Friday, October 12, 2007

Security First Forum

We are featuring a Security First forum at NI online, with the first topic being whether stemming or preventing nuclear non-proliferation should be a central organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy, and, if so, what measures might need to be taken.

Amitai Etzioni kicked off the discussion by noting "For those of us who acknowledge the gravity of this threat, it holds many ramifications for the foreign policy of the United States, that of its allies, and indeed all who are concerned with the well being of nations."

The latest contribution, by Anatol Lieven, provides a good response to Amitai's original posts as well as subsequent contributions to the forum by Charles Ferguson and Ted Carpenter.

Comments welcome.

I'd very much like to hear what your participants think about how to deal with the risk of nuclear powers being destabilized. In particular, what should the United States do if the Pakistani regime were to collapse or fall into the hands of radical islamists? How do we prevent terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear weapons this way? What are the chances this could happen?

With the costs of a nuclear attack running at above $1 trillion, it seems plausible that more interventionist action would be justified here.
We have already seen a nuclear power being destabilised -- the Soviet Union, and then Russia. The principal risks of nuclear terrorism certainly come from that country, but are in large measure due to the destruction of Russian state structures by Western-sponsored 'shock therapy'. Considerations of simple self-interest would, one have thought, make Western governments support, or at the least refrain from attempting to undermine, Putin's efforts to reconstruct the Russian state, rather than deluding themselves that a Western-style liberal order is a viable near-term prospect in the country. Here, Amitai Etzioni is certainly right -- and current policies illustrate very well, I think, his point about 'rational actor' theories. Western policy has far more to do with the protection of our self-comforting ideological fantasies than any realistic calculation of national interest.

The notion of installing missile defence facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic is obviously, from the point of view of preventing nuclear terrorism, counter-productive in the extreme. It is seen in Russia in the context of the Foreign Affairs article on The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy published last year by Keir Lieber and Daryl Press. The interpretation to which this leads is that missile defence is intended to neutralise the capacity for second strike retaliation after an all-out American first-strike.

It is actually not possible in the long term to combine an approach in which securing the Soviet nuclear arsenal from terrorism is treated as a common U.S.-Russian interest, with policies which give the impression that the United States is seeking to neutralise the Russian nuclear deterrent. Moreover, the principal current risk of nuclear weapons falling into terrorist hands comes not from the stationary facilities with which Nunn-Lugar is concerned, but with weapons in transit. The fact that many Russian weapons are in transit at any given time is a direct consequence of the maintenance of Cold War high readiness nuclear postures, which make it necessary for Soviet nukes to be sent long distances for the remanufacturing necessary to keep them functional. On all this aspect -- which incidentally John Mueller's paper neglects -- see the paper entitled 'Primed and Ready' published earlier this year by Bruce Blair in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

I am in general a great admirer of the incisive, independent, and courageous commentary which Anatol Lieven provides on global affairs -- he is to my mind by the far the best British journalistic commentator on foreign affairs, and as a Brit I am very glad to see him return here. However, I think there are problems with his remarks about 'the factor of deterrence which served us so well in the Cold War'.

A key point is that 'deterrence' refers to different things. There is a generalised sense in which making clear that actions prejudicial to one's interests are likely to have costs is important -- which exists irrespective of whether or not an adversary has plans for military aggression. But the body of academic theory about 'deterrence' by means of threats of nuclear first-use which developed in the post-war West uses the term in a rather different sense. It is based upon the assumption that the very evidently offensive posture of Soviet forces in Central Europe which developed between 1948 and 1952 could only reflect aspirations to territorial conquest. This assumption was encouraged by many elements in Western intelligence services throughout the Cold War.

In fact, as I hope Professor Lieven knows, George Kennan, generally seen as the principal architect of 'containment', spent the decades following his loss of influence in 1949-50 disavowing both the idea that the Soviet leadership had any aspiration towards the military conquest of Western Europe, and also responsibility for the way the idea that it had such an aspiration had become embedded in Western thinking.

In 1996, there appeared under the auspices of the leading British foreign affairs think tank, Chatham House, the study Intelligence Power in Peace and War by the former long-serving British intelligence analyst Michael Herman. The book's discussion of British military intelligence estimates of Soviet intentions is devastating. It rests heavily upon the work of the former head of the Soviet naval section of British Defence Intelligence, Michael MccGwire. At Brookings in the Eighties, MccGwire was a close collaborator of Raymond Garthoff, who pioneered the Western academic study of Soviet military strategy, before joining the CIA in 1957 and then moving onto to the Foreign Service in 1961. What emerges from both men's work is that the expulsion of NATO from Western Europe was seen by Soviet military planners as being, in the event of a new world war, an indispensable strategic objective -- the reason being that, if the United States could effectively deploy its massively superior military-industrial potential in Europe, the Soviets would ultimately be ground down by it. Accordingly, while the Western powers had plenty of reasons to be concerned about Soviet capabilities, the deduction of an intentions threat from a capabilities threat was a simple non-sequitur. And most of the body of academic theorising that grew up in the West about nuclear weapons is junk.

In terms of military planning, it was difficult for the Western powers to escape from reliance on threats first-use, because of the perceived difficulty of meeting Soviet conventional power on its own terms. By the time that Gorbachev embraced the agenda for the abolition of nuclear weapons, however, it was crystal clear that the innovations in weaponry associated with developments in information technology were decisively shifting the balance of conventional power in favour of the United States. When I was making programmes for the BBC on Gorbachev's 'new thinking' in early 1989, the leading British army Sovietologist Chris Donnelly explained to us that the Russians would have ‘the biggest collection of military antiques at the turn of the century the world has ever seen.’

One might have thought that a Machiavellian American President would have concluded that, as the natural target of 'deterrence' strategies was now going to be the United States, it made sense to accept Gorbachev's agenda for the abolition of nuclear weapons with alacrity, and take advantage of the opportunity he had given for the U.S. to eliminate the possibility of anyone using 'deterrence' strategies to counter its emerging global military preponderance. But the burden of established orthodoxy stood in the way.

I sometimes imagine myself in the position of an Iranian strategic planner, seeking to overcome such prudential and moral objections as the Supreme Leader may have to a crash programme to develop a nuclear 'deterrent'. I can produce an extraordinarily cogent memorandum, drawing on such eminent luminaries as Martin van Creveld, Sir Lawrence Freedman, John Lewis Gaddis, and indeed Tony Judt, to establish the indispensability of such a programme and the absurdity of any moral qualms. (On the moral side, indeed, I can even cite the eminent philosophers Hilary Putnam and Bernard Williams!) I think it is extremely unfortunate that so many eminent figures are in essence inciting proliferation, and I am sorry to see Anatol Lieven join their ranks!
David Habakkuk:

I think the US-EU approach to Iran since 2002 has crystalized, in the collective mind of the Iranian leadership, the need to put in place the structures so that Iran cannot be subject to idle journalistic threats any more.

I think there is a concerted effort in Iran at all levels to neutralize threads against Iran over time.

There is no longer any possibility of any security-assurance etc. to Iran as part of any Iranian-Western settlment over the nulcear issue or the myriad of other issues there; that historical moment is passed - in my opinion.
Anonymous at 11.46am:

As to the thinking of the Iranian leadership, I am in no position to judge. But I have had these discussions before, with an intelligent Iranian who comments on Colonel Lang's blog, who says the same as you, and I suspect you are right. And in any case, belief that the eventual acquisition of a nuclear deterrent is indispensable for Iranian security would seem to me a very natural response to the approaches adopted by the United States and the European Union.

And believe me, I am not suggesting that I think it is natural, right and proper for Western nations to have nuclear weapons, and go on threatening others with their use, while expecting those others to eschew such weapons.

My concern is simply that there is a large body of academic theorising about nuclear weapons which grew up in the post-war West, much of which is a case study in the dangers of rigorous reasoning based on questionable assumptions. One reason for this is that, as I pointed out in my previous comment, it was developed on the basis of the assumption that offensive Soviet capabilities must indicate offensive Soviet intentions.

A further problem is that this theorising was in general developed without any serious attempt to reflect upon the technical problems of nuclear war planning. The key to a stable strategic nuclear balance, according to 'deterrence' orthodoxy, lay in the possession by both sides of a secure second strike capability. It was assumed that Soviet thinking on nuclear weapons was hopelessly backward, because it failed to base strategy on the sophisticated theorising that developed around this concept.

But, as the former Minuteman launch control officer Bruce Blair demonstrated in his 1993 study The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War, the American nuclear arsenal was not postured for retaliation after riding out an attack -- it was postured for launch on warning. So also was the Soviet. Behind this lie the monumental problems caused by the vulnerability of command and control systems. This vulnerability had two implications. It was a major element in the doubts of nuclear war planners about the notion that they could mount an effective second strike -- and so operationalise the requirements of 'deterrence' as set out by the theorists. It also meant that there were enormous tensions between the imperatives of maintaining effective political control, to minimise the risk of accidental or unauthorised launch, and those of ensuring one's arsenal could not be disabled by surprise attack.

The problem is one that will recur. At one extreme, if only the top political leadership has both the authority and the physical ability to launch the arsenal, eliminating the leadership can disable the arsenal. At the other, if the authority and physical ability to launch nuclear weapons are disseminated sufficiently to give confidence that no surprise attack can disable the arsenal, eventual accidental or unauthorised release will necessarily be a very real danger. All nuclear planners can do is to try to find the optimal compromise between these conflicting requirements.

In the Cold War confrontation, the optimal compromise turned out not to be a very satisfactory one, for both sides. These essentially insoluble problems will be confronted by Iranian nuclear planners, should Iran acquire nuclear weapons. And, given that their arsenal will be limited and their command and control acutely vulnerable, if they are to avoid preemptive or indeed preventive attack they will be driven to devolving authority and physical ability to launch nuclear weapons down the chain of command. To develop counterthreats to American nuclear power for states whose capabilities are vastly inferior to the United States is hardly impossible. But the available means of doing so involve great dangers -- including, in addition to that of accidental or unauthorised release by lower-ranking officers, that of the vulnerability of weapons to capture by terrorists.

The point was made by the Russian commentator Alexander Zaitchik some while back, discussing the notion of a Russian abandonment of the INF Treaty in response to the U.S. missile defence deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.

'If Russia does abandon the treaty,' [Zaitchik wrote] it will likely revive the Oka, a very fast and easily targeted short-range weapon known as the "Kalashnikov of missiles." You really wouldn't want a nuclear-tipped Oka to get commandeered by the wrong sort of people. Even a drooling Qaeda-tard like Richard Reid could probably launch one. Among the serious downsides of any new arms race will be a world awash in more assembled nuclear weapons and material in an age of nuclear terror.'

But, Zaitchik went on to note, Russia 'was not the one leading this new nuclear walz.' And in relation to Iran, I am not saying what the Iranian authorities should do -- faced by a U.S. Administration so partial to ideas of 'regime change', so totally unprepared for serious negotiations, and with so few qualms about the idea of launching all out air strikes, it is not easy to devise sensible policies. The Europeans would be wise to be more independent, but, as with policy towards Russia, tend to find this difficult.

My central point is that, if in fact countering nuclear proliferation was to become the 'central organising principle' of American foreign policy, the changes required would be even more fundamental than Anatol Lieven suggests. Moreover, they would involve rethinking not simply about present policies but about past history. Among the notions needing rethinking, moreover, would be assumptions about the likely stability of relationships based on the balance of nuclear terror over the long term. Such a rethinking however should not lead back to the attempt to cope with potential instabilities by the pursuit of overwhelming nuclear superiority -- the dead end into which Albert Wohlstetter and other theorists led American strategic thinking.

I see no signs of the kind of radical rethinking which is necessary even beginning to happen. I would for instance be very interested to know which if any of the participants in the 'Security First Forum' were familiar are familiar with the work of Blair, Garthoff, or MccGwire, or indeed have any serious grasp of the paradoxes of the intellectual evolution of George Kennan or indeed Paul Nitze: who towards the close of his life accepted the agenda for the abolition of nuclear weapons which he had repudiated when first put forward by Kennan in January 1950. My impression is that Anatol Lieven, for one, does not have such familiarity. But perhaps he has considered the problems I am raising, and dismissed them.
Indeed in my discussions with the Europeans I always reach the same point over and over again:

That they (EU) sleep under the blanket of security that the strategic forces of US have supplied them and, at the same time, totally and completely discount the security concerns of others.

On the Europeans, I do not think I would disagree. Any sane counterproliferation policy would require elements of 'appeasement', as well as 'deterrence' and 'compellence'. But to practice any of these effectively, one needs a serious attempt to understand the threat perceptions of others.

Central questions for everyone involved in discussions about nuclear weapons have to do with the assessment of relative risks. What John Mueller was suggesting in his 'Radioactive hype' article was that the policies that the United States had been adopting in an attempt to counter the possible threats of nuclear proliferation and nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists were both destructive and counterproductive: the cure was worse than the disease. Among other things, he stressed, they actually created incentives for others to acquire nuclear weapons.

That American, and more generally Western, counter proliferation policy has collapsed seems to be reasonably clear. The question is, what to do about it? One line of thought is that really it need not matter, which I think is that to which Mueller (and in part Lieven) incline. And Mueller makes observations which are not obviously foolish. Past anticipations of rapid proliferation have proved to be misleading; the practical difficulties involved in terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons are actually very great; meanwhile, nuclear weapons are generally wanted for deterrence, and given the assumption of reasonable rationality on the part of the states holding them, it can be assumed that nuclear balances are stable.

I think there is some truth in all of this, but it is still highly complacent. On the last point, optimists -- I will call them the nuclear 'sanguines' -- are certainly right to note that the actual use of nuclear weapons would in almost all circumstances be acutely irrational, and to point out that the notion that, for example, the Iranian leadership is irrational is nonsense. But those whom I will call the nuclear 'fearfuls' focus rather on chains of events, the key analogy commonly being with events in Europe in the summer of 1914. This is true, for example, of George Kennan, and also of Michael MccGwire. In fact, it would probably be better to say that they characteristically focus on two kinds of chains of events. One is the kind of very rapid process of spiralling action and counteraction which can be set off by a completely unpredictable event -- such as the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Another is a much slower process of action and reaction, commonly involving competitive military buildups, which creates the context of acute mutual suspicion in which a process of spiralling action and reaction can lead to disaster. One obvious point is that calculations as to what is 'rational' can be transformed in unpredictable ways, either as a result of people coming to conclude that war is inevitable, or because they are left with choices between alternatives so unpleasant that they cease to be able to make rational choices at all. Moreover, people who have to make fateful decisions under acute time pressure may become unable to think rationally.

If one adds to these familiar sceptical arguments the fact that we now know Cold War nuclear arsenals were postured on a 'launch on warning' basis -- also the fact that it continued to be widely believed in the West that the Soviet arsenal was postured for preemption, long after it ceased to be true -- the concerns of the 'fearfuls' hardly seem to have been foolish. And, I think, we ignore these lessons from the Cold War at our peril.

Obviously, nuclear 'fearfuls' lean to the conclusion that the question of the rationality or otherwise of political leaderships is of secondary relevance in assessing nuclear dangers. Accordingly, they are prone to argue -- as both Kennan and MccGwire do -- that only the abolition of nuclear weapons can avert their eventual use. This may indeed be utopian, as Ted Galen Carpenter suggests. But the retort of the 'fearfuls' is that the indefinite maintenance of the existing nuclear double standard is impossible, so that the alternative to abolition is catastrophe. Whether something is utopian or not is a matter in part of political will, and political will in turn is a function of an assessment of the dangers of alternative outcomes.

My suspicion is that the kind of model the nuclear 'fearfuls' characteristically apply actually describes rather well the disastrous blind alley into which Western counter proliferation policy has got itself. Even leaving aside the central question of the double standard, any sensible counter proliferation policy directed at Iran would obviously have needed to balance 'appeasement', 'deterrence' and 'compellence'. It would also have needed to involve elements of 'appeasement' of other powers, including of course Russia, if effective pressure was to be maintained. And this is the case upon which the Europeans, had they not been so incapable of independent action, might have argued. From what you say, I suspect that suspicions in Iran of both the United States and the Europeans may now be so ingrained that it would be too late for 'appeasement'. If this is so, it is possible that the Bush Administration may have backed the United States into a corner, where the only remaining options are accepting a nuclear Iran or attempting to prevent it by military means. Accordingly, they are likely to end up doing what people who have boxed themselves into this kind of corner often do, deluding themselves into greatly underestimating the costs and risks of the military option -- rather as the Germans did in the summer of 1914, or the Japanese in 1941.

On those costs and risks, there are again 'sanguines' and 'fearfuls'. Among those who incline towards the 'fearful' end are retired military men with a great deal of experience in war planning -- such as Colonels Sam Gardiner and W. Patrick Lang. And there are also widespread suspicions -- not least as a result of the patent disinformation about Iran which surfaces regularly in the American and British press -- that a kind of escalating spiral arising from some trivial incident is precisely what Cheney and the neoconservatives are trying to precipitate.
For those interested, Amitai has provided a new response this week to his critics, at NI online.
David Habakkuk:

5 Comments on your generally fine responses:

1- Men are not rational; in 1914 the people of North America and Western Europe were truly the masters of this planet. What more could they have conceivably gained through war except excitement & thrill? Or in the United States the Northerners could have bought the slaves at a very generous price and be done with it; but no – every one wanted war since it was exciting; especially if ones think that one will win.

2- The Western world did not go to war all of a sudden in 1914; the peace interest that underpinned the pre-1914 world was dissolving for a least a decade, perhaps longer, in my opinion. Likewise, the 9/11/2001 attacks on US were part of a series of attacks on US for over a decade. Thus, I am lead to question the entire notion of "a spiraling chain of events set-off by a completely unpredictable event" as a useful analytical concept.

3- I think that you are looking at things from a purely strategic point of view but, in fact, there have been US military plans for using theatre (tactical) nuclear weapons in several areas of the world (not just EU) during the cold war and the local US allies had been so trained.

4- In regards to "suspicions in Iran of both the United States and the Europeans may now be so ingrained..." I think not. I think that Iranian leaders are prepared for a deal but that deal will not be a deal that US-EU could get in 2003, or in 2005, or in 2007. And certainly a Libyan-style deal is a pipe-dream.

5- I have a sense that Americans really expect to someday recover their position in Iran [by hook or crook – I might add] which was lost in 1979 and that some how they will be back. I think that is not possible, the world has changed. Many years ago, James Baker, III, in regards to the Soviet Union before her collapse, observed that he thought that “they” (meaning USSR) would be much better off with three independent Baltic States. Likewise, I should think that US-EU will be much better off with a pricky but independent Iran that is not beholden to Russia, China, India, or any other state
Nicholas Gvosdev:

I have read Professor Etzioni's response, with interest.

A point I am trying to make is that one has look further at the problematic nature of the notion of rationality in assessing nuclear dangers. The fact that 'rational choice' theory has a way of generating arguments that are either tautological or false is important, but not the end of the matter.

Let me quote some recent remarks by Sir Rodric Braithwaite, British Ambassador in Moscow from 1988 to 1992.

"Little more than a year before Gorbachev became general secretary, a foolishly ill-judged NATO exercise (“Able Archer”) simulated a nuclear strike so convincingly that the Soviets began to gear themselves up for retaliation. Appalled at the prospect of nuclear war by accident, Gorbachev took his courage in both hands, and sought a negotiation with Ronald Reagan, the archpriest of anti-communism. Luckily for him, Reagan turned out to share his intense dislike of the nuclear weapon - to the dismay of both men’s professional advisers."

The presumption behind the thinking of the Western planners involved was that it was self-evident that Soviet military strategy was offensive in intention, so that their own contingency planning would be recognised by Soviet planners as defensive. That this was not the case was pointed out in a long despatch sent by Kennan during his brief period as ambassador in Moscow in the dying days of Stalin's rule -- a document reproduced in full in the second volume of his memoirs, published in 1972, and available on the web at As he summarizes its central argument in the memoirs:

'the Russians, many disagreeable and disturbing aspects of their behaviour notwithstanding, had had no intention of attacking Western Europe in those postwar years, and thought we must have known it. For this reason, the manner in which NATO was formed and presented to the Western public, i.e. as a response to the “Soviet threat” and as a “deterrent” to Soviet aggression, mystified them and caused them to search for some hidden motive in our policy.'

And this, he goes on to suggest, was ‘to bring to a head a military conflict with the Soviet Union as soon as the requisite strength had been created on the Western side.’

In his 1958 study of Soviet Military Strategy in the Nuclear Age, Raymond Garthoff discussed an article published in June 1950 in the confidential Soviet journal Military Thought, laying out Soviet strategy in a future war. In this article, Major-General V. Khlopov referred to ‘powerful offensive operations on a large scale with a high tempo of advance’, with the intention that ‘the bridgehead on which the American militarists count to concentrate and deploy their forces for land engagements will be liquidated and their plans for [winning] the war will be buried with it.’ And Garthoff also noted that Soviet discussions of Western strategy 'do not reflect awareness of the Western object of deterrence', and went on to observe that it would be feasible for the Soviets 'to note but deny in their propaganda the need for deterrence.'

Obviously, the evidence is ambiguous. It is consistent with an interpretation according to which the Soviets are concealing offensive intentions between defensive rhetoric, and actually know that Western plans are defensive. It is also consistent with an interpretation according to which Soviet planning is defensive in intent, and they genuinely believe that it is Western strategy that is offensive. If one adopts the first interpretation, one can leave problems of mutual misperception out of the study of nuclear strategy. If one assumes the second, then problems of perception -- and also, problems of interpreting ambiguous evidence about perception -- ought to be at the heart of the study of nuclear strategy, and security studies in general. And, further, as the misperceptions involved are ours as well as theirs, one is brought up sharply against the possibility that rational actors working within a framework of erroneous assumptions are liable to produce catastrophe: as indeed the planners of 'Able Archer' came close to doing.

The assumption that the Soviets were concealing offensive intentions behind defensive protestations was not adopted by Western strategic studies theorists after a review of the evidence; it was simply taken as self-evident, and I have yet to see any such theorist give a cogent discussion of the problems raised by Kennan and Garthoff back in the Fifties.

Commonly, the assumption that Soviet intentions must have been offensive rests upon the assumption that Western strategies were self-evidently defensive. If one reads the key NSC 68 paper of April 1950, however, one finds that the very definition of 'containment' includes both inducing 'a retraction of the Kremlin's control and influence', and fostering the 'seeds of destruction within the Soviet system'. And indeed, 'containment' is defined as a strategy of 'calculated and gradual coercion.'

As to how significant these goals were, and how NSC 68's authors thought they were to be achieved, these are point about which one can argue. But it is simply intellectually dishonest to ignore what is there in the documents. As an old Cold War liberal, with a deep distaste for Jacobin politics of all kinds, I can easily respect people who say that given the appalling nature of the Stalinist tyranny the agendas of 'rollback' and 'liberation' were justified. But people who construct interpretations of the role of nuclear weapons in the Cold War on the basis of assumptions of self-evidently defensive Western intentions in flagrant disregard of the evidence deserve I think contempt.


There is very much food for thought in your observations. A few points. You suggest that 'US-EU will be much better off with a pricky but independent Iran that is not beholden to Russia, China, India, or any other state.' I agree. It seems to me a basic principle of a sane strategy alike for Americans and Europeans not to encourage the development of coalitions of enemies. So, both the US and the EU ought to be careful to refrain from encouraging a Russian-Chinese rapprochement, and certainly should not want to see Iran become closer to an SCO block. Similarly, it is lunacy to lump diverse movements such as Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas together.

I think it may well be the case that many Americans cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that the pre-1979 world cannot be restored in relation to Iran. Certainly, many in the U.S., and also Britain, cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that the compliant Russia of the Yeltsin years cannot be restored. I think that part of the problem here arises from the delusions of omnipotence encouraged by misreadings of the retreat and collapse of Soviet power. On this, Robert English's recent National Interest article Lessons from the Bloc is excellent.

I think you are partly right on human irrationality. I think that 1914 -- and in particular German actions in the summer of that year -- reflected a strange mixture. The element of longing for 'Der Tag' was very great, and certainly had parallels elsewhere. But there were also genuine dilemmas, precipitated by strains created in the great empires which had traditionally ruled Eastern Europe under the strains of nationalism. I think German fears about rise of Russian military power and its coming further into Europe if the Hapsburg Empire went the way of the Ottoman were not without foundation. However, German leaders fooled themselves into believing that they had a military option which did not involve unacceptable risks. And this, I think, was partly due to the delusions of omnipotence created by the extraordinary feats of German arms in the Bismarckian era. I fear similar delusions may be prevalent in Washington in relation to Iran today. And here, I am not reassured by Professor Etzioni's article. He seems to both to assume that Ahmadinejad is a lunatic, which is questionable, and that he is in control of Iranian policy, which is false. He also seems to me to come close to taking for granted that there is a strategy which can prevent an Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. Whether this is any longer the case seems to me a moot point. The U.S. is facing a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, and accordingly it is important that the rational people weigh relative risks with great care. Unless they do so, the lunatics may lead us into complete disaster.
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