[FoRK] Upmanship / Pandering

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Tue Apr 22 12:48:00 PDT 2008

On Apr 22, 2008, at 1:33 PM, Aaron Burt wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 22, 2008 at 12:26:13PM -0500, Jeff Bone wrote:
>> I applaud Hillary for her clarity on this issue.
> I think she should also address the possibility of Iceland attacking
> Canada.

Clearly you misunderstand the message.

Assume:  the US and the world are unable to prevent Iran from  
acquiring nuclear weapons.
Assume:  as stated, Iran wishes to see Israel destroyed, and would  
employ nukes to do so
Assume:  Iran has no delivery capability that would allow for first  
strike on US (nearly a fact)
Fact:  Iran does have first strike capability within the region
Assume:  Iran has or obtains intel regarding the location and  
fortifications of Israel's nukes (doubtful)
Hypothesis:  Iran might be tempted to execute a nuclear first strike  
against Israel
Fact:  for better or worse the longstanding US policy is to support  
Israel, often above our own other interests
Goal:  discourage Iran from attempting first strike on Israel even  
should it acquire weapons
Assume:  Iran is a rationally self-interested player and will take all  
steps to avoid discontinuation
Assume:  Iran assumes that US first or second strike and annihilation  
capabilities are total and unavoidable
Action:  given no way to prevent US second strike, threaten  
annihilation should Iran use nuclear first strike vs. Israel

There's no assessment of probability, threat-to-self, etc. inherent in  
Mrs. Clinton's statement;  it's merely the logical intersection  
between 60 years of (bad, IMHO, but there you have it) Mideast foreign  
policy and the present situation vis-a-vis Iran.

It's interesting, too, to contrast this game-theoretically with Mr.  
Bush's own rhetorical play.  Mrs. Clinton's statement is clear and  
logically encourages a rational adversary to act in a manner that  
preserves and ensures both their own *and our* self-interests.  OTOH,  
Mr. Bush essentially game-theoretically ensured that Iran, North  
Korea, and so on would seek to clandestinely develop nuclear weapons  
capability while superficially appearing to parley, and further absent  
a threat of immediate and complete retaliation by affiliateds (i.e.,  
us), might even inspire first strike or clandestine / arms-length  
(through "terrorist" organizations) use.

The real risk is that statements like Mrs. Clinton's might also  
inspire an armed, radicalized / marginalized Iran to seek first strike  
by providing weapons to terrorist groups for delivery and use in  
nonconventional ways, i.e. the dreaded nuclear container ship.  But it  
seems to me that we are no worse off for articulating the policy  
position she's articulated;  there's no news there, merely a  
reassurance of the status quo.

Of couse, the assumption of rationality is highly suspect in any  
case...  nonetheless we have nearly a century of evidence to suggest  
that groups generally act in rational self-interest when facing  
immediate existential risks.



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