RSS Feed for This PostCurrent Article

Strangelove in Tehran (and open thread)

I spoke with Michael Vlahos, Naval War College, in re the developing theme in strategic weapons called the Second Nuclear Age, and it is time to apply this thinking to the gathering storm of war in the Middle East.

In the First Nuclear Age, two superpowers, Uncle Sam and the Soviets, faced off with tens of thousands of weapons of all scales and delivery platforms, using a doctrine first proposed by the braniac John von Neumann called MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction.

The US submarine fleet of ballistic missiles was the guarantee that the US took the last shot in an exchange that would leave the global populations in ruins for centuries. The US did not object to the smaller states of the UK and France also bearing nukes.

And the Soviets distributed their arsenal into many of the vassal states in the empire, such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, even China before it broke away. In the Second Nuclear Age, the official nuke club is now nine, with Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea added to the original US, UK, France, Russia, China.

The uniform expectation is the the club will grow quickly in the Middle East. Iran is the likely next member, though its entrance exam is long delayed by the disapproval of the UN Security Council and the inconvenient fact that pre-revolutionary Iran signed the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Other states mentioned as likely to qualify in an arms race with rivals are South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.

It is not far-fetched to speak of aspiring nuke states such as Nigeria, Venezuela, even the failed state of Zimbabwe (Red China client). In sum, a scattering of democracies will join with a grab bag of rogues and tyrannies to create a chaos of nukes, weapons systems, kleptocrats and gangsters to present the Second Nuclear Age as “Bedlam, Mon Amour.”

Spoke Michael Vlahos, Naval War College, in re the developing theme in strategic weapons called the Second Nuclear Age, and it is time to apply this thinking to the gathering storm of war in the Middle East. In the First Nuclear Age, two superpowers, Uncle Sam and the Soviets, faced off with tens of thousands of weapons of all scales and delivery platforms, using a doctrine first proposed by the braniac John von Neumann called MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction.

The US submarine fleet of ballistic missiles was the guarantee that the US took the last shot in an exchange that would leave the global populations in ruins for centuries. The US did not object to the smaller states of the UK and France also bearing nukes. And the Soviets distributed their arsenal into many of the vassal states in the empire, such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, even China before it broke away. In the Second Nuclear Age, the official nuke club is now nine, with Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea added to the original US, UK, France, Russia, China.

The uniform expectation is the club will grow quickly in the Middle East. Iran is the likely next member, though its entrance exam is long delayed by the disapproval of the UN Security Council and the inconvenient fact that pre-revolutionary Iran signed the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Other states mentioned as likely to qualify in an arms race with rivals are South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.

It is not far-fetched to speak of aspiring nuke states such as Nigeria, Venezuela, even the failed state of Zimbabwe (Red China client). In sum, a scattering of democracies will join with a grab bag of rogues and tyrannies to create a chaos of nukes, weapons systems, kleptocrats and gangsters to present the Second Nuclear Age as “Bedlam, Mon Amour.”

Above: The movie “Dr. Strangelove” aka: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Based on the book ‘Red Alert’ by Peter George. Seen here, Slim Pickens as Major T.J. ‘King’ Kong. Initial theatrical release January 29, 1964. Screen capture. Copyright © 1964 Columbia Pictures. Credit: © 1964 Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Pyxurz.

Paul Bracken’s new book, “The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger and the New Power Politics,” presents a war-game scenario whereby Iran subdues the US and Israel without firing a shot or brandishing a nuclear weapon from its unknown arsenal. The scenario starts with a series of deadly exchanges between Israel and Iran’s clients Hizballah and Hamas. Suddenly, Iran evacuates its largest cities. The US blinks and orders/pressures Israel to stand-down. Why? Because Iran is demonstrating a readiness to use and suffer nuke attacks. In this game, the tiny nuke power of Iran (even an unconfirmed nuke power) wins, and the abundantly well-armed nukes states of the US and Israel lose. Paul Bracken’s point is that the Second Nuclear Age presents a multiplicity of versions of this exchange, in which the very potential of a nuke in the hands of an unpredictable small, rogue state makes the Major Power world more fearful than ever in the First Nuclear Age world of MAD. The game can quickly gets scarier with states such as Zimbabwe boasting of a single weapon that is planted on the border with South Africa, or even non state actors such as al-Shabab in East Africa claiming to possess a suspect weapon that is hidden somewhere between several failed African states such as Rwanda, Somalia, Kenya.

What is to be done?

United States Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is commander of Burpelson Air Force Base, which houses the SAC B-52 airborne alert bomber force just hours from the Soviet border.

  • HELENK2
  • Dave L.

    I seriousley doubt if any country worries about the capabilities of the US anymore, with the asshats we have in charge. With Disneyland on the Potomic running things we are slowly becoming the laughing stock of the world. Thank God, Obama wasn’t president during WW 2, we would all be speaking German or Japanese right now.

    • elizabethrc

      Or, more to Obama’s liking, we wouldn’t be speaking at all.

  • JohnnyTwoDog

    The end game for Iran is total destruction in response for detonating even one strategic nuclear weapon. And, near total destruction by Israel when approaching that threshold.

    It was the end game for Iraq if they had escalated to just chemical weapons.

    Pakistan’s 100 or so nukes and it’s Sunni Taliban are much more real threats than Iran. But those 100 isolated nukes are only enough for plausible MAD end game with India.

    The only scenario in which Iran holds nuclear strategic power is when they can enlist the MAD of Russia. That is the reason Iran courted Russia to help with nuclear tech.

    If Iran could rely entirely on North Korea, or even Pakistan (wrong religious factor for an Iranian political alliance anyway) for nuke tech, there woulds be no mad factor, and Irans end game would still be total destruction.

    Russia is not going to invoke MAD to save Iran’s skin. Russia is reliable to Iran for sabre rattling only. They won’t become a wasteland for the benefit of tyranical Iranian Islam.

    Irans end game is always total destruction. period.

    Iran evacuating major cities in a bluff? laughable. Fun theater though.

    Iran only strategic nuclear benefit is in having a few nukes it will never use. But even then “I’ll do it, i swear” will become laughable fast.

    Pakistan and India have a mini MAD, but Iran cannot come close to that for many many years if ever.
    The only risk is that Iran can destroy Israel with one or two nukes. But Iran is also destroyed in that Scenario. Iran is destroyed even before that scenario becomes plausible because in addition to nukes Israel has B-A-L-L-S.

  • Popsmoke

    Jeez…

    Are our service academies and institutions turning into day dreaming schools? By the way John… The MAD doctrine never exsisted as part of any military doctrine…

    • Hokma

      That is correct. MAD was purely a political cold war doctrine. I was explaining that to someone just last week.

    • Fred82

      Whatever it was, it sure seems to work.

  • Hokma

    Recents events prove that Israel cannot rely on the U.N., traditional European allies, or even the U.S. with Obama.

    They will take matters into their own hands regarding Iran. They will do whatever it takes to make sure Iran is not nuclear armed if the world fails to do it.