Public Comment

Commentary: It’s Berkeley’s Problem, Too, By: Alan Christie Swain

Friday March 17, 2006

“U.S. Launches Invasion of Iran,” or maybe, “Nuclear Ultimatum Delivered to Pakistan.” We can imagine these screaming headlines in the Chronicle. This is unlikely to happen now, but it may not be for the next American president. 

The problem of nuclear proliferation is not one the U.S. will be able to prevent or solve, but a problem that we will have to learn to live with. In the modern world the knowledge needed to build a bomb is not particularly complex. Virtually any nation that can sustain the cost can build a bomb—North Korea is broke but was able to do it. The United Nations is useless, and the non proliferation agreements ineffective simply because, as has been demonstrated plainly in the Security Council, the international community does not have the will to effectively enforce them. 

The real problem in the future will be whether or not the Iranian regime will pass a weapon or radioactive material on to terrorists. The same threat exists in Pakistan. Should President Musharaff be overthrown, the “Muslim bomb” could conceivably fall under the control of a radical regime already experienced in selling, giving or smuggling nuclear material to others.  

Should terrorists explode a nuclear device in Israel, Europe, or in San Francisco the pressure on the American president will be intense. Should the president order nuclear retaliation against Iran based on shadowy intelligence that may not be perfect? After the WMD fiasco in Iraq, who would trust “intelligence” sources for this kind of decision? Though, this was the clear logic behind the recent pronouncements of French president Chirac, to the effect that France would use its nuclear force to retaliate in the event of a nuclear terrorist attack against it.  

Instead of ordering a nuclear retaliation that could cost hundreds of thousands of lives, the President would more likely again rely on U.S. military forces, and order another campaign of “regime change.” American military forces are our first line of defense in what is clearly going to be a long, civilizational conflict between democratic, technological and capitalist societies and the resentful, reactionary rump of the Islamic world that seeks to destroy a system it has been unable to integrate with successfully. Understand that a robust military gives America flexibility whether to respond to a tsunami in Muslim Indonesia or an earthquake in Muslim Pakistan or genocide in Muslim Bosnia. Of course, the military is superbly trained to use force in defense of American interests when needed, such as toppling a hostile Taliban government in an isolated country on the other side of the world in under two months time.  

This is the future we all face and it is necessary for those on the left in this country and in Berkeley to realize that the armed forces will play a vital role in preserving your way of life—your right to be gay, to be atheist, to be a woman with a career, for your right to criticize and write what you wish. As Osha Neumann said in these pages, “none of us would look good in a burquas.” It is time to stop the mindless and destructive hatred of the military. Gerardo Sandoval is naive in the extreme and Cindy Sheehan’s complaint that the U.S. military was “occupying” New Orleans was incomprehensible. Young Americans volunteering to take on this threat should not be equated with Nazis. Don’t like the way the military is run or used? Try to change it, but you better believe that the young men and women who volunteer to do that dirty work are a necessary and vital and important way of defending our freedoms. It is time to realize that the Bay Area’s foolish opposition to all things military is not leadership, moral or otherwise, but amounts to nothing more than freeloading and free riding on the good will and the blood and tears of the rest of America.  


Alan Christie Swain is graduate student at UC Berkeley..