Monday, August 28, 2006

Nuclear Woes

Here's a sobering examination of the potential fallout from nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, starting when Iran gets the bomb it is so earnestly pursuing. What happens if multiple terrorist harboring states all have nukes? Stanley Kurtz, at National Review Online, discusses the possibilities brought out in an article by Stephen Peter Rosen:

A key to deterrence during the Cold War was our ability to know who had hit whom. With a small number of geographically separated nuclear states, and with the big opponents training satellites and specialized advance-guard radar emplacements on each other, it was relatively easy to know where a missile had come from. But what if a nuclear missile is launched at the United States from somewhere in a fully nuclearized Middle East, in the middle of a war in which, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran are already lobbing conventional missiles at one another? Would we know who had attacked us? Could we actually drop a retaliatory nuclear bomb on someone without being absolutely certain? And as Rosen asks, What if the nuclear blow was delivered against us by an airplane or a cruise missile? It might be almost impossible to trace the attack back to its source with certainty, especially in the midst of an ongoing conventional conflict.

We’re familiar with the horror scenario of a Muslim state passing a nuclear bomb to terrorists for use against an American city. But imagine the same scenario in a multi-polar Muslim nuclear world. With several Muslim countries in possession of the bomb, it would be extremely difficult to trace the state source of a nuclear terror strike. In fact, this very difficulty would encourage states (or ill-controlled elements within nuclear states — like Pakistan’s intelligence services or Iran’s Revolutionary Guards) to pass nukes to terrorists. The tougher it is to trace the source of a weapon, the easier it is to give the weapon away. In short, nuclear proliferation to multiple Muslim states greatly increases the chances of a nuclear terror strike.

He continues:

Deep mutual suspicion between an expansionist, apocalyptic, Shiite Iran, secular Turkey, and the Sunni Saudis and Egyptians (not to mention Israel) is likely to fuel a dangerous multi-pronged nuclear arms race. Larger arsenals mean more chance of a weapon being slipped to terrorists. The collapse of the world’s non-proliferation regime also raises the chances that nuclearization will spread to Asian powers like Taiwan and Japan.

Kurtz speculates at what the future holds, including imperative star wars missile defense systems, fallout shelters, and the demise of the dovish element in American politics (which Kurtz claims cannot survive Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.) We'd better not take our eyes off Iran. They're the ones earnestly seeking nuclear technology, which they claim is for energy purposes only, but who in their right mind actually is actually buying that bill of goods? As the inimitable Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit would say, read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Update: David Weigel, posting at Andrew Sullivan, is rebutting Kurtz's argument, but not very convincingly. It's more of a dismissal really, than a rebuttal, but here it is, for what it's worth.