Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Nuclear Iran

I just read an article in Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College, entitled “Nuclear Iran?” by Victor Davis Hanson. It was an excellent article, which I would highly recommend to all, but two points especially struck me. First, in response to arguments that we should back off and not worry about Iran getting the bomb (such as “Israel has the bomb, so why not Iran?” or, “Pakistan got the bomb and we’re okay,” or even “Iran has promised to use its reactors for peaceful purposes, so why should we be so upset?”), Hanson makes several excellent arguments, but one stands out:

First, any country that seeks “peaceful” nuclear power at the same time it is completely self-sufficient in energy production is de facto suspect. Iran has enough natural gas to meet its clean electrical generation needs for two centuries. The only rationale for its multi-billion-dollar program of building nuclear reactors—and for its spending billions more to hide and decentralize them—is to obtain weapons.

I can understand why some country totally devoid of any energy resources would want to build nuclear reactors, but it’s illogical that a country brimming with all the energy resources it can use would spend billions of dollars to get another one. The only reason Iran would conceivably want nuclear reactors is for weapons purposes. Second, in his solutions, Hanson makes the following points – which serve both as a warning to Iran and a somewhat unnerving source of hope for the West:

In conclusion, let me offer a more ominous note of warning. Israel is not free from its own passions, and there will be no second Holocaust. It is past time for Iranian leaders to snap out of their pseudo-trances and recognize that some Western countries are not only far more powerful than Iran, but in certain situations and under particular circumstances can be just as driven by memory, history—and, yes, a certain craziness as well.

The same goes for the United States. The Iranians, like bin Laden, imagine an antithetical caricature—which, like all caricatures, has some truth in it—whereby we materialistic Westerners love life too much to die, while the pious Islamic youths they send to kill us with suicide bombs love death too much to live. But what the Iranian theocrats, like the al-Qaedists, never fully fathom is that if the American people conclude that their freedom and existence are at stake, they are capable of conjuring up things far more frightening than anything in the 7th-century brain of Mr. Ahmadinejad. The barbarity of the nightmares at Antietam, Verdun, Dresden and Hiroshima prove that well enough. In short, there are consequences to the rhetoric of Armageddon.

So far the Iranian leader has posed as someone 90 percent crazy and ten percent sane, hoping that in response we would fear his overt madness, grant concessions, and delicately appeal to his small reservoir of reason. But he should understand that if his Western enemies appear 90 percent of the time as children of the Enlightenment, they are still suffused with vestigial traces of the emotional and unpredictable. And military history shows that the irrational ten percent of the Western mind is a lot scarier in the end than anything Islamic fanaticism has to offer.

I had never thought about it before, but the West has definitely exhibited that “certain craziness” before. I think that Hanson is correct that it is still there (though I’m sure some might disagree), but I hope there is no reason for that craziness to appear!

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