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Brandon

Pre-emptive War: e.g. Should we nuke Tehran?

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That is exactly what a number of people are suggesting -- that the lack of World Community approval is a reason to not use nukes on Tehran. But let me just get you on the record here: are you now saying that World Opinion (positive opinion, of course) is not necessary for us to act in our own defense?

That is correct. I do not think world opinion is necessary for us to defend ourselves. What I'm saying is that we have to take into account the fact that dropping nukes would turn the whole world into our enemy. I'm aware that the whole world already hates us...but if you think it's bad now, just wait until we a nuke a country that, so far, has not attacked anyone. We have to consider the possible negative consequences of doing something that offensive to the rest of the world.

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Nuking Tehran would severely discredit the idea that God is on Iran's side (why would Allah let such a thing happen). The drawback of short-term recruitment spikes would be outweighed by the elimination of long-term support for terrorism and the Iraqi insurgency.
This is a very important observation. You cannot apply standard western psychological models in dealing with fanatical Islamism: you have to look at the religious and psychological foundations of post-Golden Age Islam. Defeat is a sign from Alla-who (ptuh). The glorious, cleansing, all-consuming fire would in and of itself put to rest any shred of doubt from the Islamicist masses as to the righteous path. Let there be no question: Allah himself has sent the angel Gabriel (ptuh on him too) to cleanse the Earth of the najlis Shite filth in Tehran.

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Which the Sunnis take as a divine message that they were right all along. Round and round we go.
No, because we will have eliminated half the problem, and then we can analogously eliminate the other 49% of the problem. I propose that we leave the Sufis alone, since they are a harmless, tiny minority sect and totally uninvolved in Islamisist violence. And, apparently, chosen by Allah to survive.

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Nuking Tehran would severely discredit the idea that God is on Iran's side.
Given that dieties have historically not protected a people from disasterous harm (e.g. Holocaust, Hiroshima, creation of Israel), what makes you say this? It's just matyrdom in a more radioactive package, and, if anything, will increase support for fundamentalism and terrorism.

To say that nuking Tehran would lead more countries to acquire nukes is preposterous.
IMO the problem with what you're saying is that not acquring nuclear capacity won't deter the US from attacking, but acquiring nuclear capacity might deter the US. And given a climate of increased belligerency on the US's part, which option (nations will acquire or not) is more preposterous?

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Incorrect because irrelevant. Everything is bound to cause additional anti-US sentiment in the Muddle East. It is purely unreasonable to be bound by the sentiment of an uncivilized mob.

This is simply an unproven assertion on your part, and an unreasonable one to boot. There are ways countries can increase hostility towards them and there are ways they can decrease it. It is not as if muslims in the Middle-East have some sort of intuition that they will always hate the US regardless of what we do. There are things we can do which might cause the level, type, and scope of their opinion of the US to become better or worse.

Now, whether any advantages gained in defusing muslim rage against the US outweigh the benefits of a particular military strategy is entirely another issue. But to say that what we do has no impact on how we are percieved in the Middle-East seems bizarre and unsupported to say the least.

I don't see any reason to think that anybody outside Iran would actually care if we sent a mushroom-shaped message.
Yeah...pancakes definately pancakes...

Anyhow, what I see emerging from this discussion is this. Nations must have the approval of The World Community to exist. Without a consensus from The World Community, civilized nations must allow themselves to be attacked in any and all ways that befall us. It is important that we never unilaterally act to defend ourselves, without first securing the permission of The World Community. Now it's true that this restriction only applies to the US, because it is a terrible world power -- Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, to give a few examples, do not have to live in a civilized rights-respecting manner. The penalty for violating this law requiring World Community pre-approval is to be scorned, and lord knows, we can't stand to be scorned -- that would destroy the fabric of our society.

As Moose said this is a strawman. I am personally of the opinion that the ONLY consideration for a nation's foreign policy (including military action) should be the self-interest of that nation. However, it is not always in the self-interest of a nation to cause anger and hatred among other nations nor is it always in the self-interest of a nation to use the harshest, most destructive means possible in a given situation.

I am not going to argue that the US would not be morally justified in using nukes in many situations, but whether or not it is morally justified is different from whether it is a wise policy idea. And that is essentially what military action is, a policy choice. You have to decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks, and in the case of an aggresive nuclear attack on Iran all I see are lots of risks and very, very few benefits. This is especially true when you consider that what benefits do accrue from a nuclear attack would accrue almost certainly from a non-nuclear attack (IE we simply assassinate the Iranian leadership.)

Edited by Vladimir Berkov

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If you make all of those assumptions, then no. The issue is whether you have god's cell phone number and can get his assurance of the promised outcome.

I am quite sure that we could guarantee the destruction of Tehran with conventional forces. If that were not to be the case, our Air Force would be significantly more under-funded then it currently is.

Edited by Strangelove

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I think another very important point is if we could persuade enough people in our government to wage an aggressive philosophical assault on Iran, that is offers volumes of pro-reason, pro-individual rights, pro-capitalism propaganda to hopefully arm any potential intellectuals who would ultimately trigger a new revolution in the Middle East. In an age where technology allows for a very small number of individuals to do a horrifying amount of damage, military force alone cannot secure our safety when it comes to combatting islamic extremism.

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How about:

1. The US doesn't have the philosophical and moral resolve to deal with the aftermath, much less to push the button.

I'm assuming here that the reasons can take things as they are, not just talk about moral justifications...

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I think another very important point is if we could persuade enough people in our government to wage an aggressive philosophical assault on Iran, that is offers volumes of pro-reason, pro-individual rights, pro-capitalism propaganda to hopefully arm any potential intellectuals who would ultimately trigger a new revolution in the Middle East. In an age where technology allows for a very small number of individuals to do a horrifying amount of damage, military force alone cannot secure our safety when it comes to combatting islamic extremism.

Hellooooo!!! We don't have time to wait for a "revolution"! We have to defend ourselves. Tehran is the Fatherland of terrorism, 19 of the 21 highjackers were Saudia Arabians. The purpose of the existence of Iran's government is the destruction of America.

The purpose of the existence of our nukes is the destruction of threats to our lives.

Iran threatens our lives.

Nuke Iran. :nuke:

Do we need another Pearl Harbor? Was 9/11 bad enough?

Brandon

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Hunterrose,

Jihadis are jubilant when their holy warriors blow themselves up and take casualties with them because it sends a message to their enemies that the holy warriors can hit them anywhere. Destroying a jihadi stronghold is not equivalent to that type of martyrdom - it sends an altogether different message. It would demoralize the fighters and motivate non-jihadis to pressure jihadis to cut out the crap.

Cold war strategies were put into place to deal with a nuclear-armed USSR. Whether or not that was a correct move is debatable. What is perfectly clear is that using cold war strategies on countries that are attempting to acquire nuclear weapons is not efficacious; it ties our hands and gives them a free pass. Political and economic pressure amounts to nothing more than cold-war strategy. The only way to stop Iran from directing terrorism and acquiring nuclear technology is to use of force. The avenue of force that presents the least amount of risk to US soldiers is to send unmanned bombs to their cities. Those bombs that have maximum destructive capability at lowest cost harness the atom.

If a country pursuing nuclear arms sees a like-minded nation destroyed by nuclear fire, their fear of American belligerence will prevent them from seeing their plans to conclusion. To me, it is preposterous to think that they will be more motivated to get nukes. Does that answer your question?

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1. The US doesn't have the philosophical and moral resolve to deal with the aftermath, much less to push the button.
There we have it. We don't need 5 reasons, just 1. Not 5 crappy versions of the same position, one reason.

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The purpose of the existence of our nukes is the destruction of threats to our lives.

It is actually meant to deter a nuclear attack from the Russia or China. US military posture has never been about using our nukes as offensive weapons.

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It is actually meant to deter a nuclear attack from the Russia or China. US military posture has never been about using our nukes as offensive weapons.
Nobody is proposing using nukes as an offensive weapon, only as a defensive weapon. Historically, the original nuclear threat was Russia, but when China developed the bomb and the possibility of delivery, it was added to the list of "reasons to have the bomb". As a historical statement about the original purpose, it's simply wrong to say that the bomb "is meant" to deter attack from Russia and China -- it was only Russia. Things change, and now we have to add Iran and North Korea to the list.

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The purpose of the existence of Iran's government is the destruction of America.

The purpose of the existence of our nukes is the destruction of threats to our lives.

Iran threatens our lives.

Your hyperbole aside, are you saying that
  1. there will be no net negative consequences of nuking Tehran
  2. that there might be net negative consequences of nuking Tehran, but since this is Hellooooo!!! an emergency! we have to concern ourselves with the short-term
  3. that there might be negative consequences, but you have determined(...) that the potential negatives don't outweigh the potential positives
  4. Negatives? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their capacity!

Destroying a ... stronghold would demoralize the fighters and motivate non-jihadis to pressure jihadis to cut out the crap.

If a country pursuing nuclear arms sees a like-minded nation destroyed by nuclear fire, their fear of American belligerence will prevent them from seeing their plans to conclusion. Does that answer your question?

I dunno. Let me try to apply this. If (as a hypothetical) America was ever atttacked, Americans would be demoralized from fighting for what they believe in and people who didn't see the need for action, instead of joining the cause, would pressure the war hawks to be nonaggressive?

And (as a hypothetical) it's preposterous to think that seeing a non-nuclear nation like, say, Japan get nuked would do anything but deter a non-nuclear nation from seeking nukes out of fear?

What is perfectly clear is that using cold war strategies on countries that are attempting to acquire nuclear weapons is not efficacious.
What you mean by cold war strategies beyond "attack as a last resort, as attacking just might be disasterous for us as well as the enemy"?

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Hellooooo!!! We don't have time to wait for a "revolution"! We have to defend ourselves. Tehran is the Fatherland of terrorism, 19 of the 21 highjackers were Saudia Arabians. The purpose of the existence of Iran's government is the destruction of America.

We are certainly not faced with the mutually exclusive choice between either military action or philosophical assault. We can do both if they are each deemed necessary and moral. In numerous situations we have no rational choice other than to crush those who dedicate themselves to our destruction. However, islamic extremism, like many other virulent philosophies, will not go away by military assault alone. What I have proposed would be a necessary supplement to whatever action is taken.

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Nobody is proposing using nukes as an offensive weapon, only as a defensive weapon.

The problem is that it is being used tactically in an offensive, rather than defensive, manner. You can argue that in the long-term strategic view, the use is defensive, but determining defensive/offensive in that view is very difficult.

For example on that basis Germany's invasion of France and Belgium in WWI was defensive, the Spanish-American War was defensive for the US, etc.

If we are talking international law, pre-emptive attacks are almost always considered aggressive, not defensive. Personally I think this draws the line incorrectly, but the idea that the line of definition must be drawn somewhere is necessary. Otherwise ANY military action can be judged defensive based only on the purported justifications of that nation.

The confusion on this forum might arise because of the fact that a nation's derivative right of self-defense governs all military actions, but that doesn't mean all the military actions they take are "defensive" militarily. They might be offensive, IE "The best defense is a good offense."

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I dunno. Let me try to apply this. If (as a hypothetical) America was ever atttacked, Americans would be demoralized from fighting for what they believe in and people who didn't see the need for action, instead of joining the cause, would pressure the war hawks to be nonaggressive?

America is a different case. One American nuclear sub could probably take out any coalition of nations that threatened the US, even if all of the continental US was destroyed. But I'll try to work within the analogy.

Americans would be pissed. But if Chicago, Washington, New York and Los Angeles went up in smoke, how capable of fighting would America be in the long term? The deterence comes in when you consider how Mexico and Canada would react, "We saw what happened to the US, and we don't want to go down that road."

And (as a hypothetical) it's preposterous to think that seeing a non-nuclear nation like, say, Japan get nuked would do anything but deter a non-nuclear nation from seeking nukes out of fear?

Japan is a different animal, it is a United States protectorate. If Japan got nuked by North Korea, I'm sure South Korea would want to get their hands on the bomb right away. But without US backing, they would probably fold in the face DPRK pressure. Iran has nobody who will back them up in the face of a US assault.

If people actually believe that they will meet ruin if they threaten the US, then they will stop threatening the US. America has been sending a different message since the end of the war in the Pacific. Begining with the Korean war, the US has failed to crush the enemies that defy it. The pattern continues to this day.

What you mean by cold war strategies beyond "attack as a last resort, as attacking just might be disasterous for us as well as the enemy"?

Right... But, in the case when a country does not have a nuclear threat, attacking them certainly would not be desasterous. Disaster starts being a possibility when they get a deployable nuclear capability. Sanctions and incentives allow them to attain that capability. So, in Iran's case, it should never get to the point where war is a last resort. We should hit them before the situation becomes that dire.

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The problem is that it is being used tactically in an offensive, rather than defensive, manner. You can argue that in the long-term strategic view, the use is defensive, but determining defensive/offensive in that view is very difficult.
Defensive actions do not have to wait for a first strike. BTW we're not talking about international law, which is really just another statement of World Community opinion. If we had a world government subject to a global constitutution and a real international police force to enforce laws, there might be some point in talking about international law, but there isn't so let's not.

The fundamental question that has to be answered first is whether Iran, or any other country, is a threat to the US. By threat I mean "threat of force" -- not an economic threat. Threats should not be tolerated. If a country threatens us, that threat must be answered. Ideally a verbal answer would suffice, but strong words butter no parsnips -- there needs to be a clear understanding that failure to heed the strong words will lead to absolute devastation. Conventional bombs can do a lot of damage, but something on the order of the 1961 58 megaton Russian device would be unmistakable. But this should only be done as part of a policy, not because in this case we feel the scales of justice need to be balanced.

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If people actually believe that they will meet ruin if they threaten the US, then they will stop threatening the US. America has been sending a different message since the end of the war in the Pacific.
Yes, if the US had a true and widely recognized willingness to ruin its enemies, it is unlikely that it would ever face the need to actually do so.

As things stand, it is more likely that the next nuke attack will come against the US rather than from the US. Hopefully, it will not be too powerful a weapon.

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Defensive actions do not have to wait for a first strike. BTW we're not talking about international law, which is really just another statement of World Community opinion. If we had a world government subject to a global constitutution and a real international police force to enforce laws, there might be some point in talking about international law, but there isn't so let's not.

I agree as to the utility of international law on the use of force, as I said when I brought it up. My point was just that if there is a meaningful defensive/offensive distinction there must be some sort of definition or policy rationale to make said distinction. You can't simply rely on putative justifications, because any nation can say it is acting defensively, but that doesn't seem to mean it necessarily is acting so.

The fundamental question that has to be answered first is whether Iran, or any other country, is a threat to the US. By threat I mean "threat of force" -- not an economic threat.

This is the problem however, because there seems no clear-cut way to draw the line anywhere. For instance, both you and I reject the international law definition of "defensive" as largely restricting to responding to actual (IE enemy troops crossing the border) uses of force. But you can't say that any military response to a percieved threat is defensive either, otherwise almost all military actions will be justified as "defensive."

For instance, the US gathers intel that there are three terrorists plotting against the US in an apartment in Berlin. There clearly is a threat, although not a very large one. Is a US nuclear strike on Berlin a defensive military action?

Or in another example, it would be reasonable for the US to say (as a corollary to the Bush doctrine) that all non-democratic countries are threats to the US. Would the use of force against all non-democratic nations be defensive?

Or what about a "threat of a threat?" IE, we know there is no imminent threat, but there is a threat of a threat developing in the future.

If threats are the only standard it also seems that any military action in furtherance of US security (threat removal) is defensive regardless of who is the target or if the threat is unintentional. For example, a country which is not a threat to us and which has necessary US strategic airbases on its soil decides it no longer wants the bases there. Is US military action deposing this government and installing a pro-US one which will allow the bases a defensive action?

Edited by Vladimir Berkov

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But you can't say that any military response to a percieved threat is defensive either, otherwise almost all military actions will be justified as "defensive."

For instance, the US gathers intel that there are three terrorists plotting against the US in an apartment in Berlin. There clearly is a threat, although not a very large one. Is a US nuclear strike on Berlin a defensive military action?

This is a brave new world that we're living in, given terrorism as the new international threat to rights. It clearly poses a real conceptual problem for looking at national defense in the way we were used to during the first two world wars. But this is not an insurmountable conceptual problem.

Apart from nutcases like Baby Kim who might just be crazy enough to try nation-on-nation military action against the US or South Korea, or possibly Red China against Taiwan (but I'm doubtful that could ever happen), the threat of the modern world is rogue nations which tolerate and facilitate attacks against us. So it's not just the existence of 3 rogue Germans plotting to blow us up, it's the fact that the governments of Iran, Talibanistan, Libya (apparently reformed) and Syria have been entirely unlike the Germans. The Germans are actively combatting terrorism, investigating terrorist cells and arresting people when they can. That is not what is happening everywhere, so you are getting only perfunctory efforts to stop terrorist activities within their national borders.

The principle is very simple then. If your government has a policy of facilitating terrorism, they are responsible -- whether or not it is an officially declared policy. If you are fallible and do not manage to stop terrorism 100% of the time, you are not a terrorist-enabler. Obliterate the terrorist-enablers, just as you would obliterate the nation that dresses its citizens up in uniforms and marches them over your borders.

Of course there is always the old excuse "but where can you draw the line between an honest but imperfect effort to combat terrorism, and a terrorist-sympathizing state", which leads to the slippery-slope conclusion that we should not fight terrorism. Look at the evidence.

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