Nuking Mecca

CNN reports that presidential candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo wants the U.S. to threaten nuclear strikes on the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina as retaliation against any more attacks on the U.S. He's actually been saying this for some time. I first heard it from The Catholic Knight a few weeks ago.

On this surface it seems like an appealing idea, not unlike the strategy of "Mutual Assured Destruction" that the U.S. and Soviet Union followed in the Cold War. Think a little further and the logic falls apart quickly.

  • First, in the Cold War, Soviet nukes were under firm, centralized control, as were those of the U.S. Hence the two governments could actually make agreements with each other. Not so with radical Islam, which has a wide variety of insurgent groups, any one of which could attack the U.S. whether the others like it or not.
  • Second, there may well be Islamist groups that would like to see Mecca destroyed, just as there are Christians who would not mind seeing Vatican City or Westminster Abbey burn to the ground. Tancredo's plan would not serve as a deterrent to these groups. In fact, it would inspire them even more. There being no central control to radical Islam, it is impossible to make an enforceable agreement of any kind. That is why the current conflict is so challenging.
  • Third, if it became necessary to execute Tancredo's plan the United States would be killing thousands of people who had nothing to do with attacking the U.S. This is, as Steven Taylor and Daniel Larison explain, both morally repugnant and politically stupid.
  • Fourth, Mecca and Medina are located in Saudi Arabia, which is (putatively, at least) an ally of the United States. Nuking the territory of one's allies is not the way to win friends and influence people.
  • Fifth, it would also not serve the U.S. well in the long run to let the nuclear genie out of the bottle in this way. Others - say, North Korea, or Pakistan, or India, or China - would then find it much easier to use nuclear weapons for their own purposes.

This sort of thing is the reason Tancredo is a third-tier candidate. He thinks that "tough talk" will somehow impress people into supporting him. In some cases it does. The guys who sit around in bars and try to impress each other with their macho manliness, without giving too much thought to the consequences of their actions, tend to like Tancredo. Fortunately they usually come to their senses after they sober up.

Tancredo, conversely, is saying these things while he is cold sober. I'm sure he is a very nice man most of the time, loves animals, kisses babies, all that sort of thing. But anyone who so cavalierly throws out such an idiotic idea, and then sticks to it despite objections, and then surrounds himself with advisers who agree with him, proves himself unqualified to be president. I'm striking him off my list.

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