The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'nuclear war'


Why hasn't Osama bin Laden attempted any terrorist attacks on US soil since 2001? Some say that it's because the US has threatened to nuke Mecca, the Islamic holy city, if such an attack ever happens again; this, in theory, makes an attack against the US unthinkable:

"Israel recognizes that the Aswan Dam is Egypt's Damoclean Sword," writes Wheeler. "There is no possibility whatever of Egypt's winning a war with Israel, for if Aswan is blown, all of inhabited Egypt is under 20 feet of water. Once the Israelis made this clear to the Egyptians, the possibility of any future Egyptian attack on Israel like that of 1948, 1967, and 1972 is gone."

The argument for this proposition includes the reasoning that the true reason for invading Afghanistan and Iraq was to demonstrate that the US is not afraid to use force, even, perhaps, when the reasoning behind doing so is dubious; which appears to be an echo of Richard Nixon's madman theory of geopolitics; that if you act like you're dangerously insane, others will fear and respect you and give you wide berth; assuming that they're not even more irrational, that is.

Wheeler says bin Laden is "playing poker with a Texas cowboy holding the nuclear aces," so there's nothing al-Qaida could do that could come remotely close to risking obliterating Mecca.

There are a few problems with this reasoning: on the other hand, if the US was to nuke Mecca, all hell would break loose; there is no way that such an attack would not start a catastrophic war between the West and the Islamic world. There'd be suicide bombers martyring themselves in every Western city, not to mention the militaries of every country from Indonesia to Algeria uniting against the Great Satan and its minions. This would be the apocalyptic World War 3 that didn't happen against the USSR. As such, whether the Whitehouse and Pentagon would be willing to bring on the apocalypse if a few hundred of its citizens were killed with bombs is somewhat more dubious a proposition. Secondly, the strategy of making such a threat presupposes that al-Qaeda are rational agents and not, say, religious nutters spoiling for an apocalyptic global war or something. It could well be that bin Laden would see such a claim not as a threat but as a promise of greater glory than he could otherwise attain.

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The principle of preemptive self-defense gains more followers: North Korea assert its right to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on the US rather than waiting for the US to invade them after they've conquered Iraq:

"The United States says that after Iraq, we are next", said the deputy director Ri Pyong-gap, "but we have our own countermeasures. Pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US."

Perhaps the sissified, effeminate world of multilateralism and negotiation wasn't so useless after all? Oh well, too late now.

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