Bush said, "no."
Looking for Certainty? Read a Spy NovelAnyone who thinks the matter of Iran's nuclear program, and nuclear weapons is simple, isn't paying attention.1
Judging from data found in Iranian computer networks, Iranian technicians were told to stop developing a nuclear warhead in 2003. That's a (relatively) easy part of building a nuclear missile. Getting enough enriched uranium is the hard part - and Iran went on busily churning out that stuff.
Maybe all that enriched uranium really has been stockpiled for peaceful purposes. And, maybe Iran's "death to Israel! Death to the great Satan America!" line is just harmless propaganda.
Maybe, but I doubt it.
Of course, I'm not one of those sophisticated people who believe that "the US is the world's number one terrorist" - or that Israel is a racist oppressor.
Can America's leaders be absolutely sure that Iran has a nuclear weapons program?
Without getting into a philosophical discussion about the nature of knowledge, I doubt that there'll be obvious proof of an Iranian nuclear program until and unless a missile is tracked from Iran to the airspace of a Middle Eastern, Indian, or European city - and part of the city disappears in an atomic fireball.
Or, until somebody else is running Iran.
Oh, for the Simplicity of Good Guys and Bad Guys!Even if the Iranian situation were simple, it's just one part of the crazy quilt of competing interests that America and other countries have to deal with. As I wrote last September:
Good guys? Bad guys? It isn't that simple. We've got a situation where
And that's just scratching the surface.
- National leaders in the Middle East are dealing with people living within their territory who don't like the idea of nations - and have the firepower to be more than annoying
- Terrorists (or activists, or whatever you want to call them) are as hard to keep track of as mercury that's been hit with a hammer - They
- Aren't tied to one territory, as nations are
- May have the support of people who think that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and similar groups
- Are defending Islam
- Deserve support, based on tribal loyalties
- May dissolve and re-form under new names
- Conflicting accounts are broadcast around the world before bureaucracies get facts through 'regular channels' and decide what to say
- News organizations, from The New York Times and Prensa Latina to CNN, are dealing with a world that doesn't fit their Cold War templates
Oh the other hand, although there probably aren't (purely) good guys and (purely) bad guys, I think there are (fairly) good sides and (decidedly) bad sides.
Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Iranian regime, and other like-minded organizations, do seem to have a clear idea of what they want: a world that's run much more tidily, and according to their rules.
The burqa-yes, trouser-no dress code alone would hard for westerners to live with. Never mind what would happen to the status of women, and anyone who didn't see eye-to-eye with the local imam.
Americans, and quite a few other people, have gotten used to living with a degree of personal freedom that doesn't seem to be part of Al Qaeda's dream.
What About Iran and Nuclear Weapons?It sounds like the Bush administration, after Israel's request for bunker-busters, pushed covert efforts against Iran's nuclear program up a notch. Later this month, the Obama administration will have to decide to continue these unobtrusive efforts to prevent a nuclear attack.
There are other ways to approach countries like Iran: much more 'diplomatic' ways that seem to be popular in America's self-styled better circles. Last year, after a frustrated day of reading the news, I put together a flow chart, outlining how well such diplomacy would probably work.
Kraggoth, by the way, doesn't really exist. This example is strictly hypothetical.
- "Hamas, Palestine, Israel, and How to Seem Sophisticated"
(January 3, 2009)
- "The Marines Blew Up the Islamabad Marriott!"
(September 23, 2008)
- "Iranian Nukes, Israeli Attack, Diplomacy, and Common Sense
(June 21, 2008)
- "Unintended Consequences?
The West May be Getting Over Hiroshima"
(January 25, 2008)
- "Nuclear War in the Middle East: Messy, Lethal, and Brief"
(December 24, 2007)
- "... And It's the Fault of the Americans! - Iran's Tried-and-True Response to Nuclear Weapons Findings"
(December 10, 2007)
- "Preemptive Strike: Am I a Hawk, or a Dove?"
(September 21, 2007)
- "U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site"
The New York Times (January 10, 2009)
Excerpt from "U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site""...What Mr. Bush authorized, and informed a narrow group of Congressional leaders about, was a far broader effort, aimed at the entire industrial infrastructure that supports the Iranian nuclear program. Some of the efforts focused on ways to destabilize the centrifuges. The details are closely held, for obvious reasons, by American officials. One official, however, said, 'It was not until the last year that they got really imaginative about what one could do to screw up the system.'..."
1 I've said something like this before: "If you're not a bit confused...you're not paying attention." ((September 23, 2008), (August 13, 2008))