Why Iran is deterrable

In his latest screed for the NRO, its editor, Rich Lowry, falsely claims that Iran is not deterrable and disputes General Martin Dempsey’s claim to the contrary:

“General Dempsey said too little and too much about the Iranian regime. Tehran couldn’t have made itself into the world’s foremost exporter of terror and extended its tentacles throughout the Middle East without resorting to rational calculation. That’s obvious. What Dempsey is implying, though, is that a regime capable of such calculation can necessarily be deterred if it gets a nuclear weapon. That’s an unsupportable leap.

More fundamentally from our perspective, there is no point in establishing a theocracy, killing innocents abroad, pursuing sectarian war, crushing protesters, denying the Holocaust, and threatening Israel with annihilation, either. From the point of view of the Western liberal tradition, the Islamic Republic itself makes no sense. Yet there it is, withstanding punishing economic sanctions to pursue the weapon that the regime wouldn’t want in the first place if it accepted international norms.

If the Soviets, the famous “evil empire” bristling with thousands of nuclear weapons, could be deterred, why not Iran? The Soviet leadership became more pragmatic over time. After Nikita Khrushchev renounced Josef Stalin, it didn’t believe that war with its enemies was imminent and inevitable. Iran’s religio-ideological fire, in contrast, is still burning hot.

A highly ideological leadership with a sense of desperate urgency is the enemy of deterrence. (…)

Even in the Cold War, deterrence almost failed. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the airstrike and invasion pushed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff might well have unwittingly prompted a nuclear exchange. The defense secretary at the time, the late Bob McNamara, maintained that “we lucked out.” Ah, yes, that crucial backstop to deterrence — luck.”

It is amazing (but also repugnant) that Lowry, with not even a single day of military service under his belt, dares to lecture a 37-year seasoned combat veteran, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer who, before becoming JCS Chairman, was Chief fof Staff of the Army, and before that, he was CENTCOM’s acting commander for quite some time. Dempsey joined the US Army while Lowry was still in his father’s bag.

Lowry’s entire screed is laughable and ridiculous. It’s nust another example of neocons trying to stampede America into a totally unnecessary war, after they started the Iraqi fiasco from which America was extricated just 2 months ago.

Iran is deterrable. It has never done anything to prove the claim it is not deterrable. Even if it was responsible for the attempt to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador, which I don’t think it was, it wouldn’t have done so if it didn’t think it could get away with it unpunished. And that is because Obama is a feckless President whom Iranian leaders know they can push around. If they had to deal with a strong President like Reagan or Bush, they wouldn’t have dared to even THINK about staging such a plot.

The claim that deterrence won’t work is completely false and unfounded. Nuclear deterrence ALWAYS works. Furthermore, Lowry’s claim that deterrence “almost failed” during the Cuban Missile Crisis and that the JCS almost started a war with Cuban and the Soviet Union is also completely false. Nuclear deterrence actually PREVENTED that crisis from turning into something worse and PREVENTED the Cold War from turning into a hot war. It forced Kennedy and Khrushshev to agree to a compromise solution, as neither of them wanted to start war and risk mutual nuclear annihilation, and this was despite Khrushshev being a hardline Communist ant Stalin’s henchman Ukraine in the 1930s. The fear of death (and of being recorded in history as the guy who started a nuclear war) was enough to deter both Kennedy and Khrushchev.

It is also not true that Joseph Stalin wanted to start a war with the West. If he wanted to, he would’ve done so. Instead, he tried blockading West Berlin and backed down. The Korean War was started singlehandedly by Kim Il Sung, with the Kremlin’s and Beijing’s reluctantly-granted approval and even that only after Kim fed Moscow and Beijing with patently false information purporting to show that the ROK and the US were about to invade the DPRK and China. Kim, the master manipulator, managed to fool both Kang Sheng and Sergei Kruglov. If Joseph Stalin was really irrational and really wanted war with the West, he could’ve started it anytime (the Red Army always had a huge advantage in conventional weapons over the West and from 1949 it had nuclear weapons). But he didn’t. Because he, too, didn’t want to commit suicide.


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