The Plank

So Iran Is Deterrable After All?

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Joe Klein makes some good points in response to Charles Krauthammer's column today, which argues that the U.S. should explicitly commit itself to a full retaliatory response upon Iran in the event that Iran decides launch a nuclear attack against Israel. What surprised me about Krauthammer's column, though, is the apparent concession that Iran can probably be deterred from nuking Israel in the first place:

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the
Cuban missile crisis. President Bush's greatest contribution to nuclear
peace would be to issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy's
language while changing the names of the miscreants:

"It shall
be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel
by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United
States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran."

This
should be followed with a simple explanation: "As a beacon of tolerance
and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a
second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people."

A public declaration like this may or may not be a good idea, though the underlying policy is sound. But this sure sounds a lot different from the note that Krauthammer was striking back in September 2006:

Against millenarian fanaticism glorying in a cult of death, deterrence
is a mere wish. Is the West prepared to wager its cities with their
millions of inhabitants on that feeble gamble?

Now of course no one knows for sure whether the mullahs are rational actors or "millenarian fanatics," though lately their grasp of Middle East power politics has sure looked pretty rational. But the point is, if Krauthammer really believed a nuclear Iran to be the apocalyptic nightmare he's constantly portrayed it as, shouldn't he be even more strident now, instead of so coolly willing to embrace a "feeble gamble"?

--Josh Patashnik

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