Saturday, May 20, 2006

Are Iran's Mullah's Deterrable?

"No," I would reply, "they are just terrible." But Paul Starobin, writing the cover story for the National Journal, seems to think they're all rational actors. For support he cites some ex-Clinton NSC staffer, and favors the credibility of Michael Scheuer over that of the simply awesome Bernard Lewis. When Lewis, the undisputed heavyweight champion of Islamic historians, describes the irrationality of clerics who believe they will be richly rewarded in the hereafter for suicidal murder of non-muslims, he is quickly kicked to the curb in favor of the ex-CIA loose cannon:

But Lewis is in a minority among analysts of the mullahs. Unlike an Islamic extremist such as Osama bin Laden, whose precise whereabouts are not known and who controls no state, the mullahs do have an address and are thus deterrable because "they don't want to get their teeth kicked in," Michael Scheuer, a former CIA counter-terrorism analyst, said in an interview.

Er, didn't that guy have a job in the CIA, where he stood out even among that crowd of incompetent, politicized hacks? Elsewhere, Starobin pulls out that canard about the U.S. being the only nation to have used nuclear weapons against "'an essentially defeated enemy,' as J. Robert Oppenheimer put it." I think anyone can respect J. Robert Oppenheimer's nuclear physics skillz, but WTF did he know about Japan's military capabilities?

Starobin main thrust is to reassure readers with anecdotes about how everybody in the U.S. had also gotten their knickers in a bunch when Chinese Communists were on the verge of getting nuclear weapons capability; and we saw how THAT was no problem.

Well, riddle me this, whiz-kid. Isn't one of the hallmarks of Communist doctrine its ATHEISM? If you don't believe in an afterlife, aren't you going to be less likely to perform actions that would lead to your VAPORIZATION in the present life? Wouldn't cost-benefit analysis break down if costs in the corporeal world become negligible in comparison to the benfits in the hereafter, and the two disputants differ fundamentally on the nature of the hereafter?

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