Ryan re "

My comments are directed at the theoretical results of Iran developing a nuclear weapon rather than the implications of the recent Iranian presidential election.

I am far, far less concerned about the idea that Iran might use a nuclear weapon once it has one than I am that a nuclear Iran will essentially become an uncontrollable base for middle-eastern terrorism and a likely place for nuclear proliferation to groups that might be more likely to actually use a nuke.

Like North Korea, once Iran goes nuclear it will be protected from direct US military assault. As North Korea can directly imperil the world economy by strikes on nearby targets (Seoul, and to a lesser extent Japan) - strikes that would not require a high-tech missile strike to work - Iran can target the Saudi/Kuwaiti oil fields, also without the use of a high-tech delivery device. Airburst via UAV would be the easiest delivery with maximum effect - but just trucking the bomb into position would work.

Iran clearly knows this. It is absolutely buying as much time as possible to get enough uranium enriched to build something like the Pakastani bomb (which fizzled apparently) that could be rushed into an underground test if the US begins overt hostilities.

Now is when the Bush Administration's failed intel on Iraq really hurts US interests. No WMD in Iraq means little or no ability to go back to the world (or to the US) and try to beg for advance permission for a proactive strike. If the US goes into Iran without any diplomatic cover, I cannot imagine any way we will be able to extract ourselves from running both Iraq and Iran as subjugated nations. And our all-volunteer military is simply neither psychologically or ethically indoctrinated to carry out a long period of unwanted occupation - especially as essentially the entire rest of the planet will be condemning the US without much restraint.

Even parading a fully-assembled Iranian nuclear weapon into the General Assembly of the UN won't quiet the domestic and global critics - and no change of government here at home would get us out of the situation either. Leadership of both parties knows that just "bringing the troops home" will result in a bloodbath in the Middle East, likely triggering a larger regional war and genocide, combined with at least one overtly nuclear power (Isreal), and access to atomic weapons from Pakistan for Islamic Jihad. The death toll would likely top a billion, and the damage to the global economic system would plunge the whole world into a depression, plus an energy crisis, plus a vaccum of leadership.

In a parliamentary democracy, the government could formulate a long-term strategy and then hold a referendum to gain a mandate. In our sytem, with fixed election cycles, and no direct ties between House, Senate and the White House, there may be no good way to reach a policy consensus.

I see the situation as dire. I await someone in a leadership role who can enunciate a clear strategy, and explain the risk factors. I remain skeptical that such a leader will emerge.

Ryan S. Dancey
July 2005