Well, I have answered this in bits and pieces elsewhere, but I will pull my thoughts together on this here. Jerry Pournelle has asked why containment will not work on Iran? First off let him lay out his case, which the set up is an accurate depiction of the facts and the reasoning behind why Authoritarian Regimes seek nuclear weapons:
"First, anyone not blind will see that the West has been teaching powerful lessons over the years:And that is extremely true. The administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton have made it absolutely clear that the US will only seek to *negotiate* if they believe a dictatorship of any stripe has nuclear devices. The West, in general, by looking to become has made a response by Europe impossible as the idea that one Nation might be *better* than another Nation to be anathema. By following down that course the West gives legitimacy to any dictatorship that gains nuclear weapons as the cost of actually *opposing* them is too high. So definite lesson is: get nukes and you can be ensured of long-life for yourself, save from internal opposition.
The first lesson is: if you are a dictator, or part of an unpopular government structure, get nukes, get them quick, get them in any way you have to. Get nukes and get them now.
The second lesson is, don't let go. Even if you are a reluctant dictator, even if you hate dictatorship and wish peace and democracy to your country, do not relax your grip, and do not contemplate retirement. That way lies persecution of yourself and your family, and you will probably die in a foreign jail. If you are lucky you may be put under house arrest or seek asylum in a foreign embassy.
If you are a dictator, your only chance of survival is to hang on and get nukes. Nothing else works.
Those are the lessons we teach, and anyone with sense has learned them well.
Certainly the mullahs have. Whether they have always wanted nukes, or learned to want them from the lessons the West has been teaching, is not important. They want nukes, they want them soon, and objectively they have every reason to desire them. It's a very rational desire.
That is the first thing we must understand."
Which is Mr. Pournelle's next point, and I will abstract and condense and generally mangle and shorten things:
"Next: the mullahs understand that time is not really on their side: the West's cultural weapons of mass destruction are gnawing away at the vitals of fundamentalist Shiite Islam. The Shah opened the door, and his opening to the West and the White Revolution, while partly shut down, was permanent: in Iran they know that there is more to education than sitting on the floor and memorizing an ancient book; that there is more to life than blowing yourself up."This is the argument that culture transforms Nations, which is correct. The USSR could not contain Western culture and technology and both of those gnawed at its vitals. Do note, however, that it took the Poles from the INSIDE to actually give the lie to the 'Worker's Paradise'.
And he goes onto make that point with the demographics of Iran being against the mullah's:
"While the mullahs may have hopes for a different sort of society for Iran than is very likely to come, they aren't entirely unrealistic. And one way to divert this seduction of their young people is to stir the pot, make the confrontations important, go as far as they can short of provoking the West to invade. The attractions of blue jeans and rock music are great. Islam doesn't seem to be enough to overcome them. Patriotism is needed. That may do the job. And if you can convince the young people that jihad is necessary, that the West isn't going to let you have blue jeans and iPods, that the West is going to nuke your country and steal your oil and reduce you to peasantry, occupy your land but give you no security from bandits and religious enemies: if you can convince your young people that the West isn't going to let you have its goodies because it wants to steal everything you have and give you nothing -- then you are home free.And I even agree with this! The Mullahocracy in Iran is seeking to sway its culture via any means to get it in line with their beliefs. From there Mr. Pournelle looks at Cold War containment and deterrence, going over the time of silos and launch codes and such. I will now present his containment argument for Iran, Syria and other dictatorships:
And that, I put it to you, is the mullah strategy. Convince the youth of Iran that the West is their implacable enemy; that the West is coming for them."
"Containment says: the enemy is expansive, and one of his strengths is that he is convinced that his victory is inevitable. God, or the flywheel of history, or the objective economic factors, or the laws of history, make victory certain. March in step with the flywheel of history. But if we show the enemy this is not true, that he is not expanding, that he is stuck with his inefficient system to stew in his own juices; when there is not enough to go around, then petty temptations to corruption become irresistible. If you believe strongly enough in the underlying religion, you will put up with hardships for the cause; but if the worms of doubt set in, and there is a shortage of the good things of life, human nature takes over. Corruption sets in. Inefficiencies get worse.So, I will answer these questions!
If we nuke Iran to destroy their capability for making nuclear weapons, we make it legitimate to use nuclear weapons to achieve cultural goals; we make preventive war a legitimate thing to do.
The result will be a change in strategy: buy a nuke. Use terror, use bribes, use infiltration, use any means necessary to get some nukes, and do nothing to provoke the west until you have them; but get them. In the West most things are for sale. Find ways to buy them.
Containment and deterrence work. Those are not spectacular policies; but they are proven. They do work. Contain Iran, and let our Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction have time to do their work. Syria and Iran have no counter weapons. Syria is already a defensive dictatorship with no pretense of legitimacy whose sole goal is stay in power. Iran is under the control of mullahs: will they prevail over the next Iranian generation? If so, how? What are their arguments? What can we do to make them lose control? And what can we do to convince the young Iranians that they are better off following the mullahs?
Is anyone asking those questions?"
I do agree, as seen above that: demographics are against the mullah's, that cultural erosion for the mullah's is continuing, and that dictatorships see nuclear devices as a way to ensure their survival. I disagree with the rationale behind containment, however.
A look at the Cold War style of containment saw the West, in general, supporting the containing and isolation of the Communist system. Today there is no generalized sympathy in the West against Islamization and Islamic based Transnational Terrorism. Transnational Progressivism has eaten away at the heart of Western liberal (old school liberal) belief structures and has generally eroded the Nation State concept globally and, most particularly, in Old Europe. Islamic based violence and intimidation, from weeks long riots in France to the Cartoon Concerns to the killing of those who speak out against Islamism is NOT being responded to by the West.
Indeed, the West is capitulating and taking on self-censorship, denying the freedom of ideas to spread and, generally, caving into Islamism and its violence. One dare not speak against them via even the gentlest of cartoons in most publications, bookstores and universities across Europe and the US. For containment to *work* there must be a solid wall against violent Islamism and Islamic based Transnational Terrorism.
That is not in place nor can be set in place with the current atmosphere of Transnational Progressivism pervading the West. The world cannot be 'One Big Happy Family, Ruled by Those With Insight', unless those doing the ruling are Islamic. Transnational Terrorists would be MORE than happy to supply *that* ruling class. Moderate Muslims see no need to protest this as they are *winners* no matter who loses in a conflict between the traditional West and radical Islam.
So containment by the West cannot happen given the current state of culture and politics.
That is a non-starter. If we can't come together to ensure freedom of speech, something difficult like actually opposing violent Islamism will get zero traction.
Second, I do not believe that the use of nuclear devices to take out a nuclear powered Iran is necessary. These blunderbuss political icons were very useful from the Cold War standpoint of measuring power, but are very poor weapons of warfare. The US now practices NetWar, which is a synthetic form of cross-networked warfare taking all aspects of conflict into account. No one else on the planet does this, and it is highly effective, to the point that the mid-tier leadership is now at the point where it does not know how to *cope* with this sort of operation as it is too radically different in scope from traditional Cold War conflicts to allow them to adjust. I go over two possible cases for Iran here and here.
Third, the argument for allowing corruption to take place and bring down the system from the inside is based on the demographics argument and the inefficiencies argument of totalitarian states. People will put up with much in the way of inefficiencies even they can get enough food and life's necessities to keep body and soul together. So that is a decades-long argument, if the mullah's would last that long, which they will not. As I agree with Mr. Pournelle on the nature of the Mullahocracy, I will re-iterate it in brief: it is one-deep and has no easy stand-ins for a second generation. I will speak to the corruption part in a moment, but let me skip to the finality that containment *works*.
Containment *can* work if a majority of the West could get on the self-saving bandwagon of such. This has not happened, nor can it easily happen in Old Europe without some sort of 'ethnic cleansing'. Remember that the French did invent the cordon sanitaire and I am sure would re-discover it *given time*. And so the West might, also, given time. I do not place my bets on *might* and *possible* unless one is actually engineering these things to happen. On the diplomatic side this is NOT the case. And, indeed, the Transnational Progressivist nature of Old Europe will not allow such to take place without a violent overthrow of regimes and a replay of the late 1920's to early 1930's.
Containment practiced solely by the United States and one or two cooperating allies has a possibility of working but would require the most vigorous use of aggressive military denial seen in centuries. Iran would need to be blockaded, cut off, its supplies and flow of oil interdicted and, generally, the entire nation brought to a halt via commercial means. Anything *less* than that will see such broken by France, Germany, Russia and China as happened with Saddam in Iraq. Iran would be seen as a regional counter-weight to US influence and if it gains nuclear devices, they would not be anywhere near the top of the target list. As Iraq has proven: containment with a 'dimmer switch' does not WORK.
So, neither full cultural containment with commercial denial nor full commercial containment with full denial are on the agenda. Anything else leaves Iran free to gain nuclear weapons.
To garner wider support, Iran will need: external help, internal help and a change in demographics or ideology to bring in a second tier of autocrats. Now, how could this be worked out by the mullah's to be done?
External help it gets via the wobbly West and China. Those nations that helped Iraq would be more than willing to help Iran, even once it *has* nuclear devices. They are not on the prime target list and could afford to throw the Muddle East, the US and Israel to the wolves *first*. So that is a big check mark *for* the mullah's. By the West no longer asserting its old style liberal conceptions and caving into terrorism, violence and hatred, it no longer has the capacity to respond culturally en bloc.
Now, the internal change and second tier questions are foremost. And here is where Mr. Pournelle misses the mark badly. Iran is not a normal nation state, founded on its people nor adhering to Western conceptions of what a Nation State actually *is*. By utilizing methodology to tear down National dialogue via support of Transnational Terrorists, it is attacking from the outside what the Transnational Progressivists are doing from the inside: the Nation State concept itself. By not founding itself as a traditional state, adhering only to some verbiage on diplomacy but, in point of fact, tearing at the fabric of State to State interplay, it is charting a course that radically alters the view of what a Nation State is and what is desirable for same.
The key to both Mr. Pournelle's argument, my concepts and the mullah's is that the demographics are *against* them. With over half the population under 30, it is *hard* against them and they need to use the Republican Guard and hired mercenary Chechen's and others to do their bidding to stay in power. Unfortunately, since Mr. Pournelle believes Iran to be a traditional Nation State, he does not see the obvious answer which has been practiced by radical Islam wherever they get any sort of influence and by their Transnational Terrorist counterparts.
The old joke about coaches and teams is: "It is easier to fire the coach than it is to fire the team."
Unfortunately the mullah's do *not* see things that way. I posted on this before, but let me re-iterate the important part here:
And if they did get a nuclear weapon, would they use it in Iraq? In Israel? Bring it via cargo container to the US? Or use it to destroy a fraction of their youthful population to bring them to heel?So here is a nice little scenario to ponder with Iran having an undeclared nuclear device. Picture this: the Mullah's make a deal out of 'opening up' to the younger generation and inviting them, en mass, to a series of conferences and lectures is some smaller city. The world would go all joyous over this! 'See how they open up and realize their problems?' would be the chant from the MSM and the leftists. And so young people would be encouraged to form groups to come and talk and discuss and lay out their needs so the mullah's could address them. A week long event, perhaps, centered around a few hotels and a sports arena or convention center. Young people flocking to the city... pictures of young people talking and demonstrating and generally being young people. The World is enchanted. The leadership would have to miss the opening day stuff due to a 'sudden illness' or 'governmental crisis' or some such, but an appropriate older Imam would be sent who has leanings towards the gathered crowds to address them.
I wonder what the 30 and under demographic feel about such things.
I may think strange thoughts... but that is so I can imagine how evil thinks and maybe, just maybe, stop it. For I know no matter how bad my thoughts are, theirs will be worse.
And what would those who say 'Don't go! It's to hard! Not a Just war!' say if the Clerics decided to begin cleansing Iranian cities first?
Horrible? Yes. Unthinkable? I just did, and I know they are worse.
Change is in the air!
The Imam gets up to speak... a sudden white flash and static on all news fronts.
The city center would be gone and a crater in its place.
The mullah's would *instantly* blame Israel and the US for using a nuclear device which they did not have but were working towards... they would incite riots... give out fatwa's... say how bad the West was and how it needed to be defeated and wiped from the earth by all good Muslims. See how they kill innocents!!
Yes, they would not wait for scientific analysis to show that it was a relatively crude device, only 2 or 3 times that of a Nagasaki bomb. Nor that its remains were not typical of a Western produced device of any sort. Nor for Bomb Damage Analysis to see what sort of delivery vehicle or spot for explosion it initially had. No need to wait against the Evil Western Science.
Iran at one shot would clear out its demographic problem, destroy any integrity of a youthful uprising or long-term bringing down of their system and, most likely, welcome *in* radical Islamic leaders from elsewhere to help them out to continue their jihad against the West.
For the mullah's getting rid of troublesome people is the way of things as demonstrated by their brethren across the globe. This would be the perfect solution to their demographics problem *and* allow them to sow massive seeds of distrust into the West via sympathetic media and Transnational Progressivists. After that the swarming of Transnational Terrorists against Israel, the US and the West in general would begin... as soon as Iran declared nuclear capability a week or so later.
And would the West respond with *containment*?
The US could fight this, but not with Western countries caving into Islamism across the board. Europe would be sinking in its mass of undigested Islamic immigrants suddenly gone radical. Russia would go very Authoritarian to crack down internally, but might actually come to some sort of an understanding with Iran on the 'stans.
Iraqis would know that the US didn't do it because Iran would still *be* there. There would be some internal revolts, but those would go down quickly as their military and the Kurds kept order. What would happen to the Gulf States, Jordan, Turkey and parts of northern Africa are anyone's guess.
Iran does not need to use a nuclear device *externally* for it to win, in their eyes. They are not rational nor conduct a traditional Nation State. Thus, to them, ALL options are open. Which includes killing off a portion of its population to bring the entire nation into line. They are NOT rational, and containment only works on those that are rational and see death as a problem for themselves. This is not the case with the Iranian leadership. And thinking so will only come back and bite you hard, very hard, in the long run.
I wish that they were rational, but we must deal with the fact that they are not. Nor are they amenable to a system of Nations that does not suit their needs. But they *do* understand the concept of a 'two-fer' just fine. Kill lots of their own people, blame the West, see the West undergo massive confusion, join up hard with Transnational Terrorists and strike the final blows against the entire Nation State concept so that Islam can take over.
Irrational to *us* but not to *them*.
And it just *might* work.