Our Next Military Attack?

by Tony D'Amato

Our government is presently immobilized, like Buridan’s ass, between North Korea’s nuclear development program and Iran’s. Yesterday Iran removed United Nations seals on uranium processing equipment at its Isfahan nuclear site, making the plant fully operational. At the same time across the world in Beijing a deadlock was reported in the six-power nuclear disarmament talks. North Korea intends to go ahead with its “civilian” nuclear program even though other nations believe that it has already produced enough fissionable material for several nuclear bombs.

There is no greater threat to our national security than nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea or Iran. It’s coming to a head now because of the perceived failure of our invasion of Iraq in March, 2003. I submit there were two primary reasons behind our decision to invade. First, Saddam Hussein had the financial resources in a brief period of time to purchase and assemble nuclear weapons. Although we knew when we invaded that Saddam did not possess WMDs, once he smuggled them in our ability to invade would have become impossible. Second, a quick and successful removal of Saddam’s government would have sent the most powerful of messages to the other “rogue” nations: don’t even think of going nuclear. It was a logical game plan deeply rooted in our national security.

The “failure” that I mentioned above occurred after the invasion was successfully completed. We had absolutely no idea how to go about pacifying Iraq. Our idiotic blunders of occupation were painfully evident as they were being committed, and I lack the incentive to try to recount them here. Suffice it to say that all the world know how we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq.

North Korea and Iran must figure that the United States is a paper tiger. They will keep pushing on their nuclear development programs until we reach the breaking point.

You should know that I’m a real hawk when it comes to nuclear proliferation. Back in 1981 I was practically the only international lawyer in the United States to support Israel’s bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osiraq. Maybe I’m overly sensitive about this issue, but I predict that, with practically no notice, the United States will bomb and destroy either the Iranian or North Korean nuclear installations.


5 Responses

  1. Are there practical dangers with bombing nuclear facilities, such as causing nuclear explosions etc?

  2. Dear Anthony, dear all,
    With respect, this is breathtaking and unacceptable. I wonder where you take the optimism that attacking North Korea and/or Iran is easier and will be more successful than attacking an impoverished Iraq subject to a sanctions regime.
    An attack on North Korea opens up the specter of an all-out war and an attack on Seoul. An attack on Iran will contribute to a complete breakdown in Iraq, without much of an effect on the Iranian program, the completion of which is anyway at least 10 years away (it is the US estimate, not some European whimps’ one).
    Legally, of course, both attacks would be impermissible, because there is no threat of a first strike in either case – in Iran, because the capability is simply not there, in North Korea, because this regime is not in a position to attack anyone first anyway.
    Beware what you are wishing for!

    Best, Andreas Paulus
    University of Munich, Germany

  3. TO LA BAMBA: As far as I know, unless the detonating mechanism is itself used, it’s hard to set off a nuclear explosion by other means, such as bombing the site.

    TO ANDREAS PAULUS: The Israelis in 1981 bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor with, I believe, a loss of three Iraqis who were on the ground, and no loss to the Israeli pilots.

    A North Korean attack on Seoul is an ever-present possibility. But what would North Korea have to gain by attacking Seoul in retaliation for an American attack upon North Korea’s nuclear installations? They might just be committing national suicide.

    The ten-year estimate you mention applies if the Iranians do it from scratch. But clearly they can import the pieces of the puzzle they don’t already have.

    Your idea of a first strike by North Korea or Iran is not part of my legal position. I spell out my legal position in brief form in the article I cited in my main post, which you can access by clicking on the word in red font.

    And no, I’m not wishing for military attacks or war. But I am also trying to avoid wishful thinking.

    Thanks to the both of you for your comments.

  4. Despite having enjoyed Opinio Juris greatly in the past, and learned much, my limit for stomaching D’Amato’s fatuity masquerading as reasoned discourse is at an end.

    Sir, your casual statement that “we knew when we invaded that Saddam did not possess WMDs” is not worthy of comment. Its patent falseness is beyond debate — and your belief that we “knew” he did not possess WMD is little more than Michael Moore-like foolishness. Further, we did in fact quickly remove Saddam, no?

    As for your description of “failure,” I am extremely thankful you are in no authoritative position to guide military exercises, as your grasp of warfare and what constitutes real failure versus what are “idiotic blunders” is minimal. Had men like you led the continental army, instead of George Washington, today we’d likely be living in a British commonwealth instead of the United States.

    North Korea and Iran do pose extremely serious threats and your, again, nonsense that “all the world know[s] how we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq” does little to instill belief in your subsequent statement you are a “real hawk when it comes to nuclear proliferation.” If the U.S. does indeed bomb NK and Iranian nuclear installations, as I agree we likely will, it will only be after the IAEA and the six-party talks demonstrate complete ineffectiveness in controlling the situation. Then, of course, those on the left will excoriate the U.S. for its actions. So be it.

    This said, I apologize to the rest of the Opinio Juris for my recent curt postings. I look forward to rejoining the debate at Opinio Juris when Professor D’Amato returns to his ivory tower to complete his comprehensive U.S. war crimes catalog.

  5. I have to concur with your prediction of US force applied to Iranian nuclear sites. I dissent from your even-handed application of the same principles for the DPRK installations.

    North Korea, by most estimations, has a good chance of fissile material for several warheads. They have very tangible US assets within reach, and they are well within the sphere of influence of China. They have the possibility for delivering a nuclear counterstrike to an attack on their nuclear development installations.

    Iran has many political differences besides the simple logistical issue of carrying out the mission. Iran is currently on the top of the US State Department list of terror sponsoring states; Iran is known to have some relationship, though the degree is not known, with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban; Iran is known to be trailing behind North Korea in nuclear development and hence is a more efficacious target for use of force to prevent nuclear proliferation.

    In both cases we have a very real collateral damage issue regarding the spread of radioactive material into the surrounding civilian populations.

    I am curious whether you really feel Iran and North Korea should receive similar estimations of the application of US force to deter nuclear proliferation in those countries. Other than chronology, they do not seem very similar to me.

    I should add that participating in this discussion does not signal an endorsement of the proposition that US force may be justified to deter nuclear proliferation.

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