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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Israel after the NIE; Sheldon Adelson; Laurent Murawiec; Fred Thompson; and John Isaacs on "Mis

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FEATURED ARTICLE

Iran and Israel, after the NIE
By Bill Berkowitz

A familiar clutch of hardliners in Israel and the United States are campaigning to diminish the impact of last year’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, which concluded that Tehran had halted its efforts to build a nuclear weapon. Pundits and officials who were eager to see the Bush administration take military action against Iran now suggest that the NIE will force Israel to pursue that option alone. Read full story.

FEATURED PROFILES

Sheldon Adelson
The sixth wealthiest person on Earth supports the Iraq War and opposes negotiations between Israel and Palestine. U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has donated millions to various causes, including hawkish Freedom’s Watch.

Laurent Murawiec
The Hudson Institute fellow favors assassination as a method of deterring Islamic radicals. Fred Thompson
The well-known Law & Order actor and former American Enterprise Institute fellow dropped out of the 2008 presidential contest in January after poor showings in early primaries.

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LETTERS

Re: John Isaacs, “Congress and National Security in 2007,” Right Web, December 28, 2007.

Thanks very much for John Isaacs’ update on Congress and nuclear-related issues. I’d like to offer two comments. First, in glossing Congress’ failure to stop the Iraq War, Isaacs writes as if the Senate’s ability to block legislation via the 60-vote mechanism and Bush’s veto threat were dispositive. As others have pointed out, all Congress would have to do is decline to introduce legislation to fund the war. There may be arguments on both sides of that procedure, but we shouldn’t speak or think as if it isn’t available. That lets Congress off the hook too easily.

Regarding missile “defense,” Isaacs writes as if the primary problem is the fact the so-called shield has not been made workable. However, I have read that missile “defense” can never hope to shoot down enough incoming missiles to be workable, and that the real purpose of the plan-understood by the United States and Russia but very hard for the public to hear about-is as a first-strike weapon: that the “shield” would facilitate effectiveness of a first-strike because it could conceivably (from the mad perspective in which this would play out) shoot down enough of a retaliatory strike to be effective, once a first-strike had disabled much of the target’s offensive capability. This seems to me plausible. I think it’s important to work it into the debate because a weapons system that simply hasn’t worked yet can be tested indefinitely, while one recognized as a first-strike system could generate more public opposition. Thanks again.

-Robert Roth

John Isaacs Responds

Robert Roth—thanks for your note. The only way we are going to stop the war is if 60 Senators are willing to vote for a deadline, or, more likely, a new president takes over in 2009 and ends it. You are technically correct that Congress could cut off funding immediately. However, the congressional votes have reflected the American public’s ambivalence about what to do next in Iraq. Sixty percent of Americans disapprove of the war in Iraq and support a timetable for withdrawal, but only 17 percent support removing all U.S. troops from Iraq as rapidly as possible, beginning now. A majority of Congress—including many Democrats—simply will not defund the war, reflecting the views of their constituents. Rather than denounce Democrats for not stopping the war, you might point the finger at us, the American people, who do not support an immediate end to the war, as well as all the groups working to end the war promptly that have not convinced the public to take that position.

As for the second question, I never have and never will believe in the concept of a first strike of nuclear weapons. That is the notion that either we, or the old Soviet Union, could fire many hundreds or thousands of nuclear warheads and be absolutely confident that we would destroy or even significantly limit another country’s retaliatory capacity. The same holds true for missile defense; there is no evidence that it ever was or ever will be so leak-proof that we could strike first with nuclear weapons and be confident that our missile defense will ward off sufficient retaliatory attacks to avoid devastation in return. Furthermore, submarine-launched nuclear missiles could not be disarmed in a first strike, since the United States could never find and destroy all Russian submarines simultaneously. Missile defense, even if perfectly operational, would not stop a retaliatory strike from submarines, which are capable of nearing the continental United States before attacking with hundreds of missiles per vessel. American and Russian nuclear arsenals have historically employed the strategic triad—land missiles, sea missiles, and bombers—to ensure this exact type of indestructible retaliatory capability, and missile defense will do nothing to change it. In short, a first nuclear strike is nuclear suicide for both the attacking and the retaliating countries.

—John Isaacs

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