TCS Daily


Fear of Confrontation

By Arnold Kling - April 4, 2006 12:00 AM

"As tensions increase between the United States and Iran, U.S. intelligence and terrorism experts say they believe Iran would respond to U.S. military strikes on its nuclear sites by deploying its intelligence operatives and Hezbollah teams to carry out terrorist attacks worldwide."
-- Dana Priest, The Washington Post, April 2, 2006

In the 1930's, the leaders of Great Britain and France tried their best to avoid a confrontation with Nazi Germany. By the time the confrontation took place, it was on Hitler's terms, with German power ascendant.

It seems that the same dynamic is at work relative to Iran. A fanatical, bullying regime is using a combination of threats and grievance-mongering. Western leaders shrink from confrontation, even though delay seems likely to worsen our position. One could argue that the more that America fears a confrontation with Iran, the more likely we are to have our worst fears realized. It will cost less in terms of American lives if we deal with Iran forcefully and soon rather than cautiously and late.

On his Instapundit blog, fellow TCS contributor Glenn Reynolds has pointed out the way in which the recent cartoon controversy illustrates that the West allows itself to be bullied by Islamic militants. The cartoons depicting Mohammed may offend Muslims, but they do not threaten Muslims or incite violence against Muslims. Still, because of violent Muslim protest of the cartoons, our supposedly staunch free press has refrained from publishing them. As the writer Stephen Green put it, "We've seen what American bookstores and publications and universities do when confronted with real fascists: they knuckle under."

Tolerating Abuse

Unfortunately, large segments of American society no longer have the ability to confront real evil. People lack the confidence and moral clarity to stand up to intimidation.

I first became aware of this five years ago, when I read a book called Augusta, Gone by Martha Tod Dudman. With great honesty and clarity, she tells the story of her struggles with her delinquent teenage daughter, Augusta. Even though I admired the mother's willingness and ability to narrate her story, I saw her as a weak person, unable to confront her daughter.

When Augusta violates her curfew, her mother is unwilling to give her any consequences. When her mother finds drugs in Augusta's room, she feels guilty over invading Augusta's privacy, when in fact the mother is entitled (in my opinion) to draw a connection between the daughter's failure to come home on time and the fact that the mother went into her room.

Every day, Augusta's mother makes her daughter's lunch to take to school, and every day Augusta throws her lunch away. One day, Augusta's mother stops making lunches, and Augusta screams at her until she relents. To me, this sums up the entire relationship -- the mother making lunch as a gesture of love and the daughter throwing it away.

In my view, the mother's attempts at appeasement work to her detriment, and probably to Augusta's as well. When people act out destructively, it seems to me that what they need is someone to set boundaries and put order into their lives. Taking abuse from someone is not really doing that person any favor.

However, what struck me most of all about Augusta, Gone was how unusual my reaction turned out to be. While I have not undertaken a formal tally, it appeared to me that the majority of reader reviews on Amazon were sympathetic to the mother. Apparently, there are many people who cannot imagine confronting a troubled teenager and standing up to her abusive behavior. Instead, they can only empathize with a mother who is too caught up in her feelings of guilt to stand up for what is right.

The Guilt Trip

In the 1930's, Hitler laid a guilt trip on the Western allies over the Versailles treaty. Many Westerners rationalized the Munich agreement of 1938 by saying that the Sudetan Germans had genuine grievances against Czechoslovakia. In retrospect, it is clear that Britain and France caved into intimidation, and that the Munich agreement was shameful.

Like Hitler, or like Augusta, today's Islamic militants are able to lay a guilt trip on us even as they abuse us. The result is that there are many in Europe and America who think that throwing Jews under the bus is the way to lift the threat of Islamofascism.

The Washington Post also carried an essay by Phil Sands, a journalist who was kidnapped in Iraq and later freed by American forces. He wrote,

"I harbor no hatred toward the people who kidnapped and threatened to kill me. There was, and still is, a mixture of fear, sorrow, fondness and anger in my sentiments. If I think about them now, in all likelihood suffering the misery of Abu Ghraib, I pity them. They are almost certainly being treated worse by their captors than I was by mine."

It would seem to me that his captors deserve to be "suffering the misery" and "treated worse." Kidnappers belong in captivity. Journalists -- unless they have become the moral equivalent of kidnappers -- do not.

One can view Islamic militants as armed versions of unruly teenagers. We should not feel guilty toward them. We should demand reasonable and decent behavior from them, rather than excuse their tantrums or their crimes.

The Terror Threat

Dana Priest's story seems designed to raise doubts about the wisdom of taking military action against Iran's nuclear facilities. Because Iran has terrorists and agents throughout the world, we face retaliation.

A rational response to the threat of retaliation would be to make clear to Iran that the consequences of a terrorist attack would be the end of the Iranian regime. If we are intimidated by potential Iranian terrorism now, then the situation can only get worse if Iran develops nuclear weapons.

Suppose that we refrain from confronting Iran over its nuclear ambitions. What do we stand to gain? Will the Islamist movement outgrow its militant phase and turn moderate and mature? Will our military capability increase faster than Iran's capabilities? Will the Islamists be satisfied with attacks on Israel and Europe, and leave us alone -- and is that acceptable to us? Unless one can give favorable answers to such questions, it seems to me that Iran must be confronted.

Recently, the columnist Mark Steyn wrote

"But there are two kinds of persons objecting to the war: There's a shriveled Sheehan-Sheen left that's in effect urging on American failure in Iraq, and there's a potentially far larger group to their right that's increasingly wary of the official conception of the war. The latter don't want America to lose, they want to win -- decisively."

Put me down for "decisive victory." Probably for Iraq, and certainly for the broader struggle against militant Islam, the defeat of the Iranian regime appears to be the necessary next step. It is hard to see how we can gain anything by failing to confront a WMD-seeking, terrorist-sponsoring regime that is bent on intimidation. If this is not 1933 all over again, then someone needs to spell out the difference.

Arnold Kling is author of Learning Economics.

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129 Comments

Whow
Your ability to dumb down a issue into good old white hatted cowboy and black hatted cowboy is amazing.

Might equals right as long as your the mighty so it would seem. In your mind there is no room for self review at least not when you've got the power. The US (and everyone else at times) is quite happy to tell others what to do. However the situation changes when your the ones being told what to do.

How this then UN should enforce a ban on all nuke weapons. Nobody should be allowed to have them. If Iran doesn't need nukes then surly the US and everybody else doesn't. Why should Russia, Israel or Pakistan be allowed to have them and not Iran? Quite a few of the nuke states have and some continue to support terrorist. What would the US position be if Taiwan or Japan wish to develop nukes? it's this double standard that give wiggle room.

Not to fear, Arnold
This article is the rankest sort of fear-mongering. Iran is no more likely to commit an unprovoked attack on America than was Iraq. You'll note that what Dana Priest said in the banner quote was a hypothetical speculation as to how Iran would likely respond to an American attack. Zero evidence is being presented that such might be the case.

I have every confidence though that Iran might respond in some way to an attack on their nation. If not they would be the first country in history ever not to respond.

The solution? Don't attack them. It would seem apparent that any interest they may have in nuclear arms is defensive in nature. Isn't North Korea, with its small nuclear arsenal, immune to threats from the behemoth to the west? Why wouldn't Iran want a similar immunity?

Meanwhile Pakistan is giving nukes to the Saudis-- but that's okay. The way things are supposed to be is that Iran and Syria will end up the only players in the Middle East not to have them. Then we can crush them like ants.

I would really like to see America get off this kick of aggressing against everyone they fancy a disagreement with. How did we come full circle, becoming the world's bully? Isn't this what we fought WWII to defeat? I am ashamed of all this bellicosity.

Iran and Hitler?
One obvious difference is that Hitler's Germany was by far the most powerful state in Europe, whereas we are vastly more powerful than Iran.

Suicide
Although Hitler did commit suicide, I don't believe he intended to if he won.
Iran's leadership has not demonstrated they value thier lives as much as they value the destruction of Isreal and the west.
Not all in Iran are suicidal, but can we be certain of thier leaders?
North Korean leaders are too hedonistic to want to loose it all in an exchange with the west.

read history
In 1933, France was thought to be much more powerful than Germany.

Germany only became powerful because France and Britain refused to confront it when it was weak.

Wrong
Hitler ran a bluff that lasted several years. He didn't have near the quantity of equipment that France and England thought he did. They were played, badly. The German High Command was shaking in it's boots when Hitler occupied Alsace-Lorraine, fearful of a response from France that never happened.

In Iran we have an expansionist religion, wholly convinced of it's own righteousness and seeking to acquire nuclear technology. Crawl under a rock and hide if you must and leave the heavy lifting to the adults.

Suicidal? I think not
The smart money would be on not assuming anyone is suicidal, other than such groups as proclaim themselves as such. This kind of behavior is rare among the sorts who run for office.

Ahmedinejad is both a populist and an overwhelmingly popular leader in Iran-- which is why the ayatollahs are content to keep him in place shooting his mouth off at us. It promotes group cohesion.

It's safe to assume that Iranian leadership as a whole is unlikely to decide attacking the US head on is a bright idea. What would they expect to gain?

Fear of mice
I'm trying to imagine a scenario where Iran becomes powerful on a scale to match the United States.

a scenario
Try to imagine Iran having provided WMD to terrorist groups, for use in Europe and on American soil.

A nuke goes off in, say, Cleveland. We think Iran is behind it. We say that we are going to take out their regime. They say, "We've got more what that came from, set to go off in London, New York, and Washington." Now what?

In 1933, most people could not imagine Germany ever being powerful enough again to threaten its neighbors. But the closer that came to reality, the less willing they were to confront Germany.

Iran: Defending vs Preempting a Nuclear Attack
“A rational response to the threat of retaliation would be to make clear to Iran that the consequences of a terrorist attack would be the end of the Iranian regime.”

How about this scenario:
1) 2006…UN declines to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions, mainly due to threatened Security Council veto’s by China and possibly Russia.
2) 2007…the US and allies announce economic sanctions against Iran. Iran responds by curtailing its sales of oil to all but its “allies” at preferential pricing. Spot oil prices soar to 135 dollars/barrel.
3) 2008…Iran and China sign a comprehensive economic and DEFENSE agreement. Iran follows by increasing its oil production beyond its OPEC limits to meet Chinese demand.
4) 2009…mounting international criticism and isolation is met by Iran with the announcement that they now have six nuclear warheads, will have over 100 warheads within six months and will be using their next generation of missiles to target “hostile” regimes.
5) 2010…a small nuclear weapon is detonated on US soil. Six terrorist organizations claim responsibility. Iran offers aid and comfort to the victims of this terrible tragedy. It indignantly denies any involvement in the attack. As suspicion increases, Iran announces that it has targeted 150 nuclear warheads at hostile targets in the middle east and Europe, and that all missiles will be fired simultaneously if there is any attack on Iran. In addition, China announces that an attack on Iran not approved by the Security Council would be considered an attack on China. Russia announces tentative support of the Chinese position.

The US cannot prove Iran’s involvement. And we apparently still cannot secure our borders 9 years after 9/11. Thousands of Americans are dead…billions of dollars of damage is done…the stock market is crashing…the dollar is near collapse…and World War III/Armageddon hangs in the balance. So, what does President ___do?

To deal with a no-win scenario such as the above, the US must do three things now:
1) Secure US borders…insofar as nuclear materials are concerned, this means that every molecule of radioactive material in the US and within 100 miles of US borders is accounted for and under constant surveillance. If the scope of such detection can be expanded to include potential hostile area’s of the world, so much the better. If the US can defend itself and possibly its allies, we have less reason to take preemptive action and have a wider range of response options in the event of an unsuccessful attack.
2) Develop a preemptive attack plan now and keep it updated.
3) Develop the criteria to guide the future decision on whether to rely on defense or whether to execute preemption.
The US MUST not find itself faced off against a heavily nuclear armed Iran with powerful Nation State and Terrorist allies.

If I were President….I would prioritize resources to develop defensive technologies. If the US has the technology to prevent nuclear weapons from being used in an aggressive fashion, then they serve only defensive purposes. While MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) kept nuclear weapons in the bottle during the cold war, this strategy will not likely be effective against terrorists or terrorist states. If we cannot defend against the threat, we have no choice but to preempt it.

The blind proclaiming his ignorance
Only the truly ignorant could ignore Iran's role of terrorism in the world and its efforts against the US. Its nice to know that you can ignore their attacks against the Marines in Beirut and its sponsorship of Bin Laden and the Taliban but why ruin a nice rant.


I enjoy those who bray that America is the source of all evil until a disaster results. Then we find that we invited such attacks according to these ignorantti.

I am ashamed of this craven cowardness to willfuly ignore evil and find every opportunity to act as a fool in the hope that the beast will eat you last if only you appease it long enough.


You too will be eaten.

terrorism
Iran threatens to send it's operatives against US interests if we do anything about it's nuclear weapons programs.

How does this differ from the current situation?

surprise surprise
Why am I not surprised that wwgeek1 can't see any moral difference between the US and Iran?

threats
It's been proven that Iraq was aiding and training terrorists, including terrorists that had vowed to attack the US.

Iran has threatened to wipe both Isreal and the US off the face of the earth.

iranian beliefs
The leadership of Iran is a sect of Shiaism that believes in the return of the 12 imam, which will usher in an era of peace and Islamic domination of the world.

They also believe that a time of great trial and tribulation has to preceed the second coming.

They believe that they can hasten the second coming if they do what they can to promote chaos and destruction in the world.

If they get the bomb, they will use it.

suicidal
Nobody believed Hitler when he said he was going to try to take over the world and kill all the Jews.

The leadership of Iran belong to an extremist sect that not only believes in suicide, they believe that killing non-muslims is the greatest thing a muslim can do.
They believe that a time of chaos and destruction is necessary before the 12th Imam can return and usher in an era of Islamic domination of the world.

You ignore their direct words at your peril.

don't need to be a match
a single nuclear weapon can kill millions.

delusions
roy, stephen, wwgeek1 belong to a peculiar sect.
This sect believes whole heartedly that only the US govt is capable of doing evil. Primarily when led by Republicans.

Imagining Armageddon
"Try to imagine Iran having provided WMD to terrorist groups, for use in Europe and on American soil."

You would have to imagine such a thing, because the whole subject is entirely hypothetical.

On the other hand, try to imagine the United States using WMD's against Iran. You don't have to imagine a single thing. Our plans for attack are in the public domain, and show up in the papers on a weekly basis.

How dare those people try to defend themselves!!

oil
It's unlikely that Iran can survive long economically if it stopped shipping oil to much of the world. Selling oil at cut rate prices to the rest of it's customers would only exacerbate that slide.

If Iran were to stop shipping to just the US and our allies, it wouldn't increase oil prices by much.

Since oil is fungible, all open market oil prices would rise, even the oil consumed by Iran's preferred customers.
If Iran were to increase shipments of it's oil to these preferred customers in order to make up for these increased prices, it would in affect, be adding to the world supply, which would push prices back down again.

Problem is...
that sovereignty concept. We must articulate a set of rules that determine when preemptive action towards another sovereign that is a bad actor on the world stage is justified. Without these clear rules, we look arbitrary when we attack another country preeemptively. I think those rules can be formulated and may even have a deterrent effect, because the bad actor then knows what will happen when the bad actor undertakes certain activities even within its own borders.

The Marines in Beirut
Those Marines in Beirut went in to assist the IDF. Israel went in to interfere in a local civil war, so the Christian phalange could be propped up against the Muslims. Any outsider entering into an Irish bar fight like that deserves whatever he gets.

I have never maintained that America is the source of all evil. Hyperbole doesn't reinforce your argument. But whenever America is on the verge of doing something stupid, I feel it is my duty as a patriot to stand up and say something about it.

You speak as though Iran is a mighty, ravening beast to be either destroyed or appeased before it crushes the US. What an insensible world you live in! What do you suppose the American response would be if Iran ever did smuggle a nuke into New York Harbor? Don't you think they might be aware of the consequences?

These ideas of yours all look to others like bizarre flights of the imagination. Calm down a little, and try to look at the picture the way the other side might see it.

Rules of Preemption
"If we cannot defend against the threat, we have no choice but to preempt it."

Here is one of those rules.

ABD

"Observe them for love of mockery"
Agreed Mark.

Geek "is peevish, sullen, forward, proud, disobient, stubborn, lacking education..."
other than that he is a typical troll.

Of course they aren't suicidal. That's why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor
Because they knew they'd win? Its a shame that so many today lack an adequate grounding in history and are given to braying when the least bit of analysis would orve their premise wrong.

Try again.

Out of my sight! Thou dost infect my eyes.
Yeah while you're at it try and imagine Mexico as strong as the USA as well. Do you believe when the Japanese attacked the USA they were as powerful as America on any scale.

You are amazing. Don't you tire of using a false prmise and laboring under such a delusion in searching for an erroneous conculsion?

Thou art unfit for any place but hell...
you torturer of the truth. The Marines entered Lebanon to assist the Israelis? Exactly where did you get this oh mangler of fact?

What do you suppose America's response would be if NYC were destroyed by a ship borne weapon? Exactly who would you attack? Would you sanction an attack on Iran without the kind of evidence the trollish Left always demands or would you accept the decision of a president.

Since we all know how the Left acts and how it always sides with evil (nations which do not defend freedom)it is obvious to the casual observer why you belong in one place.

Exceptionally thoughtful comment
I will read responses to this with interest.

You make an obvious mistake
Iran's allies would buy and support it economically to avoid any effects of a boycott or sanctions. Hence it is doubtful its policies would change. Oil prices might be reduced depending on future production and consumption. I would bet its allies might cut back production hence negate any downward pressure. Nice observation.

Roy..."speaks an indefinite deal of nothing"
Of course a poltroun cannot imagine Iran attacking the USA while said fool can imagine the USA attacking Iran. You have been serving the devil way too long.

Fear of Confronting the Saudis
US says Saudi individuals still funding terrorism
Reuters, April 4, 2006

...Stuart Levey, the Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee that concerns remained, including the existence of so-called "DEEP-POCKET DONORS" and the abuse of charities to fund militants...

He said Saudi Arabia had taken steps to curb terrorism financing, but had FAILED TO SET UP A SPECIAL CHARITY COMISSION to regulate the sector, as it had pledged. He said rules implemented as a stop-gap measure in the interim "haven't been uniformly implemented."

Levey said Saudi Arabia's fledgling Financial Intelligence Unit, set up last year after much prodding from the United States, was STILL NOT FULL FUNCTIONAL...

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=1804826

they say they will
Why do you assume that the Iranian leadership is lieing when they say that they are going to use WMDs when they get them?

I doubt very much that our real attack plans are in the papers. I have no doubt that the usefull idiots are passing off what they claim to be the attack plans.

Regardless, one of the things the US military (indeed, any military) does very well, is spin off attack plans. They probably have half a dozen attack plans for just about every square foot of the planet. They do this for efficiency's sake. If the president asks them to do it, they go to the shelf, dust off the plan, update it a little, and present it. Does it mean that there are active plans to use the attack plans? Of course not.
At least those who aren't congenitally paranoid realize that.

over on today's global warming thread
old roy is declaring himself to be a world class expert on atmospheric physics, yet he wasn't even aware that water vapor was a global warming gas, much less the strongest one.

lebanon
Isreal went in because Hezbollah was using the civil war as cover to rain rockets onto northern Isreal.

Iran doesn't need to be a massive military might. All they need is a couple of nukes and the will to use them.
They have the second, they will have the first soon.

Maybe
I don't know how many allies Iran would have in such an action. Iran has made it plain that they expect to be the big guy on the block, they expect that they will be top dogs in the new Islamic super state that they are wanting to create.

The Saudi's for one have no interest in letting Shia Iran become the new leaders of Islam.

I doubt Iraq would help, especially not after Iran has been supporting terrorism inside Iraq.

Kuwait? Possible, but they have become more secularized in recent years. (Just yesterday they held elections in which women not only voted, but ran for office.)

China? Possible, but they will be hurt by rising oil prices, and they don't have that much money to throw around. (They have money, but not the large amounts needed to keep Iran afloat.)

Russia? They are in worse shape than China.

Syria, they don't have any oil, and are flat out broke already.

and another thing
I don't think it will come to this, but we already got the biggest navy in the area.

We could seize any and all tankers coming from Iran.

I agree with needing to develop rules
The UN would have been a good place for this, if it wasn't a cesspool of corruption.

I think that threatening to wipe one of your neighbors off the face of the earth, and then trying to develop weapons to carry out that threat would violate at least one of any reasonable set of rules.

Their interference in Iraq, would also violate most commonly held list of rules.

Their funding of terrorist activities in Isreal would also be a rule violator.

Old Roy does it again
One gets the feeling that Old Roy came from the USSR where he invented the airplane, tank, nuclear physics, etc. After his lobotomy of course.

Allies aren't that obvious sometimes
The PRC to insure a stable supply of oil. The Gulf states if there existence dependended on Tehran's whims. Certainly Saudi Arabia whose independence and current regime isn't likely to be worth defended by the West given their double dealing. Even the Russians who might look upon the Iranians as the enemy of my enemy.

Finally we all know that Iraq was able to use its oil money to subvert the governments of the West. Do you doubt the Iranians wouldn't employ the same strategy?

The true Iran
Roy, you really have a short memory. Do you remember that dozens of Americans were taken hostage by Iranians a few decades ago? Was this the act of a sane, responsible country? No, the Iranians are a serious threat to the stability of the world, and they CANNOT be allowed to have nukes. It is that simple. The argument that their desire to have nukes is purely defensive is asinine. Iran wants to control the mideast, and they have explicitly threatened Isreal. Iran is, as Bush said, an evil empire and needs to be dealt with aggressively and forcefully.

I am ashamed at the foolishness and cowardice of so many "peaceful" Americans who forget the lessons of Hitler and WWII. The way to deal with evil is to hit it early and hit it hard, BEFORE they have any real ability to hit back. We wait for them to build such an ability at our own peril.

-Bob

Wrong....
Hitler's Germany was NOT the most powerful state in Europe when he began his misadventures. In fact, he started with a very weak Germany, one that was hobbled by its WWI agreements. If Hitler had been hit earlier, or the agreements of WWI enforced, WWII would have been much less destructive or even avoided alltogether. Hitler was building his war machine at the same time he was attacking others, and he relied on the cowardness of the rest of Europe, a cowardness that he correctly predicted. It was only the delay of the West that allowed Hitler to make Germany as powerful as it became.

Duh!
Iran does not need to be as "powerful" as the US to cause great harm. One nuke could kill over one hundred thousand Americans. Ten could kill over a million. We could kill ALL of them in response, but so what? Iran only needs to be able to kill a small fraction of Americans to wield great power. That cannot be allowed.

-Bob

History lesson
I have no idea what motivates you to say these things, TJ. The two instances are totally different.

Japan industrialized in the early twentieth century and sought to control its own sphere of influence in the Far East. They allied themselves with three other heavyweights who also industrialized and thought the same thing. Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR.

Not only did they stand a chance of winning, they inevitably would have one, save for one thing. Hitler stabbed Stalin in the back, giving the Allies a chance to regroup and start fighting back.

Iran stands a zero point zero percent chance of licking the United States. And they know it. That is why they'll never try-- and you can take that to the bank.

Well I never
Who would have believe that either of you fools would bothered to address the issue. Personnel attacks are the hallmark of someone without a sustainable position. That's all you guys ever do. Play ground stuff realy.

Australia has every right to push to have no nukes the US has not. While your Country has them you only look silly telling others they can't have them. To have a world free of WMD's you guys have to give up yours. Address that.

Mexico? Attack the US?
What in God's name are you babbling about? I said nothing about Mexico. We were talking about the intention of various nations to attack the US. And as it happens, in the late 1930's the team of Germany, Italy and Japan felt that together they were unstoppable.

Iran, today, doesn't feel that way. They obviously have no agressive intent against the US or against Israel. If Israel were attacked they know we would counter attack and do irreparable damage to them.

Their intent is manifestly defensive in nature. Exhibit A is North Korea, immune from American threats. They want to be like that.

Spare me your erroneous concussions.

Completely libelous
"old roy is declaring himself to be a world class expert on atmospheric physics, yet he wasn't even aware that water vapor was a global warming gas, much less the strongest one."

Both assertions are completely false, of course-- and you are well aware of it.

What is it you hope to gain by spreading this kind of crap? You know none of it is true. Why are you even here?

The Grand Strategy
But what would their reasoning be? What would they hope to gain?

Let's say Iran plants a large nuke in New York Harbor-- something that the techies tell us they would be incapable of for the next eight or ten years. And they kill five or ten million people. What would they think the next step would be? Would they have any hope at all of survival?

Nations, like people, normally act in what they believe to be their own best interests. This approach could not possibly be seen by anyone as being in their best interest.

Whereas possessing nukes to deter American aggression makes a tremendous amount of sense. I don't think you can scope out foreign policy on the premise that so and so is completely insane.

Reconfiguring history
What do you think we sent in the Marines to do, exactly? Were we there to spread the gospel of peace, and teach the wayward militias the way of peace?

We were there to provide backup for an Israeli army that had gotten itself in over its head. And in a very hot factional dispute, following the Sabra and Shatila affairs, the Islamic elements became pissed off at our effrontery in being there.

If you don't like being shot at, get off the other guy's property when he's angry. That would seem to be elemental good sense. We only have our own stupidity to blame for the Beirut business.

Noting the obvious
Does it matter that our leaders don't let a week go by without mentioning the necessity of attacking Iran?

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