Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Nuclear Lunacy from the Monastic Comfort of Purdue University

Seldom do I get sufficiently worked-up by a newspaper OpEd piece to drop what I expected to write about and fume without waiting for the customary drop of a hat. Louis Rene Beres, a professor at Purdue, dropped his hat and my jaw, simultaneously, on the OpEd pages of the Christian Science Monitor.


Louisreneberes Seldom do I get sufficiently worked-up by a newspaper OpEd piece to drop what I expected to write about and fume without waiting for the customary drop of a hat. Louis Rene Beres, a professor at Purdue, dropped his hat and my jaw, simultaneously, on the OpEd pages of the Christian Science Monitor.

Unless there is a timely defensive first strike at pertinent elements of Iran's expanding nuclear infrastructures, it will acquire nuclear weapons. The consequences would be intolerable and unprecedented.

The Monitor describes the author thusly; Louis Rene Beres, a professor of international law at Purdue University, is the author of many works on nuclear strategy.

Which is a very large part of my angry reaction, because Beres is far more than that and the Monitor owes its readership a better and more straightforward explanation. What follows is Purdue University’s description of its resident professor of political science;

"Louis René Beres lectures and publishes widely on matters of terrorism, strategy and international law. The author of several early books on nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, he is closely involved with Israeli security issues, and is Chair of "Project Daniel," a group advising Israel's Prime Minister on existential nuclear questions. The group's final report, Israel's Strategic Future, has been the subject of several dozen editorial columns in some of the world's leading magazines and newspapers. Professor Beres advocates a pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. He justified the loss of Iranian lives on moral and legal grounds in order to protect Israeli lives in the case of a potential Iranian attack on Israel. Professor Beres' most recent articles have appeared in International Security (Harvard), and in the Policy Paper series of the Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel). His opinion columns appear in such major newspapers as The New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Chicago Tribune, Indianapolis Star, The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz (Israel)."

That puts quite a different face on it. His OpEd title, The Case for Strikes Against Iran, might more accurately be titled, Project Daniel, the Israeli Case for Strikes Against Iran.

It is not a minor difference for a professor at an American university to urge preemptive war against Iran without full disclosure of the author’s prejudices. Beres rants,

A nuclear Iran would not resemble any other nuclear power. There could be no stable "balance of terror" involving that Islamic Republic. Unlike nuclear threats of the cold war, which were governed by mutual assumptions of rationality and mutual assured destruction, a world with a nuclear-armed Iran could explode at any moment.

Not resemble, shall we say, Pakistan, which as any professor of political science worth his salt would readily agree is a disinterested bystander on the stage of world politics, free of all Islamic influence  and an credible protector and defender of Israel. If there is irony in that statement, it is Beres's and not mine. Iran has suddenly, and almost entirely due to its current holocaust-denier president, become the focus of all who would cry wolf on behalf of Israel.

Ideally, a diplomatic settlement with Iran could be taken seriously. But in the real world, we must compare the price of prompt preemptive action against Iran with the costs of both: (1) inaction; and (2) delayed military action. To be sure, all available options are apt to be injurious.

One wonders what real world Beres lives within. Is West Lafayette, Indiana so far from the mainstream of American political reality that the professor has failed to recognize the ‘price’ of the latest preemptive action;

  • 3,500 dead American soldiers--and counting
  • 100,000 American military casualties beyond that--and counting
  • A half-million Iraqis dead and/or wounded--and counting
  • A broken American military
  • Worldwide disdain for our political policies
  • Untold future costs in human and economic capital

Those who don't have much of an intellectual argument and lacking the ability to debate, usually stamp their feet and contend for speed. Quickly, they say.

We must act very quickly on Iran. Many critics will argue that the expected consequences of any prompt preemptive strike would be overwhelming, including greatly expanded terror attacks against assorted Western targets, and perhaps regional or even global war. Although such dire prospects should not be dismissed, there is certainly no reason to believe that an American or Israeli preemption would make them more likely.

Acting very quickly on Iran is code for before Bush-Cheney are gone and a reality-based presidency takes over. Claiming that dire prospects should not be dismissed, Beres promptly dismisses them. Certainly our experience preemptively hasn’t made an attack on West Lafayette more likely, although the jury is still out on nearby Chicago.

He justified the loss of Iranian lives on moral and legal grounds in order to protect Israeli lives in the case of a potential Iranian attack on Israel.

In the case of potential. He actually presents to us, his justification for killing innocent Iranians as being worth it—in case. It is minds like Beres’s that have convinced an increasing portion of the world that Israel has established a truly fascist state for itself as a safe haven against the fascist states it fled.

“Never again,” a slogan that once resonated throughout the free world, has been cheapened and denigrated by an Israeli policy that came to mean never again for Israelis only. This ‘advisor to the Israeli prime minister’ thereby exempts Lebanese, Palestinians and now Iranians from ‘never again’ to the status of ‘soon as possible.’

Israel is either worth American concern or it is not.

Personally (and unlike professor Beres), I firmly believe that peace in the Middle East and a restructuring of Islamic-Western understanding depends less on preemption than it does on university professors, presidents and secretaries of State getting down to the work at hand. The work at hand is creating a Palestine that’s self-governing and economically robust. That could have been accomplished decades ago.

Palestine and Kurdistan (the next Palestine) are remnants of Western ignorance, dereliction and arrogance after the First and Second World Wars. If you’re looking for the butler who did it, look first toward the homeland of butlers, England.

Drawing lines across far-off lands from drawing-rooms in the English countryside may be unaccountable to professors idling among the pastoral environs of corn-fed Indiana.

Yet one particularly hawkish son-of-a-bitch among them, would have us redress those Western stupidities by yet another—preemptive war.
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