Tuesday, January 18, 2005

January 17, 2005

Okay, so this is where I get sideways with my pacifist friends. I’ll lose some readers over this column. But, just as I hate the simplistic thinking on the right, I hate the same on the left. So, here we go.

This past weekend Seymour Hersh broke the news that, since at least last summer, the US has been sending spies into Iran to locate and verify that country’s secret nuclear facilities -- not the ones Iran admits to and allows UN inspectors to check, but the facilities where they are alleged to be working on nuclear bomb technology.

The idea, according to Hersh’s sources, is make sure we get it right this time -- that there really are prohibited facilities and activities in Iran. The first step in assuring that is to collect the proof ourselves this time rather than relying on Iranian opposition groups – since, you might just recall, that kind of lazy-ass intelligence gathering didn’t work so well in Iraq.

If we are able to confirm (really confirm this time) that Iran is working on a nuke at these facilities, and if Iran’s diplomatic initiatives turn out to be a ploy to stall until they have a bomb, then the US can – and should -- preempt an almost certain Israeli strike with air strikes of our own. (Because an Israeli strike on an Arab nation would set an whole different bunch of Arab world dynamics into motion, none of which would be helpful to anyone.)

So, if such US spying in really going on, as Hersh claims, I see it as good news. I only hope those doing the spying are very good at their jobs and the Bush administration will listen to them this time if they return without the kind of proof the administration wants.

But if they are good spies, and if they come back with proof certain that Iran is about to join the nuclear club, bombing the snot out of those installations would be the lesser of evils. The greater evil would be to allow Iran to have The Bomb.

But notice, I said bomb, not invade. Some months ago I posted my national defense policy dubbed the “Don’t Do That” policy. Under that policy we clearly state our absolute bottom line position on key national security issues. We tell those involved “here’s what we are willing to live with. But cross this line and we will respond militarily.”

“That line,” in this case, should be this: “We will NOT allow ANY new members to join the nuclear club. Period. And, any nation or group we discover is about to do so will be stopped, with force if necessary.”

There are some things the modern world can adapt to and live with. Conventional terrorism, for example, is a deadly nuisance, but nations can and do learn to live with it. But, a world bristling with nuclear and biological weapons is not something we can live with. Once nation or terrorist groups possess such weapons they have the ability to kill millions of people in a single attack. At that point the whole equation changes – in their favor.

Yes, I know we’ve heard that argument before. And that’s what worries me most. Americans – and most of the rest of the world -- have been so turned off by the lies the Bush administration told to justify his attack on Iraq that no one will believe our spies if they do come up with the goods about someone’s WMD plans. The Bushies cried wolf and then insulted anyone who dared to suggest that particular wolf was a mirage.

As it turned out there were wolves, just not in Iraq. The Bushies had three choices among their “Axis of Evil” nations and managed to pick the only one of the three that didn’t have active WMD programs. The other two, North Korea and Iran, did, and do, have them.

Now if either is allowed to proceed with their WMD ambitions the game is over. We all might as well forget about putting money into those new private retirement accounts Bush wants to give us and use that money instead for a backyard nuclear/bio shelter. It will be back to the 1950s for Americans, back to MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction,) Only this time the MAD equation won’t as a deterrent as it did against the sane Soviets. Radical Islamists don’t give a fig if they die. (In fact for some who have no chance of getting laid in this life, dying a “martyr” is preferred.)

The answer is to stop things before they get to that point. And the best way to do that is to let those who have to satisfy the daily needs of such countries that having nukes is jut not worth the bother. While extremists in Iran may not care if they die, those who have to run that country care a lot, for example, whether or not their infrastructures gets reduced to rubble by US cruise missiles. Infrastructure is expensive to replace having to continuously replace the same bridges, highways and other key infrastructure is not something they are anxious to do.

A strict militarily enforced embargo is also a pain in the neck.

A key portion of my “Don’t Do That” doctrine is that the only time we send US troops abroad is on surgical missions. Send in Special Forces teams with a specific target, do it, and come home.. one week, in and out. If you can’t do it right and fast with a small force, then find go back to plan A… bombs the snot out of the target. No more US troops stationed in conflict zones. Period.

One argument you will hear from the left against such a policy is that the US is being hypocritical. We have nukes, our European brothers have nukes and the Israelis have nukes. So does India and Pakistan, now a US ally. What right do we have to tell Iran, or anyone else that they can’t have them too?

Man, is that one dumb-ass argument. In fact, it’s not an argument at all; it’s a suicide pact. We need fewer nations with nukes, not more. In fact the nuclear club needs to shrink. First we need to get them away from both Pakistan and India. And, we need to send in a team to nab H.Q. Kahn, the Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear bomb designs to Iran, Libya and North Korea. A message has to be sent that people who trade in this deadly technology if they do that they will never live to spend the money.

And, if things ever settle down in the Holy Land, we need to convince the Israelis to destroy its nukes and come in under the US nuclear umbrella.

Sooner or later, someone is going to have to call North Korea’s bluff. Either they give up their nukes and get with the program right now or no more talking. Preparations begin to remove those weapons “through other means.” I suspect if we made such a statement, made it credible, that bombing N. Korean sites would not be necessary. The last thing China wants is the US bombing the stuffing out of N. Korea. It would extend US power into Asia and would burden China with a flood of N. Korean refugees. Since N.Korea can only survive with uninterrupted Chinese aid, China can, and would, pull Kim’s plug before the US could act. But, if China does not do so, or cannot do so, then we should be act unilaterally.

So, instead of wasting $200 billion a year trying to drag unwilling horses to the democracy well, we should invest a faction of that in smart bombs, smart missiles and surgical strike teams and use them to degrade rogue nation’s capabilities and infrastructure until they comply.

I know many readers will disagree with this. Some will be revolted by the very idea that the US has the right to bomb the snot out weapons facilities in countries that have not attacked us – yet.

But it will take just one nuclear weapon to go off in or near an American city to change that view. Of course, then it will be too late, at least for the people in that city. But once people are reminded just how much death and destruction one small nuke can cause, they will understand that, while bombing other countries may seem mad, allowing new member to the nuclear club is the real madness.

Of course the key here is good intelligence. The US must.. must… MUST have the real goods the next time we go on a WMD hunt. It has to be the kind of evidence able to withstand independent scrutiny. I understand that even real evidence will not convince some. All you have to do it remember two initials to know this is so: “OJ”.” But, while a small number of certifiable imbeciles continue to believe OJ is innocent, the mainstream knows otherwise. And so too will be the case if the US gets the goods this time before it acts. Assuming we do it right the next time, such a preemptive strategy would not only cost us a hell of a lot less in treasure and lives, but less diplomatic damage as well.

And, a steadfast policy like this would put nations that may harbor nuclear and biological weapons ambitions on notice that all they will get for their investment in WMD is some busted up infrastructure. And the same goes for nations who harbor terrorist groups who espouse WMD attacks. No more allowing such host nations the luxury of pretending they don’t know terrorists are using their sovereign territory as a logistical base. After losing a few bridges or pipelines such nations would have to choose between them or their troublesome guests.

My fear is that Bush’s Iraq misadventure has convinced everyone that efforts to stop proliferation of WMD must only be diplomatic -- that any credible military component to such diplomatic efforts are now so discredited they are now useless. Thanks to Bush’s Iraq misadventure, I fear the pendulum has swung too far to the left when it comes to using military force. Not all use of force is wrong. It’s when and how we use it that matters.

Refusing to include a military component to WMD negotiations is simply an invitation to nations like Iran and North Korea to use diplomacy to run out the clock – to jerk everyone around by engaging and disengaging and reengaging in negotiations until they can build up their own nuclear/biological arsenals. Then disengaging for good.

After that we can turn our attention to talking to our kids about what to do when they see a bright flash or smell something funny in the air. It will be back to the future. It’ll be “duck and cover time” again kids. And, if you thought that tsunami made a mess, just wait til you see what a 65-pound-suitcase nuke can do.

(You can read my full “Don’t Do That” national defense strategy HERE.)

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