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Conservatives Don't Want To Deter Iran


Here's why I'm skeptical that conservatives are interested in some sort of "mutual deterrent" relationship between Israel/the United States and Iran.

Aside from the obvious fact that an Iranian nuclear deterrent would be terrifying, it's important to remember that movement conservatives have always opposed to mutual deterrence as a matter of ideological principle. We forget that the term "MAD" (mutual assured destruction) was actually developed in National Review as a slur against deterrence and arms control--something akin to saying "the Democrat Party."

I won't go too far into the ideological justification for this tic--you can read its fascinating history, (along with a lot more supporting evidence for my argument) in U.S. vs. Them. But suffice it to say Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and even Phyllis Schlafly basically built their careers railing against the immorality of "mutual hostage theory" and calling for regime change in the Soviet Union.

The same ideological obsession prompted the Contract with America, and then the Bush administration, to prioritize missile defense (meant to invalidate mutual deterrence) over all other national security issues--including al Qaeda.

So, forgive me if I'm unconvinced when conservatives say they want to develop a "deterrent balance" or "contain Iran"--it's an article of faith among them that evil states cannot be contained. It's more likely they feel backed against a wall, and they'll quickly pivot to calls for missile defense and regime change.

Update: Looks like Charles Krauthammer's column today is about deterrence--I'll apply this analysis to it later in the afternoon.

Update II: A full analysis may have to wait, since the boss thinks it might be more useful in another form. I guess we can't fire everything off at once, but I'm happy to see Krauthammer did immediately pivot to missile defense and regime change. Stay tuned.

--Barron YoungSmith