Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Original version of my letter to the Wall Street Journal

Thomas Sowell once said that the fact that he had never killed an editor was proof positive that capital punishment does (sometimes) deter murders. Most of us who write have probably entertained similar desires.

The February 15 edition of the Wall Street Journal includes a letter-to-the-editor that I recently wrote. I appreciate their decision to publish it, but do not appreciate a few "small" but important deletions.

Here is the original version of my letter:


Charles Robb and Charles Wald claim [“Bolstering the Military Option on Iran, WSJ February 8] that “the U.S. military is capable of launching a surgical air strike against Iran’s nuclear program and its military installations.” Perhaps, but to believe that such a strike could achieve its goal is wishful thinking at its worst.

Machiavelli warned rulers to avoid injuring their enemies without also destroying their ability to retaliate. We must annihilate or conciliate. A “surgical” strike would do neither and would also violate the “Powell doctrine” that in military actions one should never under-do.

To guarantee Iranian inability to produce atomic weapons would require a massive, bloody and expensive military occupation of the entire country, overthrow of the regime, and prolonged forcible repression of insurgent-style nationalist resistance to the occupation. To incur these costs because Iran might develop and use atomic weapons makes no sense and would never get the necessary sustained support from Americans or our allies.

An alternative, of course, would be for us to use atomic weapons to destroy Iran. But this would kill millions of decent Iranians and is unthinkable if done preemptively.

In the end we are going to have to rely on deterrence, employing atomic weapons as a regrettable necessity only in response to actual Iranian use of such weapons. And it is always possible [Mehdi Khalaji, “It’s Time to Bypass Iran’s Supreme Leader,” WSJ February 9] that Iranians might be able to reform their system if given sufficient time and intelligent support from abroad.

Paul deLespinasse

Corvallis, Oregon

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