Mutually assured hypocrisy w/r/t Iran’s nuclear weapons

This morning’s reports on French President Chirac’s statement that, according to the NYTimes,

“what is dangerous about this situation [Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb] is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb,” he said. “Having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that’s not very dangerous.

“But what is very dangerous is proliferation. This means that if Iran continues in the direction it has taken and totally masters nuclear-generated electricity, the danger does not lie in the bomb it will have, and which will be of no use to it.”

Mr. Chirac said it would be an act of self-destruction for Iran to use a nuclear weapon against another country.

“Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel?” Mr. Chirac asked. “It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed.”

There’s no doubt that this represents lame politics on Chirac’s part, since, if this is his true belief, he shouldn’t have been suggesting otherwise before now (or after, with his bungled attempts at retraction).

And it is worth noting that he does identify dangers that even he perceives as real, those of wider proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. So it’s not as if he’s encouraging Iran to get a nuclear bomb, just saying that he doesn’t think that one or two Iranian nukes–in and of themselves–represent a marked increase in danger to the region or world. Instead, it’s the secondary effects of proliferation, and the risks that come out of that of increased military tensions and rising risks of accidental usage, that are the main danger Chirac sees.

While I acknowledge in principal the arguments I’ve heard a few people make that either the world should be totally free of nuclear weapons or all countries should have the same right to acquire them if they deem them necessary for defense, it doesn’t really cut the mustard for me. Nuclear weapons are, by definition, pure tools of terrorism. You cannot use a nuclear weapon without knowingly killing vast numbers of innocent bystanders (assuming any of your victims are so-called legitimate targets). To use a nuclear weapon is to commit the grossest act of terrorism possible; simply to posess nuclear weapons is to be terroristic of a sort since the mere existence of the weapon does what terrorism is all about–instill fear in a population as a way to force your political objectives onto them.

For that reason, I oppose any expansion of the world’s nuclear arsenal either within any one country or to include previously non-nuclear countries. The need is for elimination of nuclear weapons, and narrow-minded strategic thinking about when this or that country might be served by gaining them miss the contextual point.

All that said, the hypocrisy that is being expressed in the “outrage” over Chirac’s statements is annoying in its own right. (“Outlandishly insane”-Freedom’s Zone; “This so clearly shows why the EU and ‘Old Europe’ cannot be trusted on Iran and other matters of security, I’m a little surprised the New York Times reported it.”-Captain Ed [Ooooh, what a dig at the Ayatollah-loving NYTimes!]; “the French have had their heads in the sand so long that the sand is starting to work its way into their brains…so comments like this really shouldn’t come as a big surprise”-Blogmeister USA.) To their credit, some of these folks try to argue that the Mutally Assured Destruction that was so loved by their hero Ronald Reagan (though created long before his presidency) doesn’t apply to Iran, on the premise that the Iranian leaders want armageddon to happen as part of their messianic religious beliefs. Frankly, I don’t buy it. The Iranian government behaves much too rationally to think that they have no cares for this earthly life. If they wanted armageddon, they could have triggered it long ago–for instance by launching an all-out war against U.S. troops in Iraq and simultaneously against Saudi Arabia. They don’t need nuclear weapons for that.