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April 28, 2015
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Current Concerns  >  2007  >  No 9, 2007  >  A Result of Ideological Self-Conceit [printversion]

A Result of Ideological Self-Conceit

There are no convincing arguments in favour of a US missile defense shield

by Dr. Erhard Eppler, Schwäbisch Hall, Germany*

A missile defense shield against Iran is unnecessary, because the country cannot risk an attack on the west. The defense system would only make sense on the assumption that all-out lunatics decide in Tehran about life and death of their people.

Those who remember the debates about armament and disarmament during the cold war and try to understand today’s missile defense shield debate, rub their eyes in confusion: did they get it all wrong then or aren’t they up-to-date now?
Then there were two nuclear powers facing each other which both had the potential to hit the other side lethally – even several times. To prevent temptation for any side, both sides had to have the ability to land a second strike – even after they had taken a first strike. It had to be guaranteed that murder also implied suicide. The safety of the USA did not rest on their ability to intercept Russian missiles but on their ability to strike back, even in the worst case.
It is probably due to this fact – and because of the United States’ poor success in their attempt to gain the decisive advantage of a missile shield – that we have survived the cold war.

The invulnerable is lord of the world

Of course, the “Star wars” project under the Reagan administration was primarily a defensive project. But a success would have made an offensive feasible again.
This explains the extreme Russian sensitivity towards all missile defense systems. The invulnerable would be lord of the world. That is how it was with Siegfried in the Nibelungen saga. But: there remained one vulnerable spot, where the linden leaf had sealed his skin from the dragon’s blood. Also the hardy body of Uncle Sam has been spotted by linden leafs – quite a lot of them – and the consequences remain. But he could – and still can – hit back.
Today we are told that Iran could, contrary to its promises, fire a missile at the USA (or maybe two or three?) carrying nuclear warheads. This is why we need a missile shield. Europe, much closer to Iran, did not come to this conclusion – these things are outrageously expensive. But maybe it could bene­fit from it?
Those who have not forgotten the debates of the seventies will probably argue: Whatever Iran will be able to build up within five, ten or fifteen years will be a far cry from any ability to destroy the United States or to prevent a counter-attack from there.
But this means that the first missile hitting the USA will lead to a destruction of all large Iranian cities, including all its infrastructure. What would have been sufficient for destroying the Soviet Union is by far sufficient for Iran. If the people in charge there are not aware of this – which seems highly unprobable – one could tell them.
This is why a missile defense shield against Iran only makes sense on the assumption that lunatics decide in Tehran about life and death of their people.
One may point at the Iranian president’s fanatic rants, classify him as a terrorist, as a bin Laden become president, as a suicide bomber in office. But only if one’s reasoning is faulty due to the Bush administration’s ideology.
Bin Laden is so dangerous, so hard to defeat, just because he does not represent a state, because he is not responsible for a territory nor a people. He can hit anywhere and he can be hit nowhere. When he has hit, the victim never knows where to direct his retaliation. This is why nuclear terror could wound our civilisation deeply.

A theocracy is a state, too

The Iranian president, however, is the president of a large state – and, by the way, a freely elected one. A theocracy is a state, too. And it has a reason of state. And this of course speaks against ruining the country. A president has neither the right nor practically the power to decree the obvious suicide of his people. An overwhelming superiority in nuclear weapons grants the USA safety, now as 40 years ago, as well from Iranian wea­pons – as long as 50 million Iranians love their lives, which is a chance of 99 percent. You never get more in this world, anyway. And a missile shield would give us much less than 99 percent.
But such simple reflections are obviously not around. This has to do with the Bush administration’s original sin: the proclamation of a “War on Terrorism” on September 12, 2001. This is how a manhunt became a war; criminals were promoted to combatants. This is how the threshold to a real war was planed off, making it invisible to many Americans.

“We are already at war”

“We are already at war”, they were told daily, while their administration was preparing the Iraq war. After all, it was just a new phase in a long war. Who calls a manhunt a war has to lead a war like a manhunt – with head-money, tracing lists and gallows. This is what happened in Iraq and it destroyed this state so efficiently that reconstruction is failing.
Those who wage war against a non-state like al-Qaida neglect the difference between state and non-state. Evil is evil, no matter where. A villain is a villain and any maliciousness, any lunacy has to be expected from villains. If there are islamistic suicide bombers, why shouldn’t an islamic state commit suicide? This would be the only justification for a defense shield which otherwise is utterly superfluous according to pre-1990 standards. It may be good for dividing the grand coalition in Berlin or the whole of Europe – a collateral damage acceptable for the USA.
Yes, there are fanatics, suicide assassins. And it is worthwhile to reflect why they did not exist during the Cold War, why they first appeared in Palestine and why they have multiplied by virtue of the Iraq adventure. No shield will protect against them. Those willing to die cannot be deterred.
But only those suffering from ideological self-conceit can believe that a large, self-assured state which has about as many people as France, among them many young and critical, that a state invoking 3000 years of history could commit suicide – for no special reason, just because it is evil and part of the axis of evil.    •
(Translation Current Concerns)

*Dr. Erhard Eppler was head of the Basic Value Commission of the German SPD 1973-1992. He was one of the leading opponents of the Nato Double-Track Decision of 1979.