Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran

U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter, doesn't want to invade Iran, but if it comes to that he thinks that it might be a good idea to employ "tactical" nuclear weapons. "I think if you have to hit Iran, you don't put boots on the ground. You do it with tactical nuclear devices, and you set them back a decade or two or three.... I think that's the way to do it—with a massive aerial bombardment campaign."
For those of you who aren't up on the lingo, a "tactical" nuclear weapon is used to incinerate armies in a single blast. It is intended to have a more limited scope than a "strategic" nuclear weapon, which is used to wipe cities off the face of the earth. Rep. Hunter is using the word "tactical" as shorthand for "I am not a nutjob who wants to kill 7 million people."
However, just because you used the word "tactical" doesn't mean you're not crazy. The problem with tactical weapons is using them risks escalation to "strategic" weapons. This problem has cropped up repeatedly in war games ever since the idea of the tactical nuke was developed. (It is a serious problem in Indo-Pakistani relations.) Yes, Iran may not have the capability to wipe out our cities in response to an invasion, but there are still many ways in which the situation might spin out of control. Suppose Iran signed a treaty with Russia, stipulating that if the United States destroyed Tehran the Russians would destroy New York. Suppose that Russia then misinterpreted American tactical strikes and retaliated by blowing up New York. Sound far-fetched? In 2002, a meteor nearly caused nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
However much Rep. Hunter likes explosions, let's not nuke Iran—not even a little.

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