Thursday, June 7, 2007

Notable non-nonproliferation quotes from the Republican debate on June 5 - Nuclear table piece

A couple days ago we highlighted the salient nonproliferation quotes from the June 3 Democratic debates in New Hampshire, here. There was nothing exceptional.

The Republican debate from June 5 was a bit spicier: Wolf Blitzer directly asked the candidates: "If it came down to a preemptive U.S. strike against Iran’s nuclear facility, if necessary would you authorize as president the use of tactical nuclear weapons?"

This is a notable difference from the Democratic debates, where Wolf asked the candidates if they would attack Iran, but never specified whether such an attack would use nuclear or conventional weaponry. Here is what the Republican's had to say:

Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA):

I would authorize the use of tactical nuclear weapons if there was no other way to preempt those particular centrifuges. When the Osirak reactor that was hit `86, when the six F-18s came over the horizon and knocked that out, they didn’t need anything but conventional weapons. Probably it’s going to take a little more than that. I don’t think it’s going to take tactical nukes.
Making a comparison between the 1980 Osirak strike in Iraq and taking out Iran's nuclear infrastructure today is a long stretch: the Osirak reactor was a single open target, while Iran's nuclear sites today are dispersed throughout the country, often buried, and often located in populated areas. The use of nuclear weapons against Iran would have incredibly harmful ramifications in that it would endanger civilian populations, without guaranteeing any significant impact against Iran's nuclear progress.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R):
Part of the premise of talking to Iran has to be that they have to know very clearly that it is unacceptable to the United States that they have nuclear power. I think it could be done with conventional weapons, but you can’t rule out anything and you shouldn’t take any option off the table.
Former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA):
With respect to Iran, the policy I would follow would be dual. Number one, we need to work with our European allies in order to put in appropriate sanctions. We need to communicate directly with the Iranians that we are going to offer them an opportunity to work with us. But we’re also going to say that having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. They need to understand it. And all options are on the table by the United States in that instance.
Ultimately these three candidates pretty much gave the party line: we could mess you up with conventional weapons, but if you really piss us off we may just pull out the big guns. With regards to the potential of Giuliani, Gilmore, or Hunter ever actually using nukes, it is doubtful; they all say they want to keep nukes on the table, but much like a decorative table piece: while it looks good and is nice to talk about, nobody is ever actually going to bite into that plastic fruit.

There was a moment to relax toward the end when Congressman Paul was asked, "what’s the most pressing moral issue in the United States right now?"
I think it is the acceptance just recently that we now promote preemptive war. I do not believe that’s part of the American tradition. We in the past have always declared war in the defense of our liberties or go to aid somebody, but now we have accepted the principle of preemptive war. We have rejected the just- war theory of Christianity. And now, tonight, we hear that we’re not even willing to remove from the table a preemptive nuclear strike against a country that has done no harm to us directly and is no threat to our national security.

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