Sunday, February 21, 2010

You'll Put Your Eye Out, Kid

Iran will likely get nuclear weapons. President Bush failed to attack, but the state of Congress and the loyal opposition was such that he would have been impeached for that good deed and our country would have been splintered very badly. President Obama could get a second Nobel Peace Prize for doing the deed, but he won't. And the pressure he'll put on Israel to refrain from striking may well be strong enough to stop that hope for stopping Iran. We won't even try to overthrow the mullahs. Our only salvation is luck, counting on the still-narrow opposition to topple the Iranian mullah regime.

It astounded me that our intelligence agencies could conclude a couple years ago, in that infamous National Intelligence Estimate summary made public, that Iran had halted nuclear weapons work and that there was no evidence they'd restarted it. Even if they were right about just the warhead issue, disregarding the weapons implications of enrichment and missile work just astounded me.

But guess what, Iran didn't stop warhead work:

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency now not only admits that Iran's at work on nuclear warheads, but acknowledges that Tehran never stopped working on them -- despite no end of pleas, pledges and promises.

Burned by its miscall on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the US intelligence community has played it too safe on this one, long insisting that Iran halted warhead research in 2003.

There were plenty of dissenting voices. But President George Bush didn't want another fight, and President Obama's already punch drunk.

Now the genie's out of the bottle of isotopes. With the departure of anti-Israel IAEA chief Mohammed el Baradei, the UN's nuke monitors can finally tell the truth.

And the truth is that Iran wants nuclear warheads badly.

President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and the Tehran regime never stopped declaring their intention to destroy Israel. Inconvenienced, our diplomats and the White House insisted those funny-ha-ha Iranians were just kidding. Now even the UN's taking them seriously.

Will we?
We debate endlessly the precise place Iran is on in the path to nuclear weapons, pretending that knowing where Iran is now is right now the key question rather than understanding the ultimate objective--possession of nuclear weapons--is the key piece of knowledge.

Mark Steyn has the answer for whether we will take the Iranian problem seriously, sadly noting that our governments will "protect" us from the sharp corners of everyday life, but won't address Iran:

This is a perfect snapshot of the West at twilight. On the one hand, governments of developed nations micro-regulate every aspect of your life in the interests of “keeping you safe.” If you’re minded to flip a pancake at speeds of more than four miles per hour, the state will step in and act decisively: It’s for your own good. If you’re a tourist from Moose Jaw, Washington will take preemptive action to shield you from the potential dangers of your patio in Arizona.

On the other hand, when it comes to “keeping you safe” from real threats, such as a millenarian theocracy that claims universal jurisdiction, America and its allies do nothing. There aren’t going to be any sanctions, because China and Russia don’t want them. That means military action, which would have to be done without U.N. backing — which, as Greg Sheridan of the Australian puts it, “would be foreign to every instinct of the Obama administration.” Indeed.

The problem isn't that our governments think that saving you from an improperly drained hot tub is a higher priority, but that ordinary Westerners agree. I swear that it drives me nuts when I read Lefties arguing that more Americans die in auto accidents than in terrorism incidents. Other than the retort of, well yeah, now that's the case--what would the friendly body count be if we didn't fight them, strict body counts isn't the real issue. Auto accidents, tripping while running with pancakes, and even horrible hot tub accidents are part of the sharp corners of life that we live with. Being gunned down in a mall shouldn't be one of those ordinary sharp corners of life. And it isn't progress to learn to live with terrorism as a normal thing to endure along with food borne ilness at the salad bar from bad bean sprouts.
Sure, we calculate the balance between freedom to risk life and limb driving and safety regulations that constrict freedom or raise costs, but we accept the risks of living and having fun, rather than strapping ourselves into pillowed suits and staying at home. There are some Westerners who really think that the risk of dying in a car bombing of a mall is no different than the risk of slipping in a bath tub, and so if the government reduces the risk of bath tub slipping, that will reduce the body count more than killing jihadis. So it would be best to focus our resources on padding those sharp edges of life. Halting a highly speculative Iranian nuclear threat pales in comparison to reducing the dreaded pancake flipping fall.
So we'll let Iran go nuclear. It's logical. It avoids giving in to unreasonable fear, they say. And when Iran goes nuclear, we'll finally put in some toothless sanctions. But the new power that nukes give Iran will mean that sanctions will erode quickly (remember how even Saddam eroded sanctions by the beginning of the Bush administration?). And who will dare retaliate against even common explosives-based Iranian terrorism?
But we'll comfort ourselves that we can deter Iran from using nukes. We'll have a nice intelligence estimate that tells the president that the nuts don't actually control the nukes, so Iran will behave rationally--as we define rational.
Eventually, I'm sure that the Congressional inquiry into the slagging of Charleson or Tel Aviv will do a wonderful job of explaining where we went wrong. 20:20 hindsight is like that.