Why nuke Iran?

The reformist left is alarmed at Bush and his threat to nuke Iran. They think that Bush is crazy and the alternative is a return to ‘sanity’. Juan Cole says a war with Iran might “alarm” the US public and “could cost the Republican Party its majority in Congress”. Wow, maybe good old US democracy in the form of the Democrats will come to the rescue at home. This would be an interesting twist to Bush's logic, “You envy our democracy, OK we can drop it on you”.

The theme is that the neo-Cons represented by Bush, and by default, the whole Republican Party, are the problem here. After all how else to explain something as 'crazy' as nuking Iran's nuclear installations? Must be the neo-cons. No-one else wants to nuke Iran. The Russians and Chinese have too much at stake. The EU and even poodle Blair are reluctant. Even the Israelis cannot be so stupid (but they might do it if the price was right).

So why go to such lengths to destabilise the 'international community’? Because the neo-cons are crazy (most commentators) wrong (Fukayama) irresponsible (Tony Negri) arrogant elites (Chomsky) or oily Texans (Eisenhower). So wake up US public kick out the Republicans and elect the Democrats.

Are these people blind to what has driven US foreign policy for nearly 200 years? The US has gone to war, overthrown governments, used nukes on Japan, threatened to use them against Vietnam, Cuba and the USSR for years (it was called the Cold War).

What is doing in Iraq and threatens to do in Iran is par for the course. Are we saying that the US was led by crazy, stupid, ignorant Republican Presidents and ruling parties for its whole history? We can easily disprove this. Look at the record of Democrats Roosevelt, Johnson, Carter and Clinton. None of them reneged on wars, sanctions, blockades etc to pursue US imperial interests.

Imperialism is the root cause

Instead of looking for some 'aberrant' cause in the George W. Bush’s personality, new right ideology, cabals of crooks, etc to explain US actions in any particular case, let’s be parsimonious. Let’s try for a one size fits all explanation.

What about imperialism? This accounts for a lot. The US was the ‘first new nation’ to become a super-power able to rival and then dominate its competitors. In the post-WW2 period the US became the dominant global capitalist power occupying its rivals and quarantining the USSR and China.

Globalisation is really about US finance capital taking over the world economy. While no-one else can challenge it, it can do what it likes. There is no UN, or ‘international community’ except as a cover for the US policy of unilateral, pre-emptive assaults. Now it’s so powerful it no longer needs this cover and simply asserts its ‘rights’.

For the US the opportunity cost of running the world is greatest gain for least cost. Having ‘rogue’ states bucking the US is a potential cost in terms of resources and military enforcement. The US ruling class knows that its long term requirement for resources will meet resistance. It must neutralise that resistance in advance.

In the post-Cold War period it has shifted the target from the ‘reds’ who have conveniently opened up their countries to US corporate exploitation. It is not a priority to pursue North Korea as an minor irritant which might risk the investment in a dynamic capitalist East Asia. But they can still pull out the ‘red card’ when former Stalinist politicians like Putin get in the way of US corporate interests in what remains of the old USSR.

The main parts of the world that the US still needs to dominate are in Central Asia. Here client regimes are being established and pepper potted with US military bases. Resistance to US dominance in Asia is demonised as ‘radical Islam’. And the new military target is the potential WMDs of radical Islam. The US does not need another 9-11 to mount a nuclear strike on Iran – it is a continuation of 9-11 and the ‘war on terror’. Iran is already set up as an irresistible target.

Defend Iran’s right to nukes!

This demand is the one that most of the left find hard to swallow. Most people agree that it is wrong for the US or Israel to threaten to use nukes, but they can’t make the step from their to accepting Iran’s right to nukes. For us the issue has nothing to do with nukes as such. Nukes are merely weapons. True they are dangerous and potentially calamitous. But they are weapons essentially. The important distinction is nukes in the hands of imperialism, and nukes in the hands of oppressed countries.

We argue that oppressed countries have the right to defend themselves from imperialist military invasions with whatever weapons necessary. It seems only nuclear weapons are capable of deterring the use of nuclear weapons – e.g. Cuba 1960, Vietnam 1968, North Korea today. The problem therefore is imperialist nukes, not the nukes of oppressed semi-colonial countries. The more the workers in the imperialist countries are able to disarm the military machines of nuclear weapons at home, the less will it be necessary for oppressed countries to resort to the use of nuclear weapons to defend themselves from imperialism.

And just as we expect that the working classes in the imperialist countries will not sit idly by and allow their ruling classes to use nukes, we also expect that the worker, peasant and student masses in the oppressed countries will want to take the control of nuclear weapons out of the hands of the nationalist regimes that share in the exploitation and oppression of the working people. With nukes in the hands of popular militias their use will be determined not by ruling class military adventures but by the defensive needs of the working people alone.

From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006

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