Getting it right this time around

October 21, 2007|By ROBERT GARY

There will be some, I'm sure, who see no reason why Iran should not have the atom bomb. This column is not going to be of value to them. The nature of the problem to be addressed is to prevent the Iranians from building an atom bomb, while avoiding further entanglements by the U.S. in the Middle East. Specifically, what is required, is to bring the Iran bomb project to a close without invading Iran with a large ground force of American soldiers and marines.

The way to do that is Focused Industrial Disablement (FID). Bomb building is a very delicate and complex process calling for a vast array of chemical solvents, metallurgical processes, transportation, communication, computing power, clean water, electricity, compressed gases of various types and heavy equipment.

Anyone who visits the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge. Tenn., or the Pantex plant in Amarillo, Tex., or the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., will realize immediately how vulnerable such a sophisticated industrial setup is to disruption. It doesn't take much to create a situation where, when they come in to flip the switch in the morning, nothing happens.


That's all that is needed in Iran. We don't really need to kill anybody, we don't even need to destroy the entire nuclear facilities or the equipment they contain - the centrifuges, the casting molds, the electrical relay buses, the polonium/beryllium triggers - that stuff can all survive as long as the plant is rendered inoperable. And the simpler the better - no water, no power, no computer, no phone service - anything that turns the plant into a museum of technology, sort of like the Smithsonian, except without friendly and informative curators.

Less is more. A minimalist approach to the Iran problem creates an environment where eventually they realize that we have far greater ability to cheaply knock their bomb-building plants out of commission than they have the ready cash to keep repairing them. We don't even need to use cruise missiles; the job can be done with Joint Defense Attack Munitions (JDAMS), sometimes called satellite-guided glide bombs. The mission can be done without flying U.S. pilots into Iranian airspace, or if they do enter, it can be at night, in stealth bombers at Mach 2, and for few minutes tops. Released high enough and fast enough, JDAMS will glide a long way.

Iran is not the same as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The actual leadership in Iran has much more sense. Plus, the Iranian people feel a great affinity for Americans - more than almost anyone else in the Middle East, due to the exchange programs, and the wonderful American University in Tehran and the uptake of Western culture by many of the youth in Iran.

They dig our music, our movies, our whole lifestyle - except Mahmoud. He doesn't. He's very puritan, but the rest of the folks in Iran under 60 have a place in their hearts for U.S. and what we stand for in this world.

Iran actually is an advanced civilization, due mostly to the work of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah who died about 27 years ago. The Shah was an enlightened man, a noble patriot, doing great things for Iran, until he was ousted by the street people, organized by an ayatollah of the ultra-religious right.

So killing Iranians is a terrible idea. Focused Industrial Disablement simply brings the responsible adults in Iran around to the view that they have better things to spend their people's money on than an impossible dream (which we will make impossible) of building an atom bomb.

Instead, they could build cryogenic natural gas liquification plants and acquire insulated LNG tankers to deliver the stuff to ports in Europe or the Far East. What Qatar is doing with LNG actually helps the world by reducing the dependence of European nations on oil and gas from Russia. The less leverage Russia has over Europe, the better.

There are three things required to make this happen: 1. A new idea has to penetrate the collective skull of federal policymakers - Focused Industrial Disablement (FID). 2. There has to be a desire to actually do something about Iran, not just talk about how deplorable the situation is. 3. We need to get over the temptation to explain and justify policy. It's an action that we take "for reasons of state" and just leave it at that - don't try to get the whole world behind us. We think we are doing the world a favor by keeping Iran from building its own atom bombs, but whether we are or not, it's something we need to do just because we like New York City and Washington. D.C., and maybe Tel Aviv, too.

Minimalism would call for FID to begin simply and on as long as necessary - and be presented to the international community as a raison d'etat policy. No atom bomb for Iran is taken as an axiom. Many thoughtful people agree that it is a morally and legally correct goal as a practical matter. Focused Industrial Disablement is a humane, life-sparing, necessary and proper policy. It is the right thing to do now. What the world needs now is a mission, not another speech.

Robert Gary is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

The Herald-Mail Articles