As I was flying into Minneapolis last week, the lady sitting next to me mentioned that while people often drive five miles over the speed limit in the northwest, they commonly drive 10-15 over the limit in Minneapolis. Not having driven in Minneapolis, I couldn’t vouch for the validity of her statement, but I’ll accept it at face value. But either situation is an example of pushing at a declared boundary.

In Washington state, the highway speed limits are typically 60 or 70 miles an hour. I know from past experience that the flow of traffic often clicks along above this speed, and the police do nothing to stop it. 65 and 75 have become the new boundaries for highway speed. If the Washington state troopers announced that they wouldn’t stop anyone doing 10 miles an hour over the speed limit or less, the new boundaries would become 70 and 80 miles an hour.

It’s not surprising that people often test and push at the boundaries placed on us. Anyone who has raised a child knows that they push at every boundary paced on them. They don’t do it to be bad, but because it is human nature to want to know our limits. And speaking of limits, President Obama will announce today a limit on the use of our nuclear weapons.

President Obama will today announce that he is to dramatically narrow the conditions under which the United States will use nuclear weapons, even for self-defence.

In an interview with The New York Times ahead of the unveiling of his much anticipated revamped nuclear policy, Mr Obama said an exception would be made for “outliers like Iran and North Korea” that have violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But in a striking departure from the position taken by his predecessors, he said that the US would explicitly commit for the first time to not using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that adhere to the nuclear treaty, even if they attack with biological or chemical weapons.

What is the blindingly obvious response to this by terrorists and rogue states, including Iran and North Korea? If you say that they will test these new boundaries, you understand basic human nature. If they don’t already have plans in place for developing and deploying chemical and biological weapons against the U.S., they will be as soon as they read the news.

Terrorists and rogue states are anti-social children with rage issues, so of course they will push at any boundary given them. Since President Obama has two little girls of his own, I’m surprised that he doesn’t understand this aspect of human nature already.

UPDATE (4/9/2010 6:43:19 AM): And once again Michael Ramirez nails it:

Beware of Dog...   No more.

In the news today, we discover that Iran has decided to ignore the stern warning from the United Nations to stop enriching uranium or face another stern warning:

Iran has ignored the latest UN deadline to suspend uranium enrichment and is actually extending it, a report by nuclear watchdog the IAEA has said.

The refusal to observe the Wednesday deadline could lead to further UN sanctions against Iran.

I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that Iran would fail to heed the U.N. deadline. But it’s more than just continuing with enrichment; Iran is willing to stop enriching uranium only if others do so, too:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said his country was ready to stop its enrichment program and return to talks provided Western nations also stopped their own. Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands in northern Iran one day ahead of a U.N. Security Council deadline that it was no problem for his country to stop, but that “fair talks” demanded a similar gesture from the West.

This absurd “you first” attitude is about the level of diplomatic seriousness I’ve come to expect from Ahmadinejad, and the talented Cox and Forkum do a great job of skewering it, too.

Throw Down

Charles of Little Green Footballs posted a link to an article explaining that many Arabs favor Iran getting nuclear weapons.

Most in the Arab world see the U.S. and European campaign against Iran as hypocritical, while Israel refuses to allow international nuclear inspections and is thought to have some 200 nuclear warheads.

“I want the whole region free of all nuclear weapons but if the West continues its double-standard approach on this issue then Iran has the right (to have them),” said Abdel-Rahman Za’za’, a 29-year-old Lebanese engineer.

“This could provide some balance against Israel and help the Palestinians in their negotiations. We have to take our rights because they are not going to be given to us,” he added.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, said this week it saw no harm in Iran developing nuclear arms.

“That would create a kind of equilibrium between the two sides — the Arab and Islamic side on one side and Israel on the other,” said deputy Brotherhood leader Mohamed Habib.

I bolded two bits in the article above, but the both basically restate the same theme: Iran, and by extension all of Islam, needs to have nuclear weapons to balance Israel and its nuclear weapons. And if the two sides were equal, I could understand their desire. But they are not equal in population or in land. Here is a map I used in my post about “Losing Zion” that shows how very unbalanced Israel is when compared to the Arabic states.

A speck of blue in a sea of green

There is one other way that Israel is unbalanced in respect to the Arabic states surrounding it:

Israel has the lion’s share of freedom. And no amount of Arabic nukes will give the Arab people freedom.

Mark Steyn of the Sun Times has written a great article. (hat tip – Little Green Footballs) He suggests a wonderful thing to try the next time you are flying in the States — impersonate Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

You know what’s great fun to do if you’re on, say, a flight from Chicago to New York and you’re getting a little bored? Why not play being President Ahmadinejad? Stand up and yell in a loud voice, “I’ve got a bomb!” Next thing you know the air marshal will be telling people, “It’s OK, folks. Nothing to worry about. He hasn’t got a bomb.” And then the second marshal would say, “And even if he did have a bomb it’s highly unlikely he’d ever use it.” And then you threaten to kill the two Jews in row 12 and the stewardess says, “Relax, everyone. That’s just a harmless rhetorical flourish.” And then a group of passengers in rows 4 to 7 point out, “Yes, but it’s entirely reasonable of him to have a bomb given the threatening behavior of the marshals and the cabin crew.”

That’s how it goes with the Iranians. The more they claim they’ve gone nuclear, the more U.S. intelligence experts — oops, where are my quote marks? — the more U.S. intelligence “experts” insist no, no, it won’t be for another 10 years yet. The more they conclusively demonstrate their non-compliance with the IAEA, the more the international community warns sternly that, if it were proved that Iran were in non-compliance, that could have very grave consequences. But, fortunately, no matter how thoroughly the Iranians non-comply it’s never quite non-compliant enough to rise to the level of grave consequences. You can’t blame Ahmadinejad for thinking “our enemies cannot do a damned thing.”

The whole article is a treat to read. And it points out the problems we have in dealing with Iran that I recently wrote about. Steyn continues with a section that outlines Iran’s push for nuclear power, regardless of what people do:

It’s not the world’s job to prove that the Iranians are bluffing. The braggadocio itself is reason enough to act, and prolonged negotiations with a regime that openly admits it’s negotiating just for the laughs only damages us further. The perfect summation of the Iranian approach to negotiations came in this gem of a sentence from the New York Times on July 13 last year:

“Iran will resume uranium enrichment if the European Union does not recognize its right to do so, two Iranian nuclear negotiators said in an interview published Thursday.”

Got that? If we don’t let Iran go nuclear, they’ll go nuclear. That position might tax even the nuanced detecting skills of John Kerry.

So what do we do? We still have three basic options with Iran, but Steyn gives a good explanation at the end of his piece about the problem with going through the United Nations to get anything done:

All the doom-mongers want to know why we went into Iraq “without a plan.” Well, one reason is surely that, for a year before the invasion, the energy of the U.S. government was primarily devoted to the pointless tap-dance through the United Nations, culminating in the absurd situation of Western foreign ministers chasing each other through Africa to bend the ear of the president of Guinea, who happened to be on the Security Council that week but whose witch doctor had advised against supporting Washington. Allowing the Guinean tail to wag the French rectum of the British hindquarters of the American dog was a huge waste of resources. To go through it all again in order to prevent whichever global colossus chances to be on the Security Council this time (Haiti? The South Sandwich Islands?) from siding with the Russo-Chinese obstructionists would show that the United States had learned nothing.

Bill Clinton, the Sultan of Swing, gave an interesting speech last week, apropos foreign policy: “Anytime somebody said in my presidency, ‘If you don’t do this, people will think you’re weak,’ I always asked the same question for eight years: ‘Can we kill ‘em tomorrow?’ If we can kill ‘em tomorrow, then we’re not weak, and we might be wise enough to try to find an alternative way.”

The trouble was tomorrow never came — from the first World Trade Center attack to Khobar Towers to the African Embassy bombings to the USS Cole. Mañana is not a policy. The Iranians are merely the latest to understand that.

Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea.

If you had held a gun to my head five years ago and demanded that I list the leading terrorism-sponsoring nations, I would have rattled off the list above. (What you wouldn’t have heard was my mental swear-thoughts directed at you for holding a gun to my head. I can’t believe you’d do that to me. I thought we were friends.)

Much has happened since a certain fateful day in September 2001. Since then, Pakistan has become an ally in the war–not a staunch ally like the British or Australians have been, but they have made an impressive change. Another ally of the same “uh, I guess it’s nice to have you” variety is Libya. Qadhafi could see the handwriting on the wall and started to cooperate with the United States by turning over Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program which he was housing.

Now Iraq and Afghanistan have been changed from the Rule of Thug to the Rule of Law. Sadly, this required military action, and many lives were lost. But the end result is fifty million people who are no longer under the cruel thumb of dictators, and these nations have had both public and free elections. Score two big successes in President Bush’s column.

This leaves three nations in the list unchanged. Of these, North Korea is run by a loon. Jon Herskovitz sums up the “Dear Leader” well:

In the cult of personality in North Korea, Kim, a short, pudgy man with a pompadour and platform shoes, is king.

After all, this is a man who pilots jet fighters — even though he always travels by land for his infrequent trips abroad. He has penned operas, produced movies and accomplished a feat unmatched in the annals of professional golf, shooting 11 holes-in-one on the first round he ever played.

If we can believe Kim Jong Il–and why not believe such a skilled golfer?–then North Korea already has nuclear weapons. Presumably, these were being worked on while former President Jimmy Carter was leading North Korea into the Agreed Framework, a negotiated agreement to prevent the North Koreans from doing exactly what they claim to have done. Cox and Forkum explain easily how Kim could have lied to President Carter. Frankly, it is in the nature of a communist dictator to say what he wants. The decades of lies issuing from the Soviet Union should provide ample proof.

In a National Review Online article in 2002, John O’Sullivan put North Korea and Iraq together with the disaster of President Carter’s negotiations on behalf of then-President Clinton:

We now know, of course, that though presidential candidate George Bush was mocked by the “experts” two years ago when he criticized the Washington-Pyongyang agreement as dangerously lacking in “transparency,” he was absolutely right. Apply the lessons of North Korea to Iraq. North Korea and Iraq are both dangerous because they are both secretive totalitarian regimes bent upon maximizing their power through the possession of nuclear weapons. Those who ignored these transparent facts in the case of North Korea — including Bill Clinton, the U.S. State Department, the New York Times, Jimmy Carter (and not forgetting the Nobel Prize Committee) — should humbly observe a vow of silence on Iraq. Instead they are observing a vow of silence of North Korea.

“But we didn’t find any WMDs in Iraq!” I hear the doubters cry. While it is true that we haven’t found masses of WMDs in Iraq, there is evidence that 1) Iraq had manufactured/procured WMDs–witness Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds, and the terrorists’ use of Iraqi mortar shells containing mustard gas and Sarin in their IEDs, 2) Iraq passed a large supply of WMDs to Syria that were later caught as they crossed from Syria into Jordan, and 3) Saddam Hussein was most interested in getting his hands on working nuclear weapons. That is what his nuclear scientists were doing in Libya; when Saddam fell from power, Qadhafi didn’t want the presence of those scientists in his country to attract American ire.

And so we come to Syria. Another Ba’athist party-run nation, as Iraq was under Hussein, Syria has some very strong political ties with the deposed Iraqi regime. As mentioned above, Syria has been a long-time supporter of terrorism, and it has been controlling the disaster that is Lebanon for the past two decades. As the ever-so-lovely wife pointed out, “Lebanon is a NINO: a nation in name only.” But this NINO is starting to shake off its Syrian-forged chains. When I first started to write this article, those chains were still firmly in place, but things are changing in Lebanon. Syrian-backed Prime Minister Omar Karami said that he and his government are resigning: “Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead.” They are resigning because of the pressure being put to bear on them by the Lebanese people rising up and calling for Syria to leave Lebanon, which it has pledged to do.

Why is Syria reacting this way? It could swarm into Lebanon and put down the uprising, just as the Soviet Union quashed the Hungarian uprising in 1956. But so far it has not. Why? Could it be the armed masses of coalition forces parked right next door? Could it be that these armed masses of coalition forces parked right next door are increasingly not being tied down in Iraq? Could it be the armed masses of coalition forces parked right next door that are increasingly not being tied down in Iraq were also the force that destroyed the strongest military force in the Arab world in three weeks, and could squish Syria like a grape? Could be. And it could also have something to do with 8 million Iraqi people giving Syria the purple finger.

I’m becoming hopeful that Syria will see the changing tide in the Middle East and will change itself. It is showing this change in how it is reacting to the changes in Lebanon, by its choice to turn over to Iraqi custody Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and 29 other high-level people. I can practically hear Syria saying, “What Iraqi Ba’athists? Oh, you mean these Iraqi Ba’athists. Gosh, how did that ever happen? Here, you have ‘em.”

Finally, there is Iran. I saved this nation for last, because it is both the most populous and, arguably, the most dangerous of the seven nations. Iran has been the most active state-sponsored terrorist nation for decades. It has been led since the 1970s by religious leaders who have taught the Iranian people to hate the U.S with a passion. Don’t believe me? Recently, Iranians in the United States wanted to hold an anti-American celebration in the Marriott hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. While this Washington Post article explains that the event was shut down, it doesn’t report the planned event’s full name: “Twenty-Sixth Anniversary of the Glorious Victory of the Islamic Revolution and Death to America Day.”

Iran is currently at work on its own nuclear program. Yep. This nation, possessed of vast oil reserves, ostensibly needs nuclear plants to provide power for its people. But we don’t have to worry about Iran creating nuclear weapons because their plans are completely peaceful. You can trust them. Really.

France, Germany, and Britain have entered into an agreement with Iran to supply the bits and pieces necessary to get the country’s nuclear reactors up and running, and Iran in turn has promised not to enrich the uranium into bomb-capable material. At the same time, the three countries are recognizing that Iran has the right to go ahead and enrich the uranium. In other words, these three nations have become tools to the Iranians. Why shouldn’t Iran enter into nuclear negotiations with the West when it has learned from the way the West has treated North Korea? Daniel Eisenberg explained this in a article which has since disappeared from CNN’s website, but is still accessible via the Google cache:

Meanwhile, the IAEA has discovered that despite its agreement to temporarily suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment, Iran was continuing to do maintenance work on a uranium-enrichment plant in southern Iran.

At the same time, the Iranians have allegedly finished designing a prototype of a detonator for a nuclear bomb, according to an opposition group based in Paris. Taking their cue from North Korea, the Iranians have seen “that you can extend a negotiating process and still build nukes,” says Bruno Tertrais, senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

Thank you, President Carter, for setting Iranian expectations about negotiations, thanks to your Agreed Framework failure with North Korea.

Europeans are concerned about a possible military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities as a “mistake.” This is understandable when one considers that several European countries have a financial stake in Iran, providing the country’s nuclear reactor parts. This is strikingly similar to the “oil for peace” buyoffs that France, Germany, and Russia were receiving from Saddam Hussein. No wonder these three countries were so loud in denouncing President Bush’s plan to remove Hussein from power. They could see their gravy train leaving the station once Hussein fell.

And this year’s Neville Chamberlain Cluelessness Award goes to… *envelope opening* the Democrat Senator from Delaware, Joseph Biden! An article in the Boston Globe states: “Biden said that even if Iran was a full democracy like India, it would want nuclear capability, like India. What the world needed to address was Iran’s emotional needs, he said, with a nonaggression pact.”

The most recent notable non-aggression pact was between Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union. It didn’t last very long. But Neville Chamberlain is remembered now for a document he signed just before the beginning of hostilities by Nazi Germany. Chamberlain, the British prime minister, visited Hitler and signed a negotiated non-aggression pact. As he stepped off his plane back from Germany, he waved a printed statement that was “symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.” He announced later, “I believe it is peace for our time.”

Prime Minister Chamberlain learned, to his sorrow, that signing papers and entering negotiations with dictators is pointless. President Carter has hopefully learned this lesson after finding out that his negotiations with North Korea were likewise meaningless. But Senator Biden still holds faith in a non-aggression pact.

Here’s your Chamberlain Cluelessness Award, Senator. I hope you don’t come to regret your words as much as Chamberlain did.

Addendum (3/7/2005): Still doubt that President Bush’s action against Saddam Hussein has had an effect on the people of the region? Here is a quote from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Turkish Press:

At the end of the interview, which was conducted last week, Assad said: “Please send this message: I am not Saddam Hussein. I want to cooperate.”

It might have been the photos of a grubby Saddam Hussein being pulled out of his rat hole.