Sunday, September 18, 2005 Straw attacks Iran's Nuclear Stance

This never ceases to amaze me. To argue that Iran has a legitimate right to produce nuclear energy is accurate in so far as it is for peaceful civilian purposes. And even then, one could go as far as to argue that no other nation should have the right to produce nuclear energy unless there are very stringent checks that the nation is willing to submit to under the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

On the first issue, I think it should be relatively obvious why a nation has no direct legitimate right to persue nuclear power for military purposes. For one, most nations have signed the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty, a binding document that signatory nations have ratified to demonstrate their intent not to persue nukes. This is not to say that such nations could not do so by simply giving 6 months notice to the IAEA before actually developing those weapons but it is a signal of internation consensus that nukes are very bad things and we shouldn't allow anymore of them on this planet. Secondly, it would be massively counter-productive. While the World has grudingly and tacitly accepted that the nuclear status quo will be here to stay, any new nuclear powers would arguably be very destabilising, not just to the region but conceivably and probably to global peace.

The example of India and Parkistan is an enlightening example that could really be used to argue both sides of the coin. One side argues that possession of nuclear weapons is good because it could create a 'peace' brokered upon a nuclear arms race with an understanding of MAD (Mutally Assured Destruction). Thus whether in the Middle East or over Kashmire, the concept of war would be unthinkable because the outcome should the other side go nuclear would be unthinkable.

But is that necessarily the case? Two options present themselves here, either the prospect of going nuclear is so unthinkable, all that would happen is a long protracted conventional war. After all, one of the problems facing Europe during the Cold War was when they would use nuclear weapons, especially in the face of Soviet salami tactics i.e. by slicing off little bits of land, the trigger for a nuclear attack would never happen, and slowly town by town, city by city, Europe would fall unless it started a conventional war it could not win. So as a trump card then, nuclear weapons were not the pancea of peace that some International Relations Realist proclaimed it was.

The awful alternative is that knowing that the above could happen, the other side becomes more gittery and willing to go nuclear at the drop of the pin. This is not a remote possibility because of the sheer lack of nuclear C&C (Command and Control) India and Parkistan have. There isn't dual control structures, failsafe bypass, direct connection to the other side (to make sure this was not simply a mistake) or even a proper nuclear strategy plan. These were the things that made a nuclear apocolypse less likely when they were instituted between the two big nuclear states during the Cold War.

On the second issue, the right of a nation's sovereignity is servely curtailed not simply by international norms and consensus but also by pure common sense. As it is, people don't trust Iran, being obstinate and mule-headed about it is not the way to go about making friends (or at least allies) and getting what you desire. A country does not have full freedom of action even within their own nations. Yes, you have the right to position your troops anyway in your territory but it can and will be seen as threatening and an illegitimate use of force ala gunboat diplomacy during the colonial era and China's use of military exercises anytime Taiwan tests new military hardware or holds a free elections that looks like the pro-independence movement will win.

One can only hope that this is simply a game of brinksmanship and cooler heads will prevail.




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