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"During an impromptu April 18 press conference, President George W. Bush was asked if his assertion that "all options are on the table" regarding Iran included the possibility of a nuclear strike. Bush reiterated, "All options are on the table. We want to solve this issue diplomatically, and we're working hard to do so." In no uncertain words, the president of the United States directly threatened Iran with a preemptive nuclear strike. It is hard to read his reply in any other way. |
It was not the first time that a U.S. president has threatened to use nuclear weapons. In previous instances, U.S. officials have generally made such threats during periods of crisis. Some were direct threats, others were ambiguous, and some implied that nuclear plans were merely being considered. The threats had mixed effects. In some cases they clearly deterred an adversary; in others they seem to have had little or no effect. In at least one situation, a nuclear threat appears to have persuaded a nation to build its own nuclear arsenal.
Bush's statements regarding Iran are particularly reminiscent of a diplomatic strategy employed by President Richard Nixon known as the "madman theory." On the eve of a massive mining and bombing campaign against North Vietnam in October 1969, Nixon ordered that nuclear forces be placed on a higher state of alert in order to pressure the Soviets and the North Vietnamese into making diplomatic concessions that might eventually bring an end to the war. The madman theory, or, as Nixon and his chief of staff Bob Haldeman described it, "the principle of the threat of excessive force," was at the center of this strategy. "Nixon was convinced that his power would be enhanced if his opponents thought he might use excessive force, even nuclear force. That, coupled with his reputation for ruthlessness, he believed, would suggest that he was dangerously unpredictable," according to analysts William Burr and Jeffrey Kimball. As part of the strategy, underlings would transmit information to foreign officials saying that Nixon might be unstable or unpredictable and that unless concessions were made he might order the use of military force or even nuclear weapons. The entire effort was conducted in extreme secrecy with only a few U.S. officials even aware of it."
....quote from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
[ Last edited by elson_chen at 2006-10-23 09:30 AM ]