The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Iran and "The Three Conjectures"

Over the past week, we have seen Iran resume its program to develop nuclear weapons. The EU has spent two years “negotiating” with a partner that (1) had no desire to come to a reasonable settlement, (2) cannot be trusted to keep any promise that it does make, (3) is a known supporter of worldwide terror groups, and (4) is ruled by Islamofascists who, through their own statements and actions, have demonstrated dangerous and unpredictable behavior.

The drama that is rapidly unfolding is frustrating at many levels. Negotiation is a farce when one partner has absolutely no intention of agreeing to any middle ground. UN sanctions will do little, if anything, to redirect an Islamosfascist regime from its chosen path, leading instead to corruption and black market profiteering, and providing Iran with another excuse to play the victim.

And the use of force?

For now, it’s probably not an option, and the Mullahs who rule Iran know it. Hence, they continue on their path toward nuclear weapons with little real concern and a growing sense of power.

Unfortunately, the course they have chosen may be suicidal. Here’s why.

In a fascinating, albeit frightening, analysis of the Muslim world’s drive toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons, Wretchard, the author of The Belmont Club blog, suggests “The Three Conjectures.”

Wretchard begins his discussion by noting that today, as far as we know, “high explosives, small arms, and poison gas still comprise the terrorist arsenal.” However, with Islamic countries like Iran moving rapidly toward the construction or acquisition of nukes, it’s only a matter of time before a terrorist group such as al Qaeda acquires one or more WMDs. This leads to the first conjecture:

Conjecture #1: Terrorism has lowered the nuclear threshold.

Even if its rulers behave irrationally, any nation that ponders a nuclear attack on the United States recognizes that retribution will be immediate and devastating.

But terrorists, possibly acting as surrogates for a nation state, have no land mass or population centers to protect. Because retribution is less certain (at least to them), there is a higher likelihood that weapons will be used. In addition, the jihad mindset encourages martyrdom, making the frightening specter of everyone going out in a nuclear flash appealing to an irrational Islamist leader. This leads to the second conjecture:

Conjecture #2: Attaining WMDs will destroy Islam.

As Wretchard correctly notes,

“The enemy [Islamists] is equally indifferent to inducement or threat. Neither making nice -- Jimmy Carter's withdrawal from Iran, Reagan's abandonment of Lebanon, Bush's defense of Saudi Arabia, Clinton's rescue of Albanian Muslims from Serbian genocide, the payment of billions in aid to Egypt and Pakistan -- nor the gravest of threats would alter the enemy's intent to utterly destroy and enslave America. Allah had condemned America. The Faithful only had to find the means to carry out the execution.”

All true, but why the second conjecture. In a war between nations, a nuclear exchange might stop at one iteration, that is, one blast for each side. The horror of millions of deaths would cause both sides to desist. But with Islamist terrorists, peace negotiations would be impossible—how do we negotiate with a distributed network of terror cells—and the likelihood of another blast in a US city (assuming that the terrorists had another weapon) would be high. But let’s assume that the US does not strike back immediately, trying to find the nation that is culpable—the source of the nuke.

In this nightmare scenario, a second blast occurs with in the US and millions more are dead or dying. The US is faced with the following problem: there is no one with who to negotiate a truce; there is no predisposition on the part of the Islamists to desist, and the likelihood of still more nuclear blasts is unknown.

The US leadership would be forced to respond disproportionately—to obliterate those countries who have even the slightest connection with terror. As Wretchard notes:

“The so-called strengths of Islamic terrorism: fanatical intent; lack of a centralized leadership; absence of a final authority and cellular structure guarantee uncontrollable escalation once the nuclear threshold is crossed. Therefore the 'rational' American response to the initiation of terrorist WMD attack would be all out retaliation from the outset.”

Even more frightening is Wretchard’s discussion of a reticent America—one that refused to trigger an all-out attack.

“The most startling result of this analysis is that a catastrophic outcome for Islam is guaranteed whether America retaliates or not. Even if the President decided to let all Americans die to expiate their historical guilt, why would Islamic terrorists stop after that? They would move on to Europe and Asia until finally China, Russia, Japan, India or Israel, none of them squeamish, wrote -1 x 10^9 in the final right hand column [meaning, they would launch an attack that kills a billion people]. They too would be prisoners of the same dynamic, and they too have weapons of mass destruction.

“ … The greatest threat to Muslims is radical Islam; and the greatest threat of all is a radical Islam armed with weapons of mass destruction.”

Conjecture #3: The War on Terror is the ‘Golden Hour’—the final chance.

If Islamist terrorists are not defeated from within mainstream Islam; if they are not defeated from without by the West’s intelligence and military efforts, they will ultimately initiate a series of events that could destroy Islam. It is for this reason that the WoT is so important both to us, and ironically, to Islam itself. It is also the reason why Iran must be stopped in its quest for WMDs.

Is Wretchard right? Will the conjectures that he poses play out as historical fact? Any rational person would hope that they don’t. But the fact that the first two conjectures envision a horrific future, cannot, in and of itself, cause us to reject them just because they are so frightening.

For those who think the threat is minimal, that WoT is a neo-con fantasy, that isolationism and inaction are the best course for the present, I can only say this, use all of your psychic energy and pray that Wretchard is wrong.