Doctor Ahmadinejad or how I learned to ignore the BOMB.

Iran has the bomb! No, it doesn’t (yet). But would the world be such a different place if it did?

I have wanted to write an entry on that for at least half a year, even before Iran’s current leader came into power. It was supposed to be an advocatus diaboli piece,  in which I would have asked ‘Iran gets the bomb – so what?’

Basically, I have been thinking about proliferation – and how atomic knowledge, after over 50 years, is becoming more and more widespread. In fact, most of the KNOWLEDGE of building a bomb is readily available to anyone, and many hundred thousands of scientists all over the world would be capable of building one, given free access to the materials.

So the logical end result (though not necessarily today, or in 50 years) is that anti-proliferation is going to fail. At some point, every substantial nation may well have nukes, just as any nation in earlier times tried to have battleships or jet fighters.

Yet obviously nuclear bombs change everything. They are kinda EXTREME weapons. Or do they change anything? Arch-enemies Pakistan and India had them for years and years now, without using them. And the cold war probably never turned hot because of nukes (not that it spared the Afghanis or the Vietnamese).

And then there is Iran, which I recently realized I was still very naive about (reading too much Newsweek and then believing you got the whole picture). Turns out that its current president Ahmadinejad was one of the leaders of the movement which sent thousands of children into the war against Iraq as human minefield detonators. Can we hope that such a person will use nukes responsibly (i.e. does NOT use them, except as a threat)?

The article about ‘Ahmadinejad’s Demons’ is here (TNR magazine, free registration required – but well worth it for all kinds of articles). Basically it talks about how he was one of the leaders of the ‘Basji’ movement, which then was a kind of big propaganda machine intended to secure cannon fodder for the front, and nowadays has become one of Ahmadinejad’s main power bases.

An little excerpt (though intentionally an extreme one, I’ll admit): “At one point, however, the earthly gore became a matter of concern. “In the past,” wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettelaat as the war raged on, “we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the minefields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again, there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone.” Such scenes would henceforth be avoided, Ettelaat assured its readers. “Before entering the minefields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves.””

And: “Ahmadinejad revels in his alliance with the Basiji. He regularly appears in public wearing a black-and-white Basij scarf, and, in his speeches, he routinely praises “Basij culture” and “Basij power,” with which he says “Iran today makes its presence felt on the international and diplomatic stage.” Ahmadinejad’s ascendance on the shoulders of the Basiji means that the Iranian Revolution, launched almost three decades ago, has entered a new and disturbing phase. A younger generation of Iranians, whose worldviews were forged in the atrocities of the Iran-Iraq War, have come to power, wielding a more fervently ideological approach to politics than their predecessors. The children of the Revolution are now its leaders.”

The children of the Revolution? Well those who survived by sending others ahead, I guess. That (even if it is quite cycnial) is my hope: that Ahmadinejad is smart enough NOT to use the bomb, even if he truly hates Israel, Iraq and the US so much.

So what do you people think? Can we have more nations join the nuclear club all the time? And can we do something about it anyway?

15 thoughts on “Doctor Ahmadinejad or how I learned to ignore the BOMB.

  1. That (even if it is quite cycnial) is my hope: that Ahmadinejad is smart enough NOT to use the bomb, even if he truly hates Israel, Iraq and the US so much.

    If by “smart”, you mean “intelligent”, I would guess that Ahmadinejad is pretty intelligent, to have got where he is.  But if you mean “rational”, as in “realizing that there are other things of value in the world than the 72 virgins waiting for him if he dies in glorious jihad”, then I’m not so sure.  Perhaps Ahmadinejad is not so sure either.  The United States has pretty much used up it’s moral high ground in the Middle East, so we’re in a bad position to bargain with fundamentalists, except with threats, which have not proven very effective against people willing to blow up themselves and their children.

    In any case, it’s a nasty situation all around.  Let’s hope no nukes are used by anyone.

  2. Well all that allows me to sleep at night is the fact that neither India nor Pakistan are theocracies. Iran on the other hand…. Even if they are not a theocracy right now ( I dont really know ) there is very little garuantee that there will not be an Islamic revolution tomorrow. Nuclear weapons in the hands of fundamentalist are extremely bad news. No government with even a modicum of self preservation would dare to use nuclear weapons in todays world but if you think there are 72 virgins waiting…….
      On the larger issue of nuclear proliferation I think the only solution is global dis-armament(sp?) with rigorous enforcment. Thats not going to happen any time soon.
      Has anyone seen the last episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos? He has some interesting if somewhat outdated views on this issue.

  3. Julian, Iran is very much an Islamic (Shi’ite) theocracy right now. As for the 72 virgins thing, Ahmadinejad is far more interested in bringing about the return of the 12th Imam than in the supposed 72 virgins. I say supposed because, as usual, the virgins are discussed by and focused on far more by westerners than by the Muslim extremists themselves. Seriously, if Muslims blow themselves up for virgins, why do the non-Muslim Tamil Tigers blow themselves up!?

  4. All it’s got me is a bit worried. The reality, as I see it, is that a disturbing, deluded and grandoise form of living (fundamentalist religious) has taken root. I would trust any other mind in the world over the one that is prone to sincerely believing in a moral high-ground.

  5. I guess the real question here is: should the west intervene (militarily) to stop Iran?

    And if not, will Israel do it?

    Personally, I am very ambigious on it. The short/mid-term consequences might be positive (no nukes in Irans hands). But the political fallout? It feels like a lose-lose situation.

  6. I guess the real question here is: should the west intervene (militarily) to stop Iran?

    Well, as far as I’m concerned the answer is:NO.

    And if not, will Israel do it?

    Yes, absolutely (even if the US does intervene, I believe Israel will too… Possibly, an effort in cooperation with the US, but most certainly covertly on their own as well).

    Personally, I am very ambiguous on it… It feels like a lose-lose situation.

    Am I a doom’s day expectant?  In the end, if Iran really wants “the bomb,” I believe they will get it. I also tend to lean toward the philosophy that humankind is quickly racing toward planet wide annihilation of all complex life forms.

    On the larger issue of nuclear proliferation I think the only solution is global disarmament with rigorous enforcement. Thats not going to happen any time soon.

    I completely agree: global disarmament with rigorous enforcement, but it’s not gonna happen soon enough to prevent more world wide catastrophe (political, environmental or otherwise).  Unfortunately, we as a species are ignorant and selfish (my individual view is the only right viewpoint).  We will have to be on the brink of extinction ourselves (never mind the rest of life on this planet) before any unified, cooperative effort is made. And, I fearfully believe it will be too little, too late.

  7. We will have to be on the brink of extinction ourselves (never mind the rest of life on this planet) before any unified, cooperative effort is made. And, I fearfully believe it will be too little, too late.

    Wow, Les, is your wife always this cheerful?  Unfortunately, I’m afraid she’s right. rolleyes

  8. The human race may be (or is always) on the brink of some major sewage hitting the fan, but extinction?  Very unlikely.  Humans are nothing if not adaptable, and no single characteristic is more conducive to survival of a species (think rats and cockroaches, not exactly warm-fuzzy company).

  9. Exactly, DOF. I lean more towards the Heinleinian view. Humanity is dang tough (and apparently, the Earth is as well).

    One of the most memorable scenes from Heinleins books was actually in one of his childrens stories (Have spacesuit, will travel?): The kid gets taken to a sort of intergalactic UN (but with a bit more teeth apparently), who – in his presence – debate about whether they should extinguish the human race (for being too belligerent and unpredictable!) by snuffing out the sun.

    Well, the kid basically threatens that the human race would rather build itself its own fucking new sun rather than just die out!

    No, we are not gonna exterminate ourselves. Even worldwide nuclear war would not do that. Wipe out enough civilization to set us back to neolithic times? Possible, but rather unlikely. And in terms of evolution, the last few thousand years are just a blip, which we could easily repeat, given the same biological makeup and intelligence (hopefully not to blow ourselves up AGAIN).

    But again, thats just Mad Max fantasies. The only real threat to humanities survival, in my eyes, is a planet-killer space object colliding with us. And in a few thousand years, even that will be too late to shut us up. We will be gone wink

  10. Or maybe an alien invasion. Not kidding that much, its probably one of the only ways an intelligent species can be really destroyed. Or relegated to pet status (if any aliens come along while we are still here, they ARE going to be massively advanced).

    Again, not gonna happen. There ARE aliens out there, but the chances of them ever meeting up with us in the small (cosmologically speaking) blink of time that we are intelligent and yet stuck here, those are almost infinitely small.

    Okay, I really bent this thread a bit… grin

  11. I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that we could wipe ourselves out completely if we do something particularly stupid, but I don’t see it as the most probable outcome either.

    What I do see as a likely possibility is us screwing things up enough that a lot of folks die needlessly and painfully if not primarily through some accident or human caused natural calamity then through the wars of survival that take place after such an event. I hold out hope that we’re not so fat and lazy that we don’t recognize the signs before it’s too late to do much about it, but it’s easy to get discouraged when you pay attention to what’s going on in the news.

    My wife has an even harder time with willfully stupid people than I do so she tends to get more than a little pessimistic when she thinks about the idiocy presented by her fellow humans.

  12. sick

    Ok, maybe we will not completely annihilate ourselves as a race. 

    However,I think that not only is it possibly, but it is seriously likely that our species is going to cause (and soon) some serious world wide calamity that wipes a good chunk of not only human life, but the totality of life on the planet OUT.

    However, I do realize (despite my previous doom’s day banter) that the human race will continue to exist if not “prevail.”  I can only hope that after the “set back” stage and scramble for survival; we will achieve a more benign global society and

    note: I say more, not total… because I believe that humans (as a whole) are not willing or possibly not capable of putting individual fears, wants and (ethical and/or religious/spiritual) beliefs aside for the greater good of all. Humans are selfish. Utopia is not possible for the human race.

    environmental friendly existence. However, I do not believe we as a race can accomplish this more benign global society without that planet wide destructive event and a world population reduction of over half the human race.

    *I also earnestly believe that I will not be a survivor should that cataclysmic event take place in my life time.* downer

  13. So you mean we do HAVE to have that all-destructive event? Why? Because we need it to purify us? Because only that way we can learn?

    Sorry, but I think thats approaching humanity wrong. As a species I don’t think we ‘learn’ to behave resonsibly, except in two ways – by becoming more civilized in our societies (and if we all get blown back to the stone age, that isn’t gonna happen – subsistence farmers don’t treat the land with respect either)

    or:

    Maybe in the real long run (talking of tens of thousands of years here) by evolving into a better species (not necessarily more moral, just even more capable of surviving as a species, rather than just as individuals).

    As for surviving that big calamity, if it ever happens – its so dependant on luck. While obviously your own preparations, as well as physical and mental capabilities of survival would be important, random chance is much more so. Live in a target zone (and who knows what those will be?)? Chances drop strongly. Live in some place where the after-the-bomb leaders turn out to be capable of pulling things together reasonably? Your chances go up (at least compared to people who have to compete in a total free for all). Its just chance.

    But I don’t think those dice will roll for the civilized, richer nations. War and destruction are a thing that (on a wider scale at least) has become limited to the poor and instable places.

  14. “There is no telling what our world would now be like had some great kingdom of Reason emerged at the time of the Crusades and pacified the credulous multitudes of Europe and the Middle East. We might have had modern democracy and the Internet by the year 1600.

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