The Importance of a Strong Deterrence

The Lesson from Weakness When Faced by a Violent Enemy

by Kim Petersen / December 6th, 2010

It is important for humanity to learn the lessons of history. It is more important, however, to understand the history and critically and judiciously apply the lessons to the contemporary context. To merely quip that something is a lesson to be learned from history is tenuous rhetoric.

A recent Haaretz article began with the quip, “History teaches that a state striving to acquire nuclear weapons will ultimately do so – and North Korea is far from being the only example.”1 Whether acquiring nuclear weapons was the proper course of action or not was unexamined. Tellingly, an example the piece did not mention of “a state striving to acquire nuclear weapons” was Israel.

It seems as if the unmentioned nuclear striving of the Jewish state was appropriate, whereas nuclear striving by Muslim states is inappropriate. What else could one deduce from the article which so much as acknowledged that the state of Israel was blunting the alleged nuclear striving of Iran by assassinating its nuclear scientists?

Haaretz makes clear that “… the attacks on the Iranian scientists [were motivated, presumably although left unstated, by Israeli] national interests…”

Haaretz relates that the sabotage and killings “were intended to convey a deterrent message to Iran’s scientific community and scare Iranian scientists into stopping work on their country’s nuclear program.”

It seems Haaretz has deterrence backwards. Iran need look no further than what happened to its neighbor Iraq to see what message was delivered by its lack of deterrence to Zionist-American violence.

That North Korea now has nuclear weapons gives it deterrence against attack by the United States, a country which refuses a peace treaty with North Korea. To attack North Korea now would be suicidal-homicidal folly.

This is revealed by a simple mental scenario: Imagine what Saddam Hussein, or most any leader would have done, knowing that his country was about to be invaded by foreign infidels who would slaughter over a million citizens, force many millions more into exile, impose a Vichy government, etc., and knowing that he, the president, would be condemned by a kangaroo court and killed. Is this not the lesson from what befell a disarmed Iraq?

Americans fatalities in Iraq were relatively low because of military technology that allows cowardly fighting from afar. However, just one nuclear bomb could cause massive fatalities to an enemy, as the nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki attest. Nuclear deterrence, so far, holds true.

Given that Iran faces belligerence and provocations from the same states – the US and Israel, what would the prudent course of action be for Iran?

Haaretz talks farcically about the “deterrent message delivered by these attacks…” on Iranian scientists. What is the logic, however, of giving in (whatever that implies) to attacks? If Iran was deterred from its “national interest” by outside violence, would not the message be that Iran is weak and violence against it works? Does not the inability to confront violence with deterrent violence leave a country at the whim and mercy of its enemies?

The Haaretz article closes as it began: “History teaches that a state striving to acquire nuclear weapons will ultimately do so.” And so a threatened state should … because history also teaches that showing weakness before an enemy emboldens the enemy; the solution is to become strong.

  1. Yossi Melman, “Whether or not Israel took out Iran nuclear scientist, Tehran will get the bomb,” Haaretz, 30 November 2010. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at:kim@dissidentvoice.orgRead other articles by Kim.


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