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June 15th, 2007, 21:31
Iran isn't suicidal. They want nukes because Israel has nukes, Pakistan has nukes, and America has a habit of invading countries in the neighborhood but only if said countries don't have nukes. You mentioned North Korea — they're genuinely crazy, far more vicious than Saddam's Iraq ever was, they're McNukes for any budding dictator… and they've been treated with kid gloves. Because they have the capability of killing millions of people from any country that attempts to invade them.

A nuclear-armed Iran might actually calm things down: strategic parity and nuclear deterrence worked between the US and the USSR, so why wouldn't it work between Israel and Iran?

What should the world do?

(1) Recognize the reality that there's not a damn thing we can do to stop Iran from getting nukes if they really want them, other than nuking them first, which would certainly cause any number of other problems.

(2) Give Iran a stake in the status quo. If we drive them into a situation where they have nothing to lose, things will look very bad indeed. If we give them incentives to play nice, they'll play nice.

The fact is that the era of American supremacy, which follows the era of European supremacy, is over. It used to be that "we" could hurt "them" but "they" couldn't hurt "us." (And boy did "we" ever hurt "them.") No longer. Technology, the great equalizer, has seen to that. We had better get used to it.

What we have to do now is find a model of coexistence that allows all of us to go on living here, as far as possible as we like to live. For that, we need to find some common ground. The fact that nobody enjoys the prospect of getting a nuke dropped on them is a good start.

The nuclear genie is out of the bottle, and there's no putting it back. We can try to slow down proliferation, but the only way to get a country to give up its nukes is to put it in a strategic situation that is genuinely so secure that it knows it will never need them. For example, I think that given the right incentives it would be possible to get France or Britain to give up their nukes, but not North Korea, not Pakistan, not India, not Israel, not Russia, not China, not the United States — and not Iran. Not until everybody in the Middle East sits around campfires singing Kum Ba Yah. Until then, well… "War never changes."

Oh, and the Middle East is fucked for at least a generation. Don't invest any money there, not even Dubai or Qatar or any of the places that are actually doing pretty smart things now. The whole place is going down in flames, and the sparks will get blown far. But nuclear conflict isn't on the agenda, yet, and Iranian nukes aren't bringing it any closer.
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