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Revisiting The Martyr-State Myth

Victor Davis Hanson dusts off [1] the martyr-state myth [2]:

But if a head of state can feign insanity, or, better yet, convincingly announce a wish for the apocalypse, then he can, in theory, circumvent some traditional rules of deterrence.

One of the many flaws in this argument is that the only people who seem to be convinced that Iranian leaders wish to bring about the apocalypse are the ones most vocally agitating for an attack on Iran. Another small problem with the theory is that the so-called evidence to support the “wish for the apocalypse” interpretation of how Iranian leaders think doesn’t come from the head of state, but instead comes from the comparatively powerless president, and even then the interpretation is misleading. Circumventing rules of deterrence doesn’t really work to the advantage of the Iranian government, since Iran is badly outmatched militarily. It wants to deter the U.S. and Israel (and anyone other threat in the region). Probably the most significant flaw in the myth is that Khamenei issued a fatwa against the use of nuclear weapons. Even if a head of state fits Hanson’s description, there are many other people involved in any modern state apparatus that would never permit a head of state to launch a disastrous first-strike. To believe the martyr-state myth about Iran, one has to believe that the top echelons of the Iranian government are all committed to starting a self-destructive nuclear war. No one actually believes that.

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2 Comments To "Revisiting The Martyr-State Myth"

#1 Comment By IanH On February 21, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

Not only has there been no accountability, but the few times there have been attempts have been met with overwhelming hostility. See the Connecticut 2006 Senate run.

Speaking of which, one thing I’m grateful to the Iraq war hawks for is killing off the DLC and the New Democrat movement. No more will we have to put up with Al From’s bloviating again.

#2 Comment By tbraton On February 22, 2012 @ 6:29 am

Well, you have to take into account what Senate candidate Obama said in a 2004 interview with the Chicago Tribune less than 2 months before his virtually certain election to the Senate.

“On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. … And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.”. . .

Obama said that violent Islamic extremists are a vastly different brand of foe than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they must be treated differently.

“With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don’t want to be blown up, we don’t want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain,” Obama said. “I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don’t make those same calculations.” ”

The other important consideration to take into account is that Obama early in his Presidency decided to transfer “bunker buster bombs” to Israel, something that George W. Bush refused to do. It does make you wonder what this pinhead was thinking if he was trying to discourage an attack on Iran. Can anyone name another potential target of Israel for such weaponry?

Finally, he recognized almost 8 years ago that economic sanctions were unlikely to work against Iran in terms of dissuading them from continuing their nuclear enrichment program. Yet, we have recently seen a ramp up in sanctions seemingly designed to push Iran into taking an action like Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor that would justify an all-out attack on Iran. I believe the Obama Administration is strongly opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran in the spring (April or May) since that would be too far from the November elections and possible disastrous economic ramifications would have too much time to play out and affect the election’s outcome. I am not so sure the Obama Administration would be similarly opposed to an attack a month or so before the election or even after the election.