The Corner

‘Iran’s Terrible Rationality’

I write today about Iran and the question of how deterrable it is:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, thinks that Iran is a “rational actor.” He is indisputably correct.

Iran has, quite rationally, concluded that if it spins thousands of centrifuges to enrich enough uranium, it will soon have the bomb. Just as rationally, it believes it can string the West along. Then there is its airtight chain of cause and effect in the alleged plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States: If it hired a Mexican drug gang, and that gang blew up a Washington, D.C., restaurant, and the Saudi ambassador was dining there at the time, the ambassador would die. Q.E.D.

General Dempsey said too little and too much about the Iranian regime. Tehran couldn’t have made itself into the world’s foremost exporter of terror and extended its tentacles throughout the Middle East without resorting to rational calculation. That’s obvious. What Dempsey is implying, though, is that a regime capable of such calculation can necessarily be deterred if it gets a nuclear weapon. That’s an unsupportable leap.

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