The Corner

Doing It The Derb Way

A reader:

“Derb—Given your prominent role in the Corner discussions on Iraq, I think everyone would benefit from some conjecture on your part. To wit, if we had followed the model you wanted us to folllow—two months of heaving fighting and bombing in Iraq followed by immediate withdraw followed by the same in Iran, in Saudi, and then Syria (wherever there are terrorists, right?)—what do you think that region would be like today?

“I think the quick answer you’d give is clear enough. I think you’d say, ‘we would have destroyed Iran’s nuclear capability, as well as Iraq’s and Syria’s terrorist threat. We’ll leave it to them to sort out the rest.’ But certainly all of the Middle East would be in flames at the moment with each nation fighting each other and themselves. The world’s access to Middle Eastern oil would be shut down. What repercussions would you imagine for the United States if we had a policy of attack, withdraw, and civil war throughout the Middle East and in southeast Asia? How is your plan better than the direction things are going at the moment?

“Another scenario is that we just act like 9/11 didn’t happen and assume that after Afghanistan we had solved as much of the problem as we could have solved. But since you (nor I) ever endorsed such a thing I don’t see any reason to deal with that.”

[Derb] The Derb doctrine says: (1) Terrorists are roaches. You can control them (for which purpose, open-ended world-wide covert operations are best), but never eliminate them. Another 9/11 is always possible. (2) Nuclear terrorism is a dire threat, justifying major military action. I don’t want to see the USA lose cities to terrorists. (3) Nuclear terrorism occurs when some terrorist-friendly nation hands off a nuke to terrorists. (4) Since you can’t altogether eliminate terrorists, the only solution is, when you see a terrorist-friendly nation that looks as if it might be developing, or thinking of developing, nukes, do what you can to degrade their capability ASAP. (5) Major military action is justified for this purpose (see point 2).

The current administration’s policy goes far beyond this, into the assertion that our ultimate security depends on getting terrorist-friendly nations to take up rational, constitutional forms of government. I doubt this kind of transformation is possible; but even if it is, I’d argue that it is not necessary for our purposes — precisely, for the purpose of averting nuclear terrorism against us. “Rubble doesn’t make trouble.”

I just don’t believe that terrorist-friendly nations like Iraq, Iran, Syria, and North Korea should be allowed to develop nukes. It’s a long, expensive, and resource-intensive process, and I can’t believe it’s that hard to (a) spot, and (b) stop, by military action. You just have to smash up enough real estate and kill enough of the nation’s leaders to break the decision-making capability. I am glad we did that in Iraq. I wish we would do it in Iran.

Now, to my reader’s points:

“Wherever there are terrorists, right?” Wrong. That would involve strikes against London, Hamburg, Madrid, and several other places I would rather leave alone. Terrorism isn’t the problem. Terrorism plus nukes, is the problem.

“All of the Middle East would be in flames at the moment with each nation fighting each other and themselves.” I should care about this–why? I watched the Iran-Iraq war with calm equanimity. (So, I bet, did my reader, if he noticed it at all.) Seems to me it was a net plus for the USA and our security. A couple more wars like that, and we might not have to worry about these pissant pseudo-nations and their crazy dictators for a generation or so.

“The world’s access to Middle Eastern oil would be shut down.” This I doubt. In the chaos, some gangster would seize the oil fields and make himself a trillionaire by operating them and selling the stuff. It’s all these countries have. Cupidity has a way of rising above even the direst chaos. Large stretches of Africa have been in a state of chaos for most of my lifetime, but we still get minerals out of there. And as a last resort, there’s always naked colonialism.

“How is your plan better than the direction things are going at the moment?” Which direction would that be? To a triumphantly nuclear Iran and a disintegrating Iraq? Well, it would take care of the first. So far as the second is concerned, I doubt anyone’s plan will make much difference.

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