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Friday, August 25, 2006

Did You Say Woof?

Israel's predicament of being surrounded by neighbors that fervently want to destroy it reminds me of "The Story of the Czar, the Rabbi, and the Dog":
The Czar appointed a brutal and ruthless minister to govern an area in western Russia. The minister learned that there was a highly esteemed rabbi in one of the Jewish communities in his area, and wishing to assert control over that community via intimidation, called in the revered and elderly rabbi. "If you are so wise," taunted the minister, "how about teaching my dog to talk? If you succeed, I'll let you live. If you fail, I'll have to kill you." The rabbi replied, "I accept your challenge. I can teach your dog to talk in a year."

When the rabbi later told his wife and students about his decision, they were astounded: "How could you say you could teach the dog to talk?"

The rabbi's answer was definitive: "A lot can happen in a year. In a year, the minister could die. In a year, the Czar might replace the minister. In a year, I could die. In a year, the dog could die. In a year, I could teach the dog to talk."
As a quick aside, as an entrepreneur, I know of several small companies (not any of mine, of course) in dire circumstances that have used similar reasoning to make future promises that they almost certainly would not be able to keep, because hey, a lot can happen in a year.

In the middle east, the rabbi represents Israel, the Czar is Israel's muslim neighbors, getting the dog to talk represents getting Israel's neighbors to accept its existence, the minister represents Iran, and the year represents the time until Iran has a sufficient nuclear arsenal to critically damage Israel.

In case you think that Israel might be safe if Iran had nuclear weapons, lets consider some statements made by Iran's President Ahmadinejad.
From the Washington Post regarding the conflict in Lebanon: "Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented,"

From CBS News: "So we are asking why the American government is blindly supporting this murderous regime [Israel]."

From the New York Times: "Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime [Israel] must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement."
It looks to me like these statements are representative not only of President Ahmadinejad, but of a majority of the people in power in Iran. Possibly even worse, President Ahmadinejad believes in the 12th Imam, a messianic figure, who will "return to save the world when it had descended into chaos", and "that humans can stir up chaos to encourage him to return." Bombing Israel with nukes and the expected retaliation by Israel might be just what the doctor ordered in order to stir up adequate chaos to get Mr. Twelve Imam (aka Muhammed al-Mahdi) to save the world. To be clear here, the expected retaliation by Israel is a feature of, not a bug in, the plan.

But since Israel cannot conquer the entire middle east, it has little choice but to hope it can teach the dog to talk. After all, a lot can happen in the remaining time. In that time, Ahmadinejad and the believers in Mr. 12th could die. In that time, Iran might be replaced by someone else as the regional hegemon. In that time, the current citizens of Israel might die of old age (and many of them are childless, so what do they care what happens after that?). In that time, Iran's nuclear weapon program might be dismantled by shrewd European negotiation. In that time, maybe Israel's neighbors will learn to be willing to live in peace with it.

In that time, maybe Israel could teach the dog to talk.


Oroborous said...

Iran's nuclear programme is pretty slow-moving. Even if they could get two nukes by, say, 2010, the one remaining after testing isn't going to do much except guarantee that the area formerly known as Iran will be designated on future maps as "the glowing sea of glass".

It'll be an easy decade before they could potentially have a dozen or more nukes, and accurate missiles with which to deliver them.

By that time, Ahmadinejad may well have been replaced by someone less apocalyptic.

Plus, Israel has the Patriot III anti-missile defense system, which is decent against ballistic missiles, and in a decade they'll have something even better.
What is Iran launches a dozen nukes, and only two get through ?

Then they do relatively little damage, but exhaust their arsenal, and the entire world supports Israel when they counter-strike.

Maybe uncertainty will keep Iran from acting, even if they do get powerful enough for it to be a realistic option.

Also, Iran has their own looming problems. Their population is very young, and growing, and their oil reserves are dwindling rapidly.
They really could use some nuclear power stations, and not just a cover for a military nuke programme, since apparently Iran has plentiful deposits of uranium, and they'd be able to cut domestic use of petroleum and natural gas.

Sometime during the next two decades, Iran will be at the peak of their power relative to Israel. If they don't act then, their power will decrease, as Israel's continues to increase (since Israel is a technical innovator, and Iran is not). So if they can be persuaded or prevented from acting fairly soon, they may never act.

Bret said...

It sounds like you're agreeing that Israel should try to teach the dog to talk and stall for time. Sure.

I also agree that Iran's civilian story for nuclear power is plausible. The using plutonium part isn't really though.

We'll see. It is exciting though.

Oroborous said...

"Exciting" - LOL

I'd say more like frightening and irritating, but I guess that it's all a matter of taste and interpretation.

Iran's actions certainly validate my basic outlook on life, i.e., "strength through superior firepower", and point up the weaknesses of the philosophy of those who prefer "soft power" and diplomacy over spending on arms.

I'm all for talking first, but I prefer to negotiate with an "or we'll destroy you" fallback. Like Microsoft.