Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Funky Chickens

The chicken dance

So WaPo confirms Sy Hersh's story about plans for a preemptive nuclear strike in Iran. Or at least that "Pentagon planners are contemplating tactical nuclear devices."

So, a game of chicken, eh?

Background: certain batshit crazy conservatives explicitly conceive of international relations as a game of chicken in which the rationality of irrationality triumphs (going so far as to advocate "random acts of violence" so as to establish your "madman bona fides").

According to game theory, games of chicken have two equivalent but mutually contradictory equilibriums (i.e., rational solutions): only one person swerves. The easiest way to ensure that the other guy swerves is via a pre-game signal. With this signal you convince the other driver that you are so irrational that you would not swerve under any circumstances (artificially constraining yourself is another, closely related solution).

That seems to be what the Straussian Bushies are trying for: a pre-game signal that they are the craziest motherfuckers on the planet.

First of all, this strategy probably won't work.

Second, only a cabal of wussy exurban white guys with major, major penis size issues could ever have concockted it. Seriously, can you imagine a woman or well-hung Latino man, for example, even considering it? I guess Condi is a woman, but I doubt she's to blame.

I mean, listen to how Nixon relates this strategy to his own personal, apparently insecure manliness: "We'll just slip the word to them that, 'for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry -- and he has his hand on the nuclear button.'"

Somehow I doubt that that's what his hand was on at that particular moment.

God only knows what scary, ubergay meeting notes from the Bush administration FISA courts will unearth years from now.

Tags: news and politics, iran, hersh, nuclear, game theory, chicken, nixon


  • At 2:51 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Yglesias's basic point that you link to at TPMCafe is pretty astute: not only are there major downsides to nuking Iran, there's not really an upside. At most we set them back a year or three while they build another uranium-enrichment facility or plutonium-production reactor. Now that they know how to build a nuclear bomb they can't ever not know.

    Anyway, if their goal is to convince everyone that they're just crazy enough to do it, well, worked on me. I believe 100% that they're just that fucking crazy.

  • At 2:57 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Oh, as it in fact says in the WaPo article you linked to.

    Many military officers and specialists, however, view the saber rattling with alarm. A strike at Iran, they warn, would at best just delay its nuclear program by a few years but could inflame international opinion against the United States, particularly in the Muslim world and especially within Iran, while making U.S. troops in Iraq targets for retaliation.

  • At 3:01 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…


    Yeah, Yglesias made good points.

    But never fear, Condi's got the nice, simple answer: if you rogue states try to use your nuclear weapons, we will Nagasaki your asses without blinking.

    "These regimes are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. Rather, the first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence -- if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration"

    BUT I actually think the whole Nixonian chicken/signal thing is probably an explicitly game theoretical tactic to avert the even more costly deterrence game. I just think it's really wrongheaded.

  • At 3:05 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Re: your second comment,

    Yeah, the Bushies always forget there's an international community.

    Preemptive nuclear strikes are wrong for so many reasons.

  • At 3:10 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Also, there's an interesting article in the new Harper's about how the most significant threat to US sovereignty is a military coup d'etat. I haven't finished reading it, but it's interesting when there's such a consistent disconnect between the military and the White House.

    I smell a speculative fiction short story...

  • At 3:22 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I'm not sure the Bushite lunatics see inflaming international opinion against the U.S. as a bad thing. They don't seem to believe in diplomacy at all.

    I've also seen it proposed that leaking the threat of nuclear weapons is designed to make bombing Iran with conventional weapons seem sane. Again, worked on me in the relative sense.

  • At 11:24 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Well I just watche Sy Hersh on Wolf Blitzer's show, and it seems like this was not a government leak (which was sort of one of my assumptions). The admin seems to loathe Hersh and have been frantically spinning this as him throwing unsourced shit against the wall to see what sticks.

    Also, for the record, I wrote this Chicken thing after coming home tipsy from a date, so I apologize if it was slightly incoherent.

  • At 1:00 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Yeah, I kind of really do believe that the Bushites would like to nuke Iran. Their entire reign has been me thinking "Well, they couldn't possibly be crazy enough to do that, lets think about what sane compromises they might be aiming for," and then them doing the totally crazy shit. I was convinced there was no way the dividend tax cut would pass, for example. I couldn't believe we would actually invade Iraq until a few weeks beforehand--I thought it was all a political stunt to cow political opponents. This time I believe up front that they're completely fucking nuts, and I think we know from experience that there's precious little anyone can do to stop them. The only slim, slim hope I have is that if the demonstrations are big and loud enough, the rest of the world might believe Bush doesn't speak for us on this. Sadly, I am already pretty well convinced that most Americans wouldn't think twice about nuking Iran. After all, brown Persians aren't really people. They're "Islamists."


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