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       Monday, September 18, 2006

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“Han Shot First,” and the Iranian Nuclear Program: an Essay on Geopolitical Ethics

Ever since September 11th, 2001, my friends and I (usually at my behest) will enter into a discussion about the news of the day, centering on mostly the latest happenings in the Middle East. More to the point, while most people were centered on Iraq, for obvious reasons, I’ve been more apt to follow events in Iran. Iran has intrigued me not only because of its sordid history with the US and allegedly modern Islamic terrorism, but also its culture as portrayed in books such as “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” and “Lipstick Jihad.” I spent most of last year reporting on the development of its nuclear program as well as its attempt to solidify economic and strategic partnerships with Russia, China, India, Venezuela, Cuba and of course Syria.

In that time I’ve written about the possibility of war against that country ostensibly to prevent them from arming themselves with an atomic bomb. Other reasons have come as well from wanting to prevent the opening of Iran’s Euro-based oil bourse (a threat to the US economy) to using an attack against Iran to bolster the Republicans chance of keeping control of Congress in 2006.

To recap, I’ve stated that I too believe that Tehran should not have an atomic bomb. Hell, I don’t even think it should have ballistic missiles, regardless of whether or not they can arm them with nuclear bombs. I have stated that because of former Searle CEO and current Defense Secretary Donald “McNamara” Rumsfeld’s illogical approach to total war in Iraq, that I did not trust this administration executing another “hearts and minds-type” war against any country, let alone Iran. Instead I thought that instigating revolution and arming Persian rebels on the ground was a better plan.

I have also been of the belief that while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be a nutcase (i.e. Holocaust denials and such) he had to be more pragmatic than he was presenting himself to be. I proposed that he as well as the mullahs he serves were actually more interested in keeping power in Iran than they were in actually having a nuclear war with the West starting with Israel.

But what If I’m wrong?

There’s a rumor floating around out there that these negotiations the EU/UN and Iran keep engaging is actually a rather elaborate stall tactic while Tehran executes its real plan. This alleged plan is as follows: Tehran is currently in the process of enriching uranium to maximum potency, then shipping this enriched uranium to Hezbollah in Lebanon by way of Syria. Once the Hezbollah terrorists have their much sought after booty, they will strap it to RPG’s and other projectile weapons and fire their new jury rigged nuclear devices from Lebanon into Israel.

Again, rumor has it that the US has solid intelligence of the above and is currently preparing for a pre-emptive attack against Iran to prevent this attack on Israel. The US response will be deadly, destructive, unpopular all over the world (accept in Israel), and a complete shock to the Iranians. The word around Washington is that we will be hitting Iran with weapons yet unknown in the modern world.

You can choose to believe this cryptic story or you can reject it as yet another glaring example of Internet hooey. We’ll know soon enough if this rumor has any credibility or not. That’s not what I want to deal with right now. Instead, I want you to assume that all of the above is true for the time being because if it is, there are ethical and strategic questions to consider and debate.

The first and most obvious question is whether or not this administration (whose record on the subject of intelligence and military response is spotty at best) should act pre-emptively on Intel it obtains when the cost to allied civilians (Israeli’s) is this high. In other words, when we have it on good authority that Iran will be directing their mercenary army (Hezbollah) to attack Israel with crude nuclear weapons is it our duty to attack Iran and Hezbollah first?

That’s not nearly as easy a question to answer as it sounds. Certainly without conducting any sort of poll one can conclude that on that question alone there would be a three way split. One camp would forgo the past blunders and think only of the safety of the Western world and say yes, hit Iran before they Israel. The second camp would cite missing WMD’s in Iraq as proof that America has squandered its moral authority in the world and therefore should not be taking any action first. These are the people of the wait-and-see world where it would take several hundred if not thousand dead Israeli’s to motivate them to engage the enemy. The last camp would be asking why is it our responsibility to protect Israel when they are perfectly capable of defending themselves. They do have nuclear-armed ICBM’s after all and the wherewithal to use them if the occasion presents itself. These are the people touting the belief that the US should not play the role of the world’s police officer.

Now there will also be people from the far Left (or even in some cases far Right) that will suggest in the event of a dirty nuclear attack on Tel Aviv that we should negotiate with the leaders of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Those people are lunatics and are not representative of any rational thinking. I only bring them to show just how muddled and convoluted this picture of what to do in the face of a possible imminent attack becomes when it is your hand on the big red button and you have to make life and death decisions.

The preceding camps however all have valid and logical reasons for why they would believe the way that they do. The first, the hawks we’ll call them, would argue that in a war (and this is a war against Arab and Muslim Nazis) you cannot win if you are always on the defensive. You must attack first and you must attack aggressively with every weapon in your arsenal (some would suggest even with your own nuclear weapons).

The second group is more attune with the realities of geopolitics in the modern media age. If you are President Bush and it is your call to make, you must know that a pre-emptive strike against Iran would not only start a war across the Middle East and Central Asia but also a war with the American media. The same people asking this administration where the WMD’s are would be looking for proof that the enriched uranium Tehran now possesses was really meant to be used to destroy Israel and would not get behind any confrontation without that solid proof. Stepping out of my core beliefs for a second and considering the point of view of roughly 1 third of the world that pays attention to this sort of thing, I can hardly blame them for being gun shy and distrustful of the Bush Administration. There’s a certain ringing truth to the notion of “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” etc. One cannot but sympathize with an entire group of people who feel that this administration is less than capable and honest in the world of geopolitics.

And the last group of people enumerated above who feel that we should not be relegated nor are capable of being the world police officer have a point as well. It’s not one I necessarily agree with because it flies in the face of Pastor Martin Niemöller philosophy of:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.


It’s an arguable point at best that Iran would be satisfied with only obliterating Israel and therefore it is there responsibility to protect themselves. That is a whole other debate in and of itself.

The question of whether or not we should attack the enemy first or at all is not only encased in strategic concerns but ethical ones as well. As the title of this essay eludes to, there lies a philosophical context embedded into the notion of whether or not it is in a heroes character to shoot the bad guy before the bad guy takes a shot at you first.

Even before you can begin to deliberate on the question of whether pre-emption can be a trait in a hero’s psyche, there is the question of whether or not a stated hero is the hero in the first place. We have all heard the expression since 9/11 that ones mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Certainly I would, as well as many people whom I associate with, would liken the United States and the Western world at large as the heroes in this conflict with radical Islam. However, not everyone would agree with that assessment. Some folks from the US and across the globe would suggest that there are pocks on the American conscious namely the war against Soviet communist expansion to the exclusion of all else, recommendations and implementations of water privatization by the US of Latin American water resources, unfair trade policies, espionage resulting in the overthrow of democratically elected governments whom happen to be hostile to the US, gross neglect of the environment, and any number of other shameful acts our government has committed in the name of securing our economy. And I don’t think I need to explain why many throughout the world see Israel as a bad guy in the struggle against radical Islam.

While I do not think it necessarily fair to cast all of Western civilization as wholly unethical against those who purport to kill or convert the West to Islam, others are perfectly comfortable with this way of defining the sides.

Having said that, the rational universe does in fact hold the Western world and especially the US to a higher moral standard. We are expected to be the standard bearers of ethical behavior in the world and as such we cannot sink to the level of other less civilized nation states. We are supposed to be above torture, imperialism, gross negligence, and a whole host of other negative behaviors. It is expected that the Sudanese kill their own people. We are not supposed to be above that sort of thing. It is expected for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to try and conquer Kuwait. We are not. And it expected for Iran to initiate a war against the West while we are supposed to, as the good guys, wait to be shot at or even hit first before we can respond. And even when we do respond, we are expected to be humane and equilateral in our response. We are not expected to annihilate the Iranians, even though our extinction is the stated goal of many radical Arabs and Muslims.

In other words, the followers of the George Lucas philosophy that the hero does not kill their enemy in cold blood but only uses deadly force in defense of itself is part and parcel of the consideration in whether or not to act on the Intel that Iran via Hezbollah plans to initiate a dirty nuclear strike against Israel.

Now what would you do if you were George Bush? I could probably write another 2,000 words expounding on the many facets of that question. Instead I will leave you dear reader to your ponderings. Whom should we value more, innocent Persian and Arabs at the mercy of ruthless dictators and radical terrorists, or our brothers and sisters throughout Western civilization? Is waiting for Iran via Hezbollah to murder thousands of Israeli citizens worth having near iron clad integrity and reason to use all means to then attack Iran? If it were your hands holding precious Intel and your finger on the big red button, what you do? Does or does not the hero shoot first when the stakes are this high?

Ultimately none of us will have to make a decision on this subject. But, where will you stand when the hard decisions are made for you?



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posted by Markkind at 12:19 AM  

1 Comments:

Whymrhymer said...

Great post! You lay out the choices and the logic very well.

2:11 AM  

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