What’s Wrong with the World

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I, Heretic

I don't lie awake at night wondering about the plans of the Iranian Mullarchy to become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds, plunging the world into a sea of nuclear flame. In fact, the thought seldom occurs to me at all, and when it does, I find it somewhat amusing, actually.

There. I've said it.

Now permit me to explain myself. I'd rather that a regime such as that of the Mullarchy not possess nuclear weapons, and on principle. Such regimes, combining several undesirable qualities - Islam, evil, general contumacy - are not the sort with which one would trust such weapons, were there an option. Nevertheless, the development is animated by a certain logic, which would obtain even in the absence of the Mullarchy, and which, moreover, militates against the use of such weapons by the Mullarchy.

The linchpin of this logic? Iran is desirous of becoming the regional hegemon, the dominant power of the Near East, a long-term geostrategic ambition antedating the Mullarchy, which would outlast that regime. Iran could be liberated from the shackles of the Islamic Republic, and Persian nationalist sentiment would keep alive the both the ambition and the nuclear program itself, which would be both symbol and surety of that status, should it be achieved. This regional ambition has two main consequences, as far as the nuclear program and the West are concerned. First, a first-use of nuclear weapons on the part of Iran, whether directly, or by means of proxies - such as Hizbollah - is highly improbable, since the logical conclusion to be drawn in such a case will be precisely that Iran has used/supplied the weapons, and Iran will cease to exist as a functioning, post-medieval state. Israel and the United States will see to that, morally licit or not.

Second, and in consequence of the first consideration, any use of nuclear weapons merely suspected to originate in the Iranian program will entail the permanent demise of Persian ambitions for regional preeminence. And I would suggest that, the apocalyptic rhetoric of a former Tehran traffic engineer aside, the Iranian powers-behind-the-presidency are more than worldly enough to value that ambition over the annihilation of the Zionist Entity. Incidentally, this is the reason for the low probability of Hizbollah being provided the eventual products of a mature Iranian nuclear program. One does not hand the keys to the kingdom to third parties one cannot completely control.

Finally, as a concluding observation, a the development of a nuclear program in Iran is more or less inevitable for another reason: Iranian oil and natural gas production is declining, and I consider it highly doubtful that Iranians will be willing to contemplate a return to premodernity, merely because the only long-term means of avoiding that fate is one of which the West disapproves. This is not to argue that Iran needn't be countered in Syria or Lebanon, nor that such countering need never involve military action of some sort. It is only to argue that a nuclear Iran can be deterred. And, as regards regime change - well, have we learned nothing?

Comments (9)

I hope you're right. That a nuclear Iran can be deterred, that is.

But I wouldn't scoff at people who think otherwise. And will the "former traffic engineer" (I assume this is the fellow Lawrence Auster has suggested we call "Johnny") with the fiery rhetoric have the red button on his desk? I get a little antsy when I hear implications that *because* the guy is a whack-job we don't need to worry about him. I should think that would be a reason _to_ worry about him.

And I'm not pleased at large countries that are significantly helping to fulfill Iran's nuclear ambitions. I think that's a Bad Thing. Nor do I feel at all inclined to make better friends with them while this is going on.

Yes, Ahmedinejad is a former traffic engineer, so in a better world, I'd have been able to sell him some equipment. But his insanity is partly for public consumption: he is playing to the Islamic masses, on the assumption that this will increase the prestige of the regime in the Muslim world. I suspect that he has achieved some success, though elements of the regime have found the rhetoric excessive and counterproductive. The reality is that no Iranian president wields the real power in that regime.

And yes, it is a Bad Thing that Russia is enabling the Iranian pursuit of nuclear energy - although we need to be honest with ourselves and the world: my last paragraph is no joke. But what we must understand is that Iran has become a cat's paw in Russian foreign policy, a sort of bargaining chip to be employed in negotiations with an America that has acted in bad faith since 1991. However, I think I might, having opened this discussion, put that on the front page.

Are you seriously suggesting that this is about nuclear energy and _not_ about nuclear weapons? I mean, I shd. think it's obvously about nuclear weapons at least, whether or not it's about nuclear energy. It could of course be both.

I'm not suggesting that nuclear weapons have nothing to do with Iranian ambitions: they are manifestly integral to those ambitions. What I am implying is that even if we somehow prevailed upon Iran to lay aside that nonsense about the Islamic revolution, and to content itself with being merely one regional player among many, Iran would still find it necessary to develop civilian nuclear capabilities. They will reach a point at which they can either sell their petroleum resources on the open market, and tolerate shortages and blackouts, which situation would eventuate in the overthrow of the regime, or hoard those resources for domestic consumption, which will collapse the principal revenue stream of the state, eventuating in... you guessed it, revolution. At the long-range level, the United States is telling, not the Mullarchy, but the Persian people themselves, that they should confront the prospect of reverting to pre-modern times because the United States disapproves of their government, and is unwilling to share power in the Near East. That is how all of this plays over there, which should be a strong consideration in foreign policy deliberations - and it sounds quite mad, actually.

Some thoughts. You are supposing that the powers that be in Iran are rational, this worldly motivated. You have good reasons should that be the case.

But nuts don't act rationally. And other worldly nuts don't care about earthly effects. Two cases in point. Nazism and Marxism. By all means, in a normal war train loads of political prisioners don't take precedence over shipments of men, fuel and arms to the front but for the Nazis they did. Why? If we get rid of such people, the thought was, the glorious age will begin. Marxism via collectivization managed society to bring about the death of millions even though this was not in their economic interests, so that they could bring about that perfect society just around the corner.

There are plenty of muslims who think it would be acceptable to islam to take the loss of a country if it meant the eradication of Judaism in Israel or Hinduism in India. Islam will continue but its rivals will be essentially eliminated. Islamic supremacy is far more steeped in Iranian thought than I think you recognize.

I've long suspected that what Perry Robinson says is true.

As for our "telling them they need to revert to the stone age because we disapprove of their government"--a comment I just now noticed. Y'know, I'm really unimpressed. It doesn't sound "quite mad" to me, except in the sense that it's stated poorly. "Disapprove of their government" is milquetoast language. No doubt the people of Iran, or some of them, can't see why anyone would "disapprove of their government." Perhaps others in Iran can very easily see why someone would so disapprove. I'm uninterested in the former group. I think these things are objective. They shouldn't have nuclear weapons; we're reasonable to object to their having them, and men of good will, Iranians included, should agree with us. If most Iranians aren't men of good will, I can't help that, and I don't much care about their feelings. I'm happy to go on record as being the Ugly American to that extent. Heck, I have the reputation already; might as well play along with it.

As regards Islamic supremacism, I would suggest that there is a qualitative leap between the martyrdom of the individual Muslim and the martyrdom of an entire nation, or even a large minority percentage of an entire nation, along with the existence of that nation as a state. Frankly, I believe that if some Islamic power, state or non-state, were to utilize nuclear weapons, whether to strike the West or annihilate the "Zionist Entity", something like the (in)famous the three conjectures will become a live option, and all moral restraints will be cast aside. We will contemplate genocide.

Integral to any classical expression of Islam, which is to say, any Islam grounded in the traditional, historical, and authoritative sources of the religion, is the notion of Islamic supremacism. Because the Quran is considered uncreated, such that its recitation is a sort of sacrament for the Muslim, the community it constitutes, and its law, participate in that timelessness somehow. They are immutable, the community passing through time as the unchangeable expression of the positive will of Allah. Warfare, then, can become total, because it is unthinkable for the timeless being of the Umma to cease to exist. Martyrdom, then, is also a sacrament of sorts for the Muslim.

But... But, the application of this principle to an entire nation, even vast swathes of the Muslim world, would be unprecedented, a qualitative leap beyond anything in Islamic history itself: the potential martyrdom of the Umma, or a large percentage thereof, if only the Jews and the Crusaders might also be annihilated. I don't see this as highly probable, even from the Twelvers.

I'll be happy to eat crow should I be proven wrong. Well, not happy, exactly, since the prospect of mass slaughter is not a cheerful one. I'll be en route to my parish to throw myself down in prayer, and not merely because the seat of my Patriarchate is in Damascus.

I am not convinced that that there is a qualitative leap between the two. The loss of an individual state is just individual martyrdom writ large. And it wouldn't be the ending of the Umma but just a finger or so of it. In the Persian thought all will be restored by God anyhow. So I think it is helpful to put rational thought aside and evaluate options from within the paradigm of the people in question. A nation of matyrs would be quite a glorious thing from their point of view and it wouldn't be the first time in in history someone had such a thought.

I'm dubious of the notion that national martyrdom is merely individual martyrdom writ large, a sort of aggregation of innumerable particular martyrdoms. The Islamic consciousness of the uniqueness, the singularity, of the Umma suggests that, in Islamic thought, the community is more than the sum total of its individual members. Islamic law itself, I would argue, embodies this conception in countless ways, as indeed it must, inasmuch as Islamic law is not a species of political modernity.

Beyond that consideration, in the event of an Iranian first-use of nuclear weapons, we would be dealing with more - much more, perhaps - than the "mere" martyrdom of one small sliver of the Muslim world, one nation among many. We would, I suspect, be dealing with a wider conflagration in which the martyrdom of vast swathes of the Islamic world would be openly contemplated - in both West and East.

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