“A Quick Observation on the National Security Strategy” discussion, by CRK et al, Whirled View, 16 April 2005, http://whirledview.typepad.com/whirledview/2005/04/a_quick_observa.html.
Mark at Zen Pundit blog was kind enough to email me a post on detering nuclear attack, now and in the past
The consequences of a terrorist nuclear attack would be far less than those of a Cold War first strike. It is unlikely that terrorists would be able to get their hands on one nuclear weapon, let alone several. Losing a large part of any city would be unacceptable. But how unacceptable? Unacceptable enough to launch a preventive strike on Iran? Unacceptable enough for an attack on North Korea?
Early in the Cold War, the argument was made that the United States could not accept the consequences of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, and that therefore the United States should pre-emptively attack. President Eisenhower decided that that was not the right course. We need to think the unthinkable, as the Cold War strategists did, and not flinch.
Mark Safranski’s comment was fascinating
The question of what deters al Qaida is essentially what costs would they find not worth paying in exchange for nuking, say New York city? Not their own lives, obviously nor do they care about the lives of fellow Muslims per se because they would be, in the zany Qutbist-Salafist world ” martyrs”.
All I’ve been able to come up with as a potential deterrent is the their having the knowledge of certain retaliatory destruction of Islam’s holiest sites – bin Laden and Zawahiri would shrink from paying that price.
This would seem at first blush, a terrible response but we once contemplated, with equanimity(!), incinerating hundreds of millions of Russians who had far less moral complicity in the policies of the Politburo than Saudi citizens have with supporting al Qaida. I raised this suggestion recently with Steve Coll ( Ghost Wars) and he responded ” This is exactly the question that I hope is being discussed in the National Security Council”.
We need to get serious about making the idea of nuking an American city and killing millions of Americans unimaginable once again. I have too much of a sense that this kind of action is viewed in some quarters as potentially an acceptable, if high-risk, gambit if enough cut-outs are used to muddy the waters.
I responded by noting that we have attacked other faiths in the past, and may do so again
After World War II America participated in the total destruction of two “enemy” religions (National Reich Church and State Shinto). In each case the ban was not merely a vertical shock — banning the faith — but an horizontal, ongoing effort to prevent its reemergence. NRC is still illegal in Germany, and SCAP (the American-led Coalition in Japan) stamped out several “unofficial” offshoots of State Shinto.
America rightly protects religious freedom at home, but it would not always be wise to protect the rights of enemy religions abroad. The full consequences of a holy-site strike should be considered (including the obvious blow-back), but the obliteration of enemy religions should remain a valid tool of American statecraft.