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« Turnabout's Fair Play? | Main | Gee, I Can't Imagine Why »

"The Great Gulf War"

A frightening, and unfortunately plausible (given the inevitable insouciance of Europe, and much of the American electorate itself), future history:

The ideological cocktail that produced 'Islamism' was as potent as either of the extreme ideologies the West had produced in the previous century, communism and fascism. Islamism was anti-Western, anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic. A seminal moment was the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's intemperate attack on Israel in December 2005, when he called the Holocaust a 'myth'. The state of Israel was a 'disgraceful blot', he had previously declared, to be wiped 'off the map'.

Prior to 2007, the Islamists had seen no alternative but to wage war against their enemies by means of terrorism. From the Gaza to Manhattan, the hero of 2001 was the suicide bomber. Yet Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, craved a more serious weapon than strapped-on explosives. His decision to accelerate Iran's nuclear weapons programme was intended to give Iran the kind of power North Korea already wielded in East Asia: the power to defy the United States; the power to obliterate America's closest regional ally.

No, nothing like Munich at all.

As Dennis Miller once quipped (though it wasn't really funny), "To believe the left, Bush is Hitler, Cheney is Hitler, Ashcroft is Hitler, Rumsfeld is Hitler, but the guy with the mustache who gasses people and hates Jews and wants to conquer the world isn't Hitler. Go figure."

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 15, 2006 08:05 AM
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Your alternate histories are better written. For a history professor this comes off as pretty light-weight. Israel just waited for Iran to complete the bomb before they had an exchange? Not even an attempt? And what kind of exchange? Israel has to have more bombs and I believe they have been working on sub launched missiles. China coming in on Tehran's side in this exchange would seem to be China coming into radioactive desert.

And Shia attacking the US at the bases also seems a bit far fetched. In most cases the Shia Arabs are not fans of the Shia Persians. A bit more depth here would have helped.

Yeah its a short article, can't have everything in there, but when playing with big events you've got to have a bit more depth.

Posted by rjschwarz at January 15, 2006 08:43 AM

Islamic culture can be regarded, in a discussion of science and engineering, as parasitic. Islam is unlikely to have concieved of, and created, nuclear weapons, on its own.

Jewish culture, when speaking of technology, is not parasitic, it is growing and vital. The Manhattan project owes a heavy debt to the Jews.

What I mean by the above, is that Israel has been in the atomic leagues a tad longer than any of the Islamist regimes. Israel comprises a small target, but not a weak one. I wouldn't bet that they haven't given some effort to being able to ride out the destruction of their country and deliver a deadly 'death throe' strike against every neighborin Arab or Muslim capital.

Which is why we're going to have to pre-emptively remove the mullah's nuclear capability. Any Iranian-Israeli nuclear exchange will most likely contaminate all the Israeli territory, and yet result in vastly unequal damage to the Arabs, with all that that implies for the world economy.

And that's merely the cold-blooded, amoral, practical consideration, with no mention of the morality of the situation, which I presume all reading are aware of.

Posted by Mike James at January 15, 2006 09:45 AM

With regards to the telegraph article:

Why would China be warning us off of attacking Terhan?

Any Israeli-Iranian nuclear exchange would flatten Iran's 50 largests cities and towns at a minimun. IOW Iran as a political entity would cease to exist, there would be little left fot the US to attack. The author greatly underestimates the effects and fury of an Israeli counterstrike.

Posted by Mike Puckett at January 15, 2006 10:19 AM

Found this on another site:

"From "Frommer's Orbital Tour Guidebook", NY, 2031, pp. 45:

"....a must-see from earth orbit is the Great Glass Desert, known as the Islamic Republic of Iran until 2007, when it was destroyed in retaliatory strikes by the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel following an unsuccessful attempt to destroy Tel Aviv. While the radioactive glow has diminished, the variegated, iridesencent colors in the glass, fused by the heat of nuclear fusion from the desert sands, are especially vivid around the former locations of Tehran and Qom.

Best viewing times at the dawn/dusk terminator, while squeeze-sipping one of the famed "Zero-G Martini"s at the Virgin Galactic Hotel.

Check the Hotel website or ask one of the friendly Matsushita robot bartenders when the Hotel dips low enough to see the Saudi portion of the Desert.""

Posted by Mike Puckett at January 15, 2006 11:41 AM

I wouldn't bet that they haven't given some effort to being able to ride out the destruction of their country and deliver a deadly 'death throe' strike against every neighborin Arab or Muslim capital.

I hadn't thought of this, but you're almost certainly right. Leaders in Israel probably consider the mere existence of Muslim nations to be a threat to Jews in the absence of a counterbalancing Jewish state. The Israelis may very well consider it their duty to surviving Jews everywhere to remove this threat.

-S

Posted by Stephen Kohls at January 15, 2006 02:50 PM

Why would China be warning us off of attacking Terhan?

Oil & natural gas

The Chinese surely do not support the Islamofascist nut-jobs, however if we (the West) regime change Iran then all of the Gulf oil will be under our thumb and we can choke the Chinese economy anytime we want.


Posted by Bill White at January 15, 2006 07:00 PM

China's strategic interest in not having us regime change Iran should not deter us from keeping Iran from acquiring nukes, however it might be prudent to accomplish that result in a manner that minimizes confrontation with Beijing, to the extent possible.

Posted by Bill White at January 15, 2006 07:03 PM

Niall Ferguson, the author of the piece, is a well respected historian who has produced a couple of edited books on alternative history. But here he is engaging in science fiction. It's a little sloppy.

What, exactly, is the premption option that is currently available? Airstrikes against hundreds of potential targets, many of them deeply buried? Or should the US simply nuke all of Iran, kill millions of innocent people, and hope that this is sufficient?

There are no good options here.

Posted by Leo Dillard at January 15, 2006 07:48 PM

It is however in keeping with Ferguson's view of at least pre WW1 Europe, when Anglo-German trade
was at it's highest point, despite at least two
other attempts of German encroachment of Anglo-
French territories (Ironically, his Pity of War,
argues that WW1 was not justified; mostly because
of its post war impact on Britain, and the regional turmoil that arose from it.

Posted by narciso79 at January 15, 2006 09:12 PM

"Why would China be warning us off of attacking Terhan?

Oil & natural gas

The Chinese surely do not support the Islamofascist nut-jobs, however if we (the West) regime change Iran then all of the Gulf oil will be under our thumb and we can choke the Chinese economy anytime we want"

Bill, let me rephrase that statement as you obviously did not read the rest of my post nor perhaps the article so as to frame it in its proper context. Now perhaps you can clearly see it was a rhetorical question:

Why would China be warning us off attacking the glazed spot of Israeli rad enriched glass formerly known as Tehran?


Does any fool actually think Iran will effect a nuclear strike an Tel Aviv and Terhan will surive it by more than one day?

Posted by Mike Puckett at January 15, 2006 09:39 PM

Mike, since a thoroughly nuked Iran would interdict Chinese petroleum I can foresee the Chinese extending its nuclear umbrella against Israel (but not the US) with respect to an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran that went beyond an Osirik style limited operation.

If Iran used nukes first? Iran is gone and China and Russia know that and wouldn't bother to warn off a counterstrike. But that is deterrence not pre-emption. Thus I believe everyone (even France, Russia, China and Howard Dean - everyone!) would welcome an Israeli launched Osirik-style operation that de-fanged Iran's nuclear capability even if those same people whined in public and gave a sigh of relief in private.

But can an Osirik style operation work? The Iranians have had over 20 years to prepare for that scenario.

Posted by Bill White at January 16, 2006 07:54 AM

Osirak. Sorry about the spelling.

If this model would successfully de-fang the Iranian nuclear program, I say go for it. If there is no massive damage to Iran's non-nuclear infrastructure, China can be mollified after the fact.

If the intel is that the Iranian program is too dispersed for an Osirak style operation to succeed, then a surgical strike might well be counter productive and that points to massive pre-emptive strikes being put on the table.

And that involves China and Russia as part of a larger geo-political situation. Messy.

= = =

It would be best if the Israelis can succeed with another Osirak.

Posted by Bill White at January 16, 2006 08:05 AM

Personally I think Iranís nuclear program is too spread out, hidden and well protected for Israel to take out. One mission with however many aircraft the IAF can muster (along with sub launched conventional cruise missiles etc) will not be sufficient to eliminate all, or even a large percentage, of Iranís nuclear capacity. It would not be politically viable for Israeli aircraft to make numerous incursions into the airspace between Israel and Iran over a period of several days (weeks?) in order to carry out a prolonged and comprehensive air campaign against Iranian nuclear facilities.

The US however could undertake such a effort.

Posted by Cecil Trotter at January 16, 2006 08:59 AM

The US however could undertake such a effort.

If the US did launch a massive pre-emptive effort (first dismantle all Iranian air defenses and over an extended period demolish every potential nuclear site, perhaps with special ops ground teams for verification) - - if that happens, how well have we played up the Arab Shia and Persian Shia divisions? Can we be sanguine that the new Iraqi government will be on our side?

What if anything would the Basra militias do? The same guys who murdered blogger Vincent for reporting on Iranian influences.

It is possible that this scenario would place the British forces in a rough spot and if Basra fell to Iranian regulars and Shia militias after US preemption began, overland supply to Baghdad would be interdicted.

= = =

If the US did it, might the Iranians launch conventional missile strikes on an alleged US ally, Saudi Arabia and their oil terminals?

We (America) needs to be prepared for a massive spike in oil prices.

= = =

As I have said before, Iranian nuclear weapons scare the be-jeebers out of me. And, as another comment said "There are no good options, here."

Posted by Bill White at January 16, 2006 09:13 AM

If Russia brokers a deal where the Iranians back down how much in the way of concessions are we willing to grant to Putin as consideration for his assistance?

Posted by Bill White at January 16, 2006 10:18 AM

"Airstrikes against hundreds of potential targets, many of them deeply buried?"

The sites that are deeply buried under mountains perhaps contain an Achilles heel - the entrances can be collapsed and the occupants and their weapons sealed inside, forever. They must also have ventilation shafts that could be taken out or used as an entry point for weapons, particularly gas. We must have learned some lessons while attacking the caves of Tora Bora, and must have been studying similar emplacements in North Korea for decades. Remember that, while they are human and make mistakes, the people in the Pentagon working on these problems are not stupid.

Posted by lmg at January 16, 2006 10:59 AM

We are all assuming, I am as well, that to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program it would have to be taken down in detail.

However, I wonder what the likelyhood is that there are a relatively few key facilities that if taken out would do 90% (or better) of the job of ending the program?

If so this option could be something Israel is well equipped to do.

Posted by Cecil Trotter at January 16, 2006 12:17 PM

"Airstrikes against hundreds of potential targets, many of them deeply buried?"

Hunh. If there was ever a need for THOR (aka kinetic weapons aka rods from God) you'd think this would it.

Posted by Brian at January 16, 2006 03:17 PM

Bill, I doubt the Chinese could "extend their nuclear umbrella" to cover Israel. Most of their land-based missiles are very limited in range, they have a few that can just barely reach the American West Coast, their sea-based program is moribund, and their bombers don't have the range. I just don't think that they could threaten Israel with their current nuclear arsenal.

Posted by Jeff Dougherty at January 16, 2006 04:09 PM

Beijing to Tel Aviv is about as far as Beijing to Midway Island. Not even Hawaii.

Posted by Bill White at January 16, 2006 04:18 PM

"Most of [China's] land-based missiles are very limited in range, they have a few that can just barely reach the American West Coast ..."

But they have also placed astronauts in orbit, so the rocket capability is there, if not in specific weapons form yet.

Posted by lmg at January 16, 2006 04:59 PM

Point. That should teach me to actually check my numbers instead of just estimating from a map scale. It appears that Chinese DF-5 ICBMs could indeed reach Israel.

Posted by Jeff Dougherty at January 17, 2006 07:59 AM

we don't have to nuke the cities, knocking out the leadership is a damm good idea. A revolution is form now in Iran, the Persian youth are ready to rise to the occasion to throw off the shackles of the regime.
I kinda know this because i am in regular contact witha lovely young lady in Tehran, she and many of her fiends who are like minded, want to remove the Mullahs.
all we need to do is give them a edge, or better yet, some guns and international support.

Posted by Harley W Daugherty at January 17, 2006 08:37 PM

Harley, your young lady talks a good game, but she and her buddies have been talking like this since Mossadegh, at least. They didn't do nothin' but bring first Khomeini and then the Mahdi Nutjob into power.

It's time for the Great Silent Secular Iranian Majority to prove it has balls. Or ovaries. Or whatever. So far I haven't seen any evidence of this, beyond the occasional "martyr" who gets killed or locked up, accomplishing nothing.

Posted by zimriel@sbcglobal.net at January 21, 2006 11:23 PM


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