The Evil Empire revisited

Saturday, November 26, 2005
Yesterday the International Herald Tribune ran Russian sacrifice: Poland. The Polish government has released documents from the Warsaw Pact military archives. Some of the documents concern Soviet plans for defending Europe in the advent of NATO attack.

At a press conference Friday, Sikorski unveiled a map showing hypothetical plans in the event of a NATO attack on Warsaw Pact nations which called for a Soviet counterattack that would have included the nuclear bombing of Munich, Brussels, Dutch ports and other targets. This in turn, according to Soviet military thinking, would precipitate NATO nuclear attacks on forces concentrated on the Vistula River, attacks that the Polish government now estimates would have killed two million Poles.

The map showed the widespread destruction of Western Europe, including mushroom clouds over key areas of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. Cities such as Brussels would have been destroyed as Soviet troops advanced to the Western shores of the Continent, although Britain and France would have been left unscathed.
It looks like the Soviets calculated that if they were to launch a nuclear strike, but not hit the two regional nuclear powers France or England, NATO would calibrate its nuclear retaliation by sparing the Russian homelands. A chilling read in the arithmetic of blood.

It is of particular interest when balanced against today's Axis of Evil. The Soviet plans, while cataclysmic, had an element of self-survial built in. In public comments at least, portions of Iran's government have indicated they would expose their homeland to a nuclear retaliation by attacking Israel. I think there is a large element of bluster to those threats, and at any rate the response from Israel would be clear cut and devestating.

That aside, following the bomb non-nuclear countries model of the Soviets, a single nuclear weapon detonating in Holland or Rome becomes more problematical. The Warsaw Pact plans cited above are pretty clearly defensive plans. However, an attack on a Western City, with some measure of deniabilty attached, would be an offensive use of nuclear weapons while hoping for a calibrated response that would spare the Irani homeland.

The reason the Soviets reasonably thought they could limit an exchange need to be considered. In their scenario, both sides limiting their responses to spare each others homelands reflected the fact that both sides could cause massive damage to each others homelands. For Iran to expect similar restraint on the part of the West would require Iran to pose a credible existential threat to the US mainland. That situation simple doesn't exist. As such, Iran is either blustering about having the "moral strength" to survive a massive retaliatory attack, or they are seriously misreading the calculus of raw power.

I've said before that I fear a miscalculation more than anything. There are lines on both sides that if crossed would trigger a staggering escalation. The great problem is in where exactly do these lines lay? I believe on the Western side the use of a WMD is one such line. That the images of such an attack would so infuriate the Western public that the conflict would surely escalate.

What bothers me most about "the peace at any price', the "litigate war into being illegal", and the "atone for the sins of 18th century colonialism" crowd is that I fear it obscures the West's lines not to be crossed. I fear that the Mullahs are drawing mistaken conclusions in just how hard they can push before events slip out of the grasp of all of us.


Doug said...

If it's all bluster on Iran's part, it seems they're playing a pretty smart game.
The cold war standoff was a long term win for us thanks to our economic system vs theirs, plus RR.
Seems the current stalemate w/Iran has time working to their advantage, as they continue to export terror while they execute lucrative economic deals such as gas/oil w/the Chicoms, et al.
Meanwhile, while the Mullahs are less than adored by the majority of Iranians, from what I've read, their Nuke Program enjoys wide popular support.

truepeers said...

Doug's last point may be the key. All this antisemitic, anti-American nuclear bluster may be the Mullahs last best hope of staying long in power. If that is the case, if they have the knife at their backs, it would be most risky to draw many analogies to the cold war situation where even the Russian leadership was somewhat insulated from imminent internal threats.

There is no mental instability like the instability that comes when you can't trust those around you. Having an external enemy, in contrast, is a basis for relatively reasonable and focussed conduct, such that one might coldly consider a sacrifice of a part of one greater self in a war with the external other, such that the innner (in this case Russsian) circle survives relatively well while Poland burns.

Totally self-destructive behaviour happens when, for example with Hitler, you think you must purify the father or motherland of its internal enemies and will do any and all crazy things in a war, like invading Russia before you've finished off England, to serve your priority of killing Jews. Not sure how the Hitler analogy works in the present Iranian situation which is both similar and different. Are the Jews and Americans for them an external enemy towards which one can act semi-rationally (not exactly), or an internal threat to the integrity of some ummah (not exactly)?

truepeers said...

On the point of how Iran views the American presence in the neighborhood Pastorius quotes Jihad Watch for a hint:

Ansar-e Hezbollah, an ultra-conservative government-run body fiercely loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote in the latest edition of its weekly paper Yatharat al-Hossein that Iran had a religious duty to defend the “occupied lands of Iraq”.

“Our strategy in the occupied lands of Iraq, taking into consideration the efforts by America to take complete control of the country with the second largest oil reserves of the world, make our duties for the region clear in the present circumstances”, the group wrote in its weekly publication.

The group said that the U.S. was introducing “American Islam” in Iraq in place of theocratic Islam, citing recent remarks by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani who visited Iran earlier this week, as a “negative example” of the effects of moderate Islam.

“Based on the teachings of pure Islam and without any moderate posturing, we must oppose deviant currents in this arena and fight off the aggressors in Islamic lands following the teachings of the Quran. Of course, we are ready to carry out the orders of the Supreme Leader as a priority”.

ambisinistral said...

Hitler is an interesting case in miscalculation. I've read that he believed in a anti-Mahan theory that posited the Age of sea Power was over and Land Powers were the wave of the future. That does explain him ignoring England, and even more oddly not committing a few more assets to try to sieze Egypt and close the Suez Canal, and attacking Russia instead. To him Russia was the credible threat, while England was already neutered by historical forces.

I agree that the issue of how secure the Mullahs feel is critical. I'm sure as long as they trust support from their army (and lacking news of officers purges that seems to be the case), the feel they can use it and their religious police to keep power.

However, a common tactic to gain support would be trying to rally patriotism against an external enemy. Yet, when that external enemy has troops sitting on both your north and south border, one does have to be careful in just how far you'll play that card.

Buddy Larsen said...

Dictators and ruling circles who've built their power upon bellicose bluster often reach a point where they have to DO something or there is more to fear from the guards standing right outside their doors than any little thing like thermonuclear war.

terrye said...

I am not sure if the people of Iran are willing to be vaporized just to rid the Middle East of Jews.

I think that there is some amount of national pride involved in acquiring nuclear technology, but it does not seem that the average Iranian sees it as a prelude to mass suicide.

I do wonder if the mullahs fear that a mderate Iraq and Afghanistan will make it harder to get the young people to come to Friday prayers. I read somewhere that many of the young are apathetic to religion. I wonder if this is true?

Too bad Jimmy Carter did not deal with them a few dacades ago. Think how different the world might be.

Doug said...

"I read somewhere that many of the young are apathetic to religion. I wonder if this is true?"
I'm quite sure it's true:
When Ledeen and Kristof agree on something, you have to figure!
Kristof had a neat Flash presentation on Iran a couple of years ago that showed young Iranians deeply into pop/consumer/secular lifestyles.

Ledeen's comment was that the rest of it was all tripe.
(Kristof left out things like teens being sent away for a LONG time whenever the mullahs set their sites on them.
...cute trick:
They let them off for a few days so friends and relatives can hear and observe what hells they have been forced to live.)
Saddam would be proud.

Doug said...

Truepeers said,
"you think you must purify the father or motherland of its internal enemies "
But we get a pass if we pure out the lefties here, right?

Buddy Larsen said...

Doug, shirley you mean with the power of ideas, right? We wouldn't want to set up any 12 year indoctrination centers that'd start 'em at 6 and keep 'em 'til 18, would we?

Doug said...

Your version of idea power seems potent indeed.
Just take it easy on Shirley, please.

Doug said...

Speaking of the Evil Empire:
Doesn't seem like there has been much written about the new infusion of cash due to the oil spike for Putin and Co. relative to it's importance.
What I have read says that previous spikes helped delay the empire's ultimate end.
Gazprom Marketing & Trading Ltd, a marketing company of Russian gas giant Gazprom, and Shell Western LNG BV today announced the first shipment of Gazprom-owned LNG into the US market.