An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service
January 25, 2006
The movie seems far-fetched now, but in the early '60s it wasn't so far from the strategic problems the deep thinkers were worrying over. In fact, a Doomsday Machine had already been proposed to U.S. policy makers. The term for such a standoff in which both attacker and defender are destroyed is Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
A couple of books by legendary strategist Herman Kahn - "On Thermonuclear War," 1961, and "Thinking About the Unthinkable,"1962, might also be appropriate for the Iranian leadership because there is alarmingly little evidence that they have thought through the consequences of a nuclear arsenal. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's taunting of nuclear power Israel - it should be "wiped off the map" - certainly indicates they have not.
Average Iranians interviewed by the Western press seem to think about their nuclear capacity in terms of electric power, not weapons, and the respect that capacity would bring Iran as a modern, technological society. However, the duplicity of the government with respect to U.N. inspections points to weapons. The extent of their strategic thinking is: "Hey, look, we've got a nuclear weapon. Nobody messes with us."
But the ayatollahs should consider that they live in a nuclear neighborhood that includes Israel, whom they've already threatened; Pakistan, with whom they share a border; Russia, a near neighbor, India and China. Not the most stable area of the world.
Nukes are only a deterrent if your opponent is as rational as you are, and they are no deterrent at all against the most serious threat to the ruling ayatollahs - their own people.
Iran's leaders should pause and think long and hard whether they want to take on the calculus of vulnerability (most of Iran's people live in a handful of big cities), fall out shelters, radioactive half-lives, throw weights, hardened silos, first strike versus strike on launch, and, for the kids, "duck and cover" - all that Cold War stuff that the United States and Russia hope they have put behind them.
One more thing before viewing "Dr. Strangelove" - its subtitle, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," is meant ironically.
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