We Must Incinerate Them

by David Weigel

Stanley Kurtz, I hate to say this, but: Jack D. Ripper called. He wants his brain back. This incredibly long excursion into the fever swamps of nuclear eschatology starts with the premise that when Iran (which has "terrorist agents in the United States, with instructions to retaliate against civilian targets in the event of war") goes nuclear, it will push Turkey and Saudi Arabia to go nuclear, and then even the Middle Eastern nations that we recognize and trade with will become deadly enemies, or something. And therefore, of course, we need to preemptively strike Iran.

What if a nuclear missile is launched at the United States from somewhere in a fully nuclearized Middle East, in the middle of a war in which, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran are already lobbing conventional missiles at one another? Would we know who had attacked us?

I have trouble believing that one missile could make the 6000-mile journey from the Middle East to New York City and we 1)wouldn't know where it came from and 2)wouldn't be able to stop it. And is it even a question whether Saudi Arabia or Iran would be more likely to launch an attack? This is like asking "What if a missile is launched at the United States from somewhere in the Korean peninsula? Would we know who had attacked us?"

If you're still in danger of taking Kurtz seriously, take in these two deep thoughts. One:

Given the Soviets’ overwhelmingly large nuclear arsenal — capable of turning the entire United States to dust in the event of a major nuclear exchange — fallout shelters came to seem like a joke.


...The revitalized George McGovern-Howard Dean wing of the Democratic party cannot survive much past the moment when Iran gets the bomb. As soon as that happens, we’re going to plunged into a proliferation crisis and a new Cold War, at least as dangerous as the first Cold War (arguably more so).

Yes, the Soviet Union had the capability to "turn the entire United States to dust," but Middle Eastern states could send one nuke over the ocean, which is far more dangerous.

Some very smart people are actually taking this column seriously. Am I missing something?