Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fareed has figured it out!

Fareed Zachariah has wonderful news for all of us: the Iranians aren't looking for a nuclear weapon! The evidence? They say they aren't!

Now, Fareed is no misty eyed fool. He recognizes that "…of course, they could all be lying." The "them" being the last two grand ayatollahs who pronounced nuclear weapons as "un-Islamic." But then, since the regime relies on its fidelity to the Islamic principles for its legitimacy, reminding people of the illegitimacy of nuclear weapons would not be in their interest. It would be far more “shrewd” to

Fareed goes on to adduce other reasons that the Iranian would not want nuclear weapons. Pursuing a civilian nuclear program would have great benefits, such as making them more popular among the Europeans and international lawyers. They can get all of the benefits of having a nuclear program by simply maintaining a "breakout capability."  And it would make international sanctions almost impossible to enact.

Finally, the oracle of Armani tells us, intones, that the Iranians are rational.  They respond to costs and benefits. They are not suicidal. 

Where to begin?

What they say. There are several interpretations of what they say.  Denying that they want a nuclear weapon is consistent with not wanting a nuclear weapon.  It is also consistent with not wanting to have your nuclear weapons program bombed to smithereens. 

It is “unIslamic” and they wouldn’t say it was unIslamic if they didn’t mean it because otherwise they would undermine their own legitimacy. 

There are plenty of things they do that are “un-Islamic” but they do them anyway. Ask the 241 Marines killed by Hezbollah in Lebanon 1983.  It might be un-Islamic to have nuclear weapons but does that seem like a statement that would really box them in?  “Sure it is un-Islamic, but when the infidels leave us no choice…?” 

Moreover, aren’t there plenty of incidents in the Koran where the Prophet deceives the infidels for a higher cause?  And don’t the fans of the regime seem like they care more about being able to dictate terms to the infidels than to be in line with the Koran’s principles on nuclear weapons? 

Maybe they want to win?  Maybe they want to dominate?   Remember in the Spielberg movie about the dinosaurs?  The guy says that T-Rex doesn’t want to be fed, he wants to hunt.  They don’t want to be given, they want to take.  They want to dictate.  They want to wipe away a couple centuries of inferiority and humiliation by standing strong and showing that they will not parle with their enemies but dominate with their will and power.  They don’t want be the objects of beneficence, they want to be masters.  They don’t want their enemies to be cut a deal, they want them to cower. 

Hitler was not irrational, he just took big risks and valued deaths in battle of his own country men at a very low price.  Once you understand his utility function he is very easy to understand.  Chamberlain’s mistake was not in assuming that Hitler was rational, it was in misjudging his utility function.  Being told someone is rational is practically useless, if by “rational” we mean utility maximizing.  It matters the world what gives them utility.  The assumption that they are as rational as we are is not a warrant for taking a walk in the other guy’s shoes.  That procedure is only informative if the other guy is walking in the same direction as we would. 

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