Derb, Cliff, et al, if I may jump into this debate and offer a couple of thoughts about the Iranian nuclear threat. I would not want to be in a position to have to make predictions about whether the mullahs are afraid of mutually assured destruction or not, but my sense of things — perhaps I lack a sufficiently morbid imagination — is that upon acquiring a nuclear capability, the Iranians would not launch nuclear missiles at Israel.
The reason is that they wouldn’t need to do that to accomplish the destruction of Israel. The Jewish state already has a problem in the number of its citizens who tire of the warfare, terrorism, and Arab hatred that are regular features of life in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live abroad, many permanently, because they seek a “normal life,” and many Jews will never immigrate to Israel exactly because of the absence of such a life. All of this is only in the face of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists who kill with crude weapons. Now imagine those groups with the support of a nuclear patron. Imagine daily life in Israel conducted under the constant threat — the Iranians would surely take every opportunity to remind Israelis — of nuclear annihilation.
The Iranians are probably smart enough to know that if they’re patient, nothing so dramatic as nuclear war will be necessary. Simply by possessing a nuclear capability and regularly threatening to use it or supply it to its proxies, Iran will accomplish the psychological and economic attrition of Israel. This goal will be achieved without firing a shot — or at least without full-scale war.
The Iranian nuclear threat to America also will not likely take the shape of a mushroom cloud. It has to do with Iran’s ability to undermine the security architecture in the Middle East that America has enforced, however shakily, for decades, with Israel serving as its most capable client. Iran is assembling its own alliances and proxies that it hopes will rival America’s, which is why it funds Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories, is allied with Syria, and relentlessly makes America bleed in Iraq. Sure, the mullahs wouldn’t mind nuking New York. But first and foremost they want Iran to own the Middle East, the prerequisite of which involves pushing America out. Nuclear weapons will make the latter far more plausible than the former.
That, of course, is something which probably doesn’t bother most Ron Paul acolytes. But people in Derb’s camp have to ask themselves: Should we put the economic health of the nation in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hands?