Outside View: Iran war dangers

By ALEXANDER KOLDOBSKY, UPI Outside View Commentator  |  Nov. 30, 2007 at 11:31 AM
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MOSCOW, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Nicolas Sarkozy recently said in Washington that the Iranian nuclear problem could be solved through U.N. and EU sanctions, but hastened to add a reservation about the "readiness for a dialogue with Tehran."

In the opinion of the French president, a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, but access to the "peaceful atom" is open to everyone, including Iran.

This placing of accents on the Iranian theme could hardly have found favor with Sarkozy's host, U.S. President George W. Bush. Only recently the U.S. president called for keeping nuclear technologies away from Iran to avoid a third world war.

"A word is a symbol representing reality in consciousness." If one proceeds from that logical definition, the conclusion suggests itself: If Bush refers to the third world war, he thinks of it as something real. But what could its scenario be?

No logic can explain the connection between a third world war and Iran. Iran cannot lead -- now or in the foreseeable future -- any meaningful coalition in a world war. Nor can it provide a casus belli for a clash of such coalitions. Any military adventure on its part would instantly bring about its defeat, wiping it off the global political map. Besides, if events take such a turn, Iran cannot count on any sympathy in the world.

On the other hand, a U.S. military operation in Iran cannot be ruled out. That act of political madness would have dire consequences for both Tehran and Washington. It would make the current situation in Iraq look like a child's game of cops and robbers. Even in that case, there would be no third world war. Today it can only be triggered by a direct military showdown between the two major nuclear powers, and it would mark the end of world history.

The positions of Russia and the United States are key in the scenario of a hypothetical third world war because their nuclear weapons -- unlike those of other states -- play a systemic role in the modern world. It would be politically naive and formally wrong to suppose that other major states would not be drawn into that war, but the fact that these two countries are allies makes the third world war impossible by definition. Because Bush thinks it is possible, one can equally say that he believes a large-scale military clash between the United States and Russia is possible.

In the "pre-nuclear" era one could see war, following the ideas of the German military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz, as the continuation of policy by other means. However, a war between two powers that possess a systemic nuclear potential is by definition a war in which there can be no winners. All the dreams about a military victory run into the inevitable situation of burning in the flames of a retaliatory nuclear strike. It is only a question of sequence: If you strike first you will be the second to die.

Because the U.S. president speaks about the third world war, with Iran brought in by an obvious stretch, the conclusion cannot but be alarming for Russia. The American leader's main message is that to achieve its goals the United States is prepared to start a third world war disregarding everyone and not heeding anyone. Elementary logic does not suggest any other conclusion.

The hope remains that Bush's words belong to the same category as his confusing Brazil with Bolivia and Austria with Australia -- although it is hard to imagine what the third world war can be confused with. In one case the result was mocking posters put up by people in Vienna stating, "There are no kangaroos in Austria," but in the other case we are speaking not about ignorance, but about arrogant contempt for the destinies of global citizens, including Americans. The arrogance is not at the state or national level, but at the social and biological level because the third world war and the demise of a developed human civilization on Earth are synonymous.


(Alexander Koldobsky is deputy director of the Institute of International Relations in Moscow. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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