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The Holocaust Declaration

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touring the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities this week.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touring the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities this week. (Getty Images)

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By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, April 11, 2008

On Tuesday Iran announced it was installing 6,000 more centrifuges -- they produce enriched uranium, the key ingredient of a nuclear weapon -- in addition to the 3,000 already operating. The world yawned.

It is time to admit the truth: The Bush administration's attempt to halt Iran's nuclear program has failed. Utterly. The latest round of U.N. Security Council sanctions, which took a year to achieve, is comically weak. It represents the end of the sanctions road.

At home, the president's efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program were irreparably undermined by November's National Intelligence Estimate, whose "moderate confidence" that Iran has not restarted nuclear weaponization -- the least important of three elements of any nuclear program -- has promoted the illusion that Iran has given up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yet uranium enrichment, the most difficult step, proceeds apace, as does the development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

The president is out of options. He is going to hand over to his successor an Iran on the verge of going nuclear. This will deeply destabilize the Middle East, threaten the moderate Arabs with Iranian hegemony and leave Israel on hair-trigger alert.

This failure can, however, be mitigated. As there will apparently be no disarming of Iran by preemption or by sanctions, we shall have to rely on deterrence to prevent the mullahs, some of whom are apocalyptic and messianic, from using nuclear weapons.

This will be even more difficult than during the Cold War, when we were dealing with rational actors. We will, nonetheless, have to use the Cold War model in which deterrence prevented the Soviets from engaging in nuclear aggression for half a century -- long enough for regime change to make deterrence superfluous. (No one lies awake today worrying about post-Soviet Russia launching a nuclear attack on the United States.) We don't know how long the mullahs will be in power, but until they are replaced, deterrence will be an absolute necessity.

During the Cold War, we were successful in preventing an attack not only on the United States but also on America's allies. We did it by extending the American nuclear umbrella -- i.e., declaring that any attack on our allies would be considered an attack on the United States.

Such a threat is never 100 percent credible. But it was credible enough. It made the Soviets think twice about attacking our European allies. It kept the peace.

We should do the same to keep nuclear peace in the Middle East. It would be infinitely less dangerous (and therefore more credible) than the Cold War deterrence because there will be no threat from Iran of the annihilation of the United States. Iran, unlike the Soviet Union, would have a relatively tiny arsenal incapable of reaching the United States.

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush's greatest contribution to nuclear peace would be to issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy's language while changing the names of the miscreants:

"It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran."

This should be followed with a simple explanation: "As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people."

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