Deterring Iran

Richard Clarke, the Left’s favorite counterterrorist, co-authored an op-ed for the Sunday NY Times arguing against bombing Iran (link unavailable). The piece argued that in the mid-90s the Clinton Administration was faced with a decision of whether to bomb Iran because of its support for terrorism, but decided instead to act covertly. The article goes on to discuss how bombing Iran would be disastrous because it would lead to higher oil prices, increased Iranian-sponsored terrorism and worse trouble in Iraq.

Their are two main problems with the article. Firstly, it tries to draw parallels between Iran in the mid-1990s and the current situation in Iran, even though the current regime is far more radical and is pursuing nuclear weapons. Secondly, it discusses potential risks of an attack on Iran without addressing the consequences of letting Iran obtain nuclear weapons.

This article in The New Republic (free registration required) should make it clear that the world cannot live with a nuclear Iran. Most of those who argue that we can learn to live with it compare the situation to the Cold War, when we lived with a hostile and nuclear USSR. But the situation is completely different. However evil the Soviets were, they still had an interest in avoiding a nuclear retaliation by the U.S., whereas the Iranian leadership is suicidal.

According to the TNR piece by Matthias KÃ? ?Ã? ¼ntzel:

Consider that, in December 2001, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.” On the other hand, if Israel responded with its own nuclear weapons, it “will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.” Rafsanjani thus spelled out a macabre cost-benefit analysis. It might not be possible to destroy Israel without suffering retaliation. But, for Islam, the level of damage Israel could inflict is bearable–only 100,000 or so additional martyrs for Islam.

And Rafsanjani is a member of the moderate, pragmatic wing of the Iranian Revolution; he believes that any conflict ought to have a “worthwhile” outcome. Ahmadinejad, by contrast, is predisposed toward apocalyptic thinking. In one of his first TV interviews after being elected president, he enthused: “Is there an art that is more beautiful, more divine, more eternal than the art of the martyr’s death?”

There are certainly risks to taking military action against Iran. But letting them obtain a nuclear bomb should not be an option.

The Kristof Tax

In a column today on the dangers of sugary drinks that I don’t know whether to take seriously, Nicholas Kristof makes the following suggestion:

“Third, we should impose a tax on sugary drinks–5 cents per fluid ounce. One of the most successful health measures this country has ever taken was the cigarette tax, and we should apply the same approach to beverages. All sweetened nondiet drinks would be targeted: soft drinks, iced tea, fruit punch, sports drinks and other concoctions like the 240-calorie Starbucks Caffe Mocha (not counting the whipped cream).”

For those keeping score, if the Kristof tax were to go into effect, it would cost you an extra 60 cents for a can of Dr. Pepper and $3.60 for a six-pack.

Hamas Redefines Blackmail

Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian prime minister and a leader of terrorist group Hamas, said the decision by the EU and U.S. to cutoff direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government until it recognizes Israel was “blackmail.”

This was an especially riotous perversion of language. For a party to be blackmailed, it has to be giving money to another party. How does it constitute blackmail when one party is ceasing payments? If anything, the cutoff in aid put an end to extortion. Under the prior arrangement, the U.S. and E.U. funneled money into a corrupt Palestinian government in the hopes that it would become peaceful. Now that was blackmail.

Bombing Iran

In the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh writes that the Bush Administration is intent on bombing Iran to stop them from acquiring nukes and would use tactical nuclear weapons, if necessary. An article in the Sunday Times concurs that the Administration is prepared to act:

The Sunday Times was last week given the same message. A senior White House source said Bush and Cheney were determined not to bequeath the problem of a nuclear Iran to their successors. “?It’s not in their nature,” he said.

White House insiders scoff that Bill Clinton left Al-Qaeda unchecked. A nuclear-armed Iran, they believe, is too dangerous to be left to a potential Democrat president.

But the Times article plays down the possibility that tactical nuclear weapons would be used in air strikes:

The Sunday Times understands that a strike with a conventional weapon is much more likely. By 2008 a new bunker-busting missile called the Big Blu should be available to the US air force. The 30,000lb behemoth is being designed for dispatch by the B-series stealth bombers and can penetrate 100ft under the ground before exploding.

Without knowing who the anonymous sources are, it’s hard to judge how accurate either account is. It makes sense to me that the Bush Administration would at least consider the limited use of tactical nuclear weapons if that is the only way to demolish Iran’s deep, underground facilities. Or, perhaps the Bush Administration is intentionally leaking to Hersh to float the idea. It can only help the diplomatic process if the Iranians are convinced that Bush may actually use nukes against them in 2008, when he has nothing to lose politically.

But those of you who have strong opinions on the matter can put your money where your mouth is. At Tradesports the odds are less than 4-1 that the U.S. or Israel will carry out an air strike against Iran by March 2007.

Rudy Bashing

Joseph Farah argues that Giuliani isn’t a true Christian because he has dressed in drag as part of comedy skits. He even writes:

Excuse me, shouldn’t a man with Giuliani’s record be kicked out of the church?

Perhaps such a hateful column shows that Giuliani has people believing that he could take the Republican Nomination.

NYC Gov’t Shuts Down Free Harlem Private School

In 1998, Ned O’Gorman converted a Harlem brownstone into a free private school for poor kids. Operating on a shoestring budget, he has educated 75 kids in the past 8 years, some who have earned scholarships to upscale Manhattan private schools. But the Health Department has just shut him down, claiming that O’Gorman has been operating illegally all along, the NY Daily News reports today.

What a shame. The government has failed to produce an acceptable school system for children, and when one man defies the odds and offers poor kids a way out, the city slaps him in the face.

For those interested in learning more about the school, you can read a profile my friend Heather Robinson wrote just a few weeks ago, which includes this quote from O’Gorman:

“It’s connected with no church, no political party – a politician has never crossed our threshold,” O’Gorman says. “We get no money from the government. Basically, we’re a little liberation camp in the middle of a city of failed schools.”

According to today’s Daily News article, O’Gorman plans to defy the city and remain open instead of leaving children in the lurch in the middle of a school year. Stay tuned.