Your nuclear weapons program turns out to be unnecessary!
That's right - I attended a seminar yesterday at the ultra-liberal James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The new deputy director of the institute, Dr Patricia Lewis, is on record that "nuclear weapons are militarily useless."
There you have it. Now you can dismantle all the centrifuges, heavy water plants and atomic vapor laser isotope separation equipment at Natanz, Arak and Lashkar Abad.
Wait - I forgot. All those facilities are for peaceful purposes. Disregard.
Okay, I am being facetious here. That said, Dr Lewis's remarks merit some comment. Of course, you'd expect some hair-splitting statement from someone whose background is solely with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the Verification Research and Training Centre in London. Look at their success record, in say, North Korea, Pakistan, India or more currently, Iran.
According to Dr Lewis, the United Nations would like to persuade Iran to refrain from stepping over the nuclear weapons threshold, and encourage countries to rely on their own conventional military forces for security.
Here's the real answer. Nuclear weapons in the hands of responsible nations provide deterrence. Call it what you will, but the former Soviet Union was deterred by America's nuclear arsenal, and was able to deter attacks on itseff. It is this Cold War model that drove India and Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons, and it seems to have worked. During the last decade and a half when tensions flared in South Asia, the nuclear option caused saner heads to prevail. Without that balance, we would have seen at least two major confrontations between India's and Pakistan's considerable conventional forces.
Unfortunately, it is this same model that now drives irresponsible governments in the Middle East to acquire such weaponry - and I speak here specifically of Iran and Syria. They believe that a nuclear weapons capability will deter Israeli attacks and gives them more leverage in Middle East diplomacy.
Why do I call the goverments of Syria and Iran irresponsible? They are both state sponsors of terrorism - who can say if in a major miscalculation that either one or the other would provide a nuclear weapon to Hizballah, Hamas or Islamic Jihad. At that point, the weapons become instantly useful.
In fairness to Dr Lewis, I suspect that she is trying to draw a distinction between nuclear weapons as a military tool and a political tool. It makes no difference - they are one and the same. Having the weapons gives your diplomacy credibility. Without the weapons, other countries are apt not to pay too much attention.
November 7, 2008