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mourning the bomb

  1. Snooker

    5,748 posts.
    Mourning the Bomb

    Why Israel's fallen astronaut was a hero to America.
    February 2, 2003

    (This editorial appeared in The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 1981, three days after the Israeli air force destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor. One of the F-16 pilots who carried out the mission was Ilan Ramon. Col. Ramon was aboard the space shuttle Columbia; he died yesterday at 48.)

    Just try to imagine what the 1991 gulf war would have looked like, had Saddam possessed nuclear weapons then...............Snooker .......plagerized

    An atom bomb for Iraq, we have learned in the last 24 hours, has become the latest great cause célèbre of world opiniondom. Various governments, including our own, and a lot of pundits have been busily condemning Israel's raid on Iraq's nuclear reactor. Our own reaction is that it's nice to know that in Israel we have at least one nation left that still lives in the world of reality.

    What is going on here: Iraq, awash in cheap crude oil, wants a big nuclear reactor. It rebuffs French suggestions to give up the original design and substitute one that does not need weapons-grade uranium. It has been buying raw uranium, which is not suitable for use in reactors, but dandy if you want to use the reactor to breed plutonium for weapons. Faced with this evidence, the conclusion of world opinion has been--everything's OK, Iraq has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

    This kind of silliness has a mysterious power to blind most who man foreign ministries, think tanks and editorial sanctums. Of course Iraq was building a bomb. Of course its intended target was Israel. Of course, given the Iraqi reputation for political nuttiness reaffirmed again in its starting a war with Iran, its atom bomb would also have been a danger to all its neighbors. We all ought to get together and send the Israelis a vote of thanks.

    Israel, which is assumed to have its own atom bomb but not to have conducted a test explosion, was not acting out of some abstract concern with nonproliferation. It was pursuing its own national interest, and in its timing also no doubt Prime Minister Begin's political interest in the impending elections. Its pre-emptive strike was strong medicine.

    This would not have been necessary, though, if the reality that marked the Israeli decision had been present in the United States' nonproliferation policy this last decade or so. These efforts more or less went out the window when the U.S. refused to take sanctions against India's "peaceful nuclear device," exploded in violation of an agreement with the U.S. After this show of irresolution, the U.S. could hardly expect to persuade, say, the French to pass up sales to Iraq. Soon the whole nonproliferation question was lost in the fog of international negotiations.

    To give the worriers about Israel their due, there is always reason to be concerned that any military act could prove to be the spark in the tinderbox of the Middle East. But we have been under the impression that the Middle East wasn't a very peaceful place even before last Sunday. People were being blown up on the beaches of Beirut and in the redoubts of western Iran. To judge the extent of the silliness, notice that among the governments objecting is Iran, locked in a war with Iraq. Is there any reason to doubt that there were sighs of relief in the Saudi palaces upon learning that Iraq won't have a bomb soon?

    Being concerned about the peace of the Middle East does not make it necessary to be deceived about the necessary components for peace. Without a doubt, the ability of Israel and Egypt to come to terms has contributed mightily to that end, and President Carter's role in aiding that agreement was a major foreign policy achievement. But Lebanon has become a madhouse and the Soviet Union, through its surrogate, Syria, seems intent on keeping it that way to keep the Middle East pot boiling.

    In such a situation it is not entirely implausible for the United Sates to send a shuttle diplomat to try to damp down the passions and seek out possibilities for a modus vivendi. But the best chances for peace, to the extent they exist, depend far more heavily on balance of power perceptions in the area itself.

    The Israelis are not infallible, but their security for 33 years now has depended on making careful power judgments. They know that their best chances for avoiding bloodshed lie in frequently reminding their neighbors that they are strong and that their wishes are not to be taken lightly.

    The Israeli approach to nonproliferation is limited and direct. But their outlook on the world and on what it takes to earn the world's respect offers a few lessons we ourselves could profitably learn.

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