Friday, February 18, 2011

Comment o' the Day: Kill Or Be Killed [Wretchard]


Israel has been in [a kill-or-be-killed] position, more or less, for six-plus decades now, and that’s just the modern state. Yet the Israelis, who are there already at ‘kill or be killed’, do not kill. One would think that peace-loving folks might grant a small nod of recognition to that.

Why would anyone believe, even for a moment, that any Western state could “pre-emptively” nuke the Muslim world when it cannot muster the will to secure its borders, balance its budget, get Pakistan to release a diplomat or get Argentina to release a C-17′s cargo load of equipment? That would be like thinking that man who can’t run 50 yards can run the 100 meter dash in 9.5 seconds.

The path to nukes is far more probably going to take the path of use in desperation. And in fact a country which secured its borders, drilled for its own oil, got Pakistan to release diplomats, and did the normal things would be the only kind of country which might use nukes pre-emptively because it conceive of such a strategy. Yet ironically it would be the kind of country that wouldn’t have to attack pre-emptively. The idea of country going straight from supine behavior to nuking pre-emptively is a fantasy built on the awareness of weakness. Solve the weakness and then your enemies will consider you capable of pre-emption. But guess what: solve the weakness and you won’t have to pre-empt. They will back away.

This is all elementary game theory; and tried, true and hoary deterrence theory. Be strong and you won’t need to use nukes. Be weak and you’ll use them for sure.

The problem of radical Islam is the problem of Western weakness. That is the problem to which the policy nuking Muslims is an impertinent answer. Who’s going to do it? Obama? And yet if Obama lost the next election in favor of someone who might actually resist, then the probability of having to pre-empt declines dramatically.

The logical problem is that any strategy which requires pre-emptively nuking the Islamic world implies a President who is too weak to do it anyway. But that doesn’t mean it might not happen. As I’ve argued ad nauseam, the biggest danger to nuclear use, in both the Israeli and general Western case, is via the act in desperation.

As long as Israel’s strategic position is strong, it will not unleash the nukes. But only in its dying gasp will that be certain. So what do the geniuses at State do? Bring Israel to the point of strategic death.

For the same reasons, the weaker Obama makes America the more its enemies are emboldened. Yet this does not bring pre-emption closer. That becomes more and more unthinkable until the last push, when desperation takes hold. Then the probabilities go from near zero to near 1.

The Pakistanis and even the rapists in Tahrir Square are testing, testing. And they are finding no resistance. Therefore they will push and sooner or later, they will push too far. Why not since no stop signal will be received from the Smartest Man in the World.

Then when things go too far, desperation, not calculation, will unleash the Apocalypse. It’s happened before. In 1939. It’s not impossible, just conveniently forgotten. The Western elite are like the Bourbons, who remember everything and have learned nothing.

Me, I’ll take the bottle and forget the dynasty.

Hat tip: D&S.

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