington Post's man in Tehran:

"Ordinary Iranians overwhelmingly favor their country's nuclear ambitions, interviews and surveys show. The support runs deep in the population of 68 million, cutting across differences of education, age and, most significantly, attitudes toward the fundamentalist government that the Bush administration says is intent on using an energy program as a cover for developing atomic weapons."

Another contributor to the discussion on indymedia summed it up pretty powerfully:

"Because we also know that despite the obvious horrors of a POTENTIAL nuclear exchange, that the INEVITABLE horror of having your skin burned from your live body by phosphourous, or mangled by cluster-bombs, or torn apart by smart-missiles, not to mention sickening and dying from depleted unranium, the fate of approx 150,000 people in the recent invasion of Iraq, is also not a nice way to go. The idea of MAD is as obnoxious to me as it should be to any sane human. But If I were an Iranian sitting in Tehran, listening to the sabre rattling of the NUCLEAR jingoists in the west and wishing to defend my country from an imperialist land grab, I think it fair to warn you that I would be more likely to reach for some Protons than a pea-shooter. "


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is communist nonsense at its most pernicious. I am going to try to get this post removed from the blogosphere, by appealing to the company that runs blogspot. There's no excuse, bar no excuse, for this filth and evil.

8:05 pm  
Blogger Psycho Milt said...

I think anonymous has a crush on you maps.

Just wanted to point out, it's debatable whether North Korea would be worse off after 50 years recovering from a nuclear attack, than it is after 50 years of "people's" rule. I found it a sobering thought.

12:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are scum - you are a sexist piece of crap. You know what you have done, you know why you do it, but instead of addressing your problem you continue to treat women abomnibaly. Fuck off and grow up.

10:46 am  
Blogger muzzlehatch said...

that's 'abominably' ...just here to help

2:39 pm  
Blogger muzzlehatch said...

I think (ironically) that the main problem here is the US military presence in the Middle-East, if there wasn't any, then I certainly couldn't support the right to nuclear weapons for Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt.. for the simple reason that they would likely be used against Israel. Iraq stated publically in 1980 when they were building the Osiraq reactor in Baghdad that it 'wasn't to be used against Iran, but against our Zionist enemies'. Israel then did the natural thing, launched a pre-emptive strike and crippled those facilities. If I remember rightly the new leadership of Iran has been making some pretty hostile comments towards Israel, and if they gain nuclear capabilities what are the chances they would be used against them? If I was Israel I would again be looking at pre-emptive strikes, because they've learned by now, that they only way they're going to survive in the Middle-East is by being pro-active aggressive... a situation that can change whenever the Arab states want it to.

5:10 pm  
Blogger Psycho Milt said...

Gee, I hope that second anonymous was talking to you and not me, maps. Where do you find these people?

7:09 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I agree that the US presence in the Middle East is the key to the problem. One way of winning greater support to a defence of Iran's right to a nuclear programme without being attacked might be to support the creation of a nuke-free zone in the Middle East. That puts the onus on Israel and the US (US nuke subs etc) to act, rather than shining the spotlight on Iran, which may not even have nukes for a decade. When the US and Israel have disarmed then we can take calls to rein in Iran more seriously.

6:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He doesn't find them Milt.

He creates them with his lies and his inability to take responsibility for his own life.

He's a manipulative piece of shit and totally untrue to his politics in the way he acts in his personal life.

7:21 pm  
Blogger muzzlehatch said...

yes...I guess my point is though I in fact support the right to Iran to have nuclear power and abhore US tactics to dictate Iranian policy, my basic sympathies (in what should be a separate issue) in regard to military weapons are with Israel. I think (when all the hysteria is left out of the discussion) that if Israel did not have military superiority, and did not actively defend its borders, it would be wiped out by the Arab states. I think the same situation in reverse is not true, (though it seems the US are now trying to fill that breach). But in regard to just Israel, until reliable and comprehensive assurances are given to them, and acted on over a considerable period of time, they would be foolish to relinquish their nuclear weapons. As you stated previously, there are times when it is legitimate for a state to have such weapons, and one of them is when it reduces the likelihood of being attacked.

12:05 am  
Blogger maps said...

Not sure if anyone is paying attention, but for the record I've found out who the annonymouse of this thread is, and the person concerned knows as much about my personal life as I know about Bulgarian entomology. Back to your own blog matey...

4:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice try Maps but I ain't buying. You can pretend this is some random anonymous commenter who is just sounding off for no apparent reason but we both know that isn't true. I wasn't going to comment again, but given your lie felt I had to. I won't comment again.

9:29 am  
Blogger maps said...

Oh for crissakes. My posting on your blog doesn't make you an expert on my life. I have no idea what your problem is but if you've fallen out with my ex-partner don't blame it on my sinister machinations. I'm far too disorganised to be machiavellian.

12:10 pm  

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