Is Iran Rational?

Though it is as old as the debate about the Iranian nuclear program itself, the question now seems more apt than ever. The usual phrasing is whether Iran is truly bent on destruction or on the verge of becoming a modern-day Soviet Union, i.e., a nuclear power that can be deterred by mutually assured destruction (leave aside whether you believe the current or potential future occupants of the White House would, in fact, respond in such a fashion). On the one hand are people who point out that, though the Soviets were power-hungry totalitarians, they wanted to live and knew that using nukes was a suicide pact…

  • luna

    If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles… if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. -Sun Tzu

    Notice, he didn’t say mutually assured destruction is always the best tactic.

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    • Billy Bob Thornton

      This is more accurate quote of Sun Tzu regarding nations that are used to ongoing war. “There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare”. – Sun Tzu. Therefore, the US does not benefit from fighting war after war. It is bad for them in the long run.

      • luna

        Thanks, but I think the emphasis is on *prolonged*.

        Here is an earlier quote on the same topic: “What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations.”

  • Xavier

    The same question has occurred to me but with different parameters. Iran has parlayed rabid anti-antisemitism into concessions time and time again; its sworn enemy, Israel, is its most lucrative cash, power, and weapons generator as the world attempts to appease Iran.

    So will an insane Iran destroy their most useful enemy and bring down the wrath of the world by using nuclear weapons against Israel? Or is Iran simply following their version of the North Korean approach to foreign policy, i.e. constant threats and bluster to achieve their goals?

    I think they’re crazy. Crazy like a fox.

    • marty_p

      One thing for sure – they know damn well Israel has a couple of nuclear cruise missile equipped Dolphin subs sitting on their doorstep.

      • Xavier

        I generally don’t get positive responses on the following opinion, but I’ll repeat it anyway.

        If Israel would establish military policy that if the country was about the be destroyed or there was a complete breakdown in their command structure communications (probably in the event of an overwhelming attack) that every local commander had instructions to act independently and launch their entire arsenal against preselected targets in Iran, regardless of the aggressor. Saudi Arabia attacks Israel? Iran dies. Egypt attacks Israel? Iran dies. Russia attacks Israel? Iran dies.

        Israel’s last earthly action would be to wipe every trace of Iran from the face of the earth, for the good of humanity, and make it open and proud policy. Essentially Israel would hold Iran hostage, forever.

        And the outcome of such a policy? If Iran believed Israel would carry out this threat – and given that this would be a last gasp strike, there wouldn’t be any way to retaliate against a non-existent Israel – then Iran would be forced to become Israel’s protector, or at least step in to ensure the survival of Israel if their existence was threatened.

        Now I don’t have the foreign policy acumen of Obama and Kerry. But I do think Bibi has brass balls, and if Israel can make the Iranians believe they’re serious it could work.

        • Justin St.Denis

          That is a very interesting take on things. My own mind has wandered down these alleyways. My only reservation is Iranian religious fervour and their belief in the return of the 14th imam, which may make mutually assured destruction the actual GOAL of Iranian policy.

          • Xavier

            Yes, that’s a valid point. I don’t think everyone in Iran has that perspective but if the people in charge of the weapons think that way then other opinions don’t matter, do they?

            This leads back to another comment I made earlier about knowing your enemy. We (people living in a white Anglo Saxon Christian culture) have entirely an entirely different value system and set of strengths and weakness than Arabs. We must learn to use their weaknesses and fears against them – just as they have used terrorism against our cultural weak points.

          • Justin St.Denis

            Precisely. On both points.

            Religious fervour is, by definition, irrational. The West understands this and marginalizes its own irrational cults. In the ME, the semi-literate hordes do not understand this, and irrationality (religious fervour) can be mainstreamed, and is. This is the intrinsic threat of any ‘caliphate’ to the West.

            Seal sang it well. “We ain’t never gonna survive, Unless we put a lid on crazy.”

        • Exile1981

          For years Israel had a couple of F-15’s loaded with Nukes and sitting idle on the runway just for that sort of contingency. Not sure if that is still official policy.

    • Iran is playing North Korea’s card? Interesting. I can actually see it.

      However, sooner or later Israel and even Saudi Arabia will tire of that. The South Koreans never seem to.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Iran cannot be deterred. They are rational to the extent they can promote the idea that they are both rational and irrational to the west. And they fully understand that the west will always back down eventually. In short order not only will they announce they’re a nuclear state they will hint that some of their weapons are under the control of groups outside of Iran.

  • Um, no.

  • Martin B

    The mad mullahs definitely have a sense of self-preservation. Ayatollah Khomeini spent his whole life shouting “Death to Israel! Death to America! Death to infidels! Death! Death! Death!” but he died peacefully of old age in his bed. All the other Ayatollahs intend to do the same.

    The threat of obtaining nukes is a tremendously useful bargaining chip to get concessions from the Great Satan, especially when they’re dealing with traitors & imbeciles like Obama & Kerry.