February 16, 2011

When Push Comes to Nuke


In a comment to the Belmont Club's In and Out of Eden, Belmont's host, Richard Fernandez offers some prescient thoughts on strength, weakness, and nuclear Weapons.
77. wretchard

Responding to: Israel has been in that position, more or less, for six-plus decades now, and that's just the modern state. Yet the Israelis, who are there already at "kill or be killed", do not kill. One would think that peace-loving folks might grant a small nod of recognition to that.

Fernadez writes:

Why would anyone believe, even for a moment, that any Western state could "pre-emptively" nuke the Muslim world when it cannot muster the will to secure its borders, balance its budget, get Pakistan to release a diplomat or get Argentina to release a C-17's cargo load of equipment? That would be like thinking that man who can't run 50 yards can run the 100 meter dash in 9.5 seconds.

The path to nukes is far more probably going to take the path of use in desperation. And in fact a country which secured its borders, drilled for its own oil, got Pakistan to release diplomats, and did the normal things would be the only kind of country which might use nukes pre-emptively because it conceive of such a strategy. Yet ironically it would be the kind of country that wouldn't have to attack pre-emptively. The idea of country going straight from supine behavior to nuking pre-emptively is a fantasy built on the awareness of weakness. Solve the weakness and then your enemies will consider you capable of pre-emption. But guess what: solve the weakness and you won't have to pre-empt. They will back away.

This is all elementary game theory; and tried, true and hoary deterrence theory. Be strong and you won't need to use nukes. Be weak and you'll use them for sure.

The problem of radical Islam is the problem of Western weakness. That is the problem to which the policy nuking Muslims is an impertinent answer. Who's going to do it? Obama? And yet if Obama lost the next election in favor of someone who might actually resist, then the probability of having to pre-empt declines dramatically.

The logical problem is that any strategy which requires pre-emptively nuking the Islamic world implies a President who is too weak to do it anyway. But that doesn't mean it might not happen. As I've argued ad nauseam, the biggest danger to nuclear use, in both the Israeli and general Western case, is via the act in desperation.

As long as Israel's strategic position is strong, it will not unleash the nukes. But only in its dying gasp will that be certain. So what do the geniuses at State do? Bring Israel to the point of strategic death.

For the same reasons, the weaker Obama makes America the more its enemies are emboldened. Yet this does not bring pre-emption closer. That becomes more and more unthinkable until the last push, when desperation takes hold. Then the probabilities go from near zero to near 1.

The Pakistanis and even the rapists in Tahrir Square are testing, testing. And they are finding no resistance. Therefore they will push and sooner or later, they will push too far. Why not since no stop signal will be received from the Smartest Man in the World.

Then when things go too far, desperation, not calculation, will unleash the Apocalypse. It's happened before. In 1939. It's not impossible, just conveniently forgotten. The Western elite are like the Bourbons, who remember everything and have learned nothing.

Me, I'll take the bottle and forget the dynasty.

I'll have what he's having.

Posted by Vanderleun at February 16, 2011 11:49 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

One thing about Wretchard is that his comments are often even better than his original posts.

Posted by: rickl at February 17, 2011 2:49 AM

We conservatives like to point out that the liberals are either fellow-travelers of the Marxists or they are nice people that haven't noticed in 100 years of socialism that it always fails. We feel so smart when we put almost all liberals into the "they just don't understand" category. We need to face we have a likewise elephant in our room we are determined not to notice and that is the persistent and willful refusal to look at our opponent with clear vision. Because of that we demotivate ourselves, even against a deadly opponent like Marxists wrecking the world.

There is no other reasonable explanation for why "liberals" persistently advocate weakness, breaking all societal conventions, and their adopting the views of any mortal enemy to Western Civilization. There is no reasonable alternative that explains why NOW will help smear women, the ACLU will ignore civil rights abuse, and environmentalists create more pollution than they are working to wreck the world. The few/many that don't know they are actively wrecking the world actively avoid seeing that everywhere their plans are implemented the same decline and dysfunction follows. Those "nice" liberals deserve no more respect and accommodation than you would give Typhoid Mary. Anyone that was able to see the error of their ways has already come over to our side. The remaining "liberals" don't think there is anything in Western Civ worth saving. However, recognizing that "liberals" are in league with the jihadists to destroy the system suggests wide-ranging action. It's just easier and more pleasant to believe anything but the truth about them. That's how we contribute to the decline of Western Civ. Better the world end than we feel the need to violate the Mayberry Ladies Auxiallry code of conduct that lives in our heads.

"Get in their face and punch back twice as hard." Call them what they are and don't be talked out of it because it causes a scene. The commie-libs trade on the certain fact we are rule-followers. There is no pride in being the most cooperative jew to climb into the cattle car to Auschwitz. The commie-libs want us enslaved or worse, the least we can do is wreck their meetings.

Posted by: Scott M at February 17, 2011 2:54 AM

The US and Israel aren't the only nuclear powers. There are other wild cards in the deck, like France, Russia and India, who might have their own motives for a preemptive strike. Russia in particular might want to cauterize the festering sore on its border in order to achieve domestic peace and a larger share of oil sales.

Posted by: bob sykes at February 17, 2011 5:22 AM

This is one situation where NIMBY doesn't work. Not even in anyone's backyard.

Posted by: Peccable at February 17, 2011 6:08 AM

Great Minds think alike:


Posted by: Fat Man at February 17, 2011 8:19 AM

Well, Fernandez is generally spot on, but the comparison with 1939 is problematic. Hitler knew that France and the UK were going to go to war over Poland. That was not a surprise. I've seen enough stuff from the last half of the 1930's to know that they all thought a war was coming.

The question here is more of "what could happen?"

Yes, Muslims hate the Jews, but nuclear posturing by Iran is going to be answered by the Saudis somehow, and I have no idea what that may lead to. Other than it will be bad for them closest to it.

Will the oil fields get slagged? So how bad would that be? For the US, a serious annoyance. For Europe and China? Sucks to be them. For Russia? They just got richer. Better watch out that the Chinese don't try and come and take it away.

Just some ideas.

Posted by: Eric Blair at February 17, 2011 12:47 PM

The next Nuclear detonation(s) will be an Islamic one.

Posted by: cond0010 at February 17, 2011 8:19 PM