Heritage’s Slippery Slope To Nuclear War With Iran

The tea-partyization of the conservative movement has extended to foreign and security policy as well. In two recent Iran reports from the Heritage Foundation they argue that the US would be wise to both launch a preventive strike against Iran and to forward-deploy US nuclear weapons to the Persian Gulf. Steps that together could quite easily lead to nuclear war. Jim Phillips of Heritage argues in a recent report on the implications of an Israeli preventive attack on Iran:

Given that the United States is likely to be attacked by Iran in the aftermath of an Israeli strike anyway, it may be logical to consider joining Israel in a preven­tive war against Iran.

Ariel Cohen in a companion report released the same day also goes on to recommend that:

The U.S. should deploy a visible deterrent, deploying overwhelming nuclear forces near Iran, including on surface ships, aircraft, or permanent bases. These offensive forces should be designed to hold at risk the facilities that Iran would need to launch a strategic attack, thereby making any such attack by Iran likely to fail.

So Heritage is not only saying that the US would be smart to join a preventive attack with Israel — an attack they acknowledge would lead to an Iranian response against US forces and installations in the Middle East — but that the US should equip these bases with nuclear weapons — the very bases that they just acknowledged Iran would attack. Patrick Disney at NIAC notes:

He [Cohen] is suggesting that we wave these missiles in front of Iran’s face, knowing full well that Tehran and its proxy allies will not sit idly by as the US makes such a thoroughly provocative move. And he makes the ludicrous suggestion that the thing the Middle East needs more than anything else right now is more Weapons of Mass Destruction.

By the right’s own logic these steps would lead to nuclear war. The right has consistently argued that the Iranian regime is not rational and therefore cannot be deterred — hence the need in their minds for the US or Israel to strike at Iran before they develop and use a nuclear weapon. Dick Cheney when he was the sitting Vice President said that Iran could not be deterred: “mutual assured destruction in the hands of Ahmadinejad may just be an incentive.”


So, assuming that they agree with the Vice President, Heritage is advocating the forward-deployment of nuclear weapons and threatening to use them against an apparently suicidal and undeterrable regime. If you threaten a regime with nuclear war that you don’t believe is rational, doesn’t that mean that you are in fact expecting to use these weapons, since it is likely that the regime’s reaction won’t be capitulation, but defiance?

This would then put the US in a situation in which it threatened a country with nuclear war and was rebuffed. What would the right’s reaction be to that? Based on past history it is pretty obvious that Heritage would advocate following through on the threat to show America’s “resolve.” Once making the threat the US would look “weak” not following through, thereby undermining the credibility of the US nuclear deterrent by demonstrating an unwillingness to use nukes — or so the logic would go. Hence, the recommendations from Heritage — by conservatives’ own logic — put the US on a slippery slope to a nuclear war with Iran.

Now the chances are that there isn’t that much logic behind Heritage’s recommendations, but the logical conclusion of what they are advocating is really really scary.