fallibilist

"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Great Gulf War of 2007?

I've only just come across this now, but it's a chilling and important enough piece to warrant re-reading. Last month in the Daily Telegraph, Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, wrote from the viewpoint of a hypothetical future historian of a great conflict in the Middle East, beginning in 2007 and involving nuclear weapons. The proximate cause was Iran's successful development of workable nuclear fuel for its missiles. The history of the Cuban missile crisis did not repreat itself. Instead, Ahmadinejad's Iran struck Tel Aviv; Netanyahu's Israel struck Teheran. The future historian wonders whether a preventive strike in 2006 might have forestalled this dreadful consequence. The responsibility of world leaders today must be to prevent at all costs such a catastrophic war. If (and I do not claim to know whether) a military strike on Iran's nuclear programme is the only way to prevent such an outcome, who would say it was wrong? Who would say it would not be a lesser evil? These are difficult and disturbing questions. We live in dangerous times. (Ferguson's piece can be read here.)

3 Comments:

Anonymous copernicus said...

I read that article and it was awful rubbish. Ferguson should stick to potted biographies of Alpine conquest instead of this sort of civilisational hypothesising, for which his reactionary zealotry disqualifies him. To wit, his ridiculously blinkered (and thus credibility challenged) view of British empire.

Thanks for restoring my comment elsewhere, btw.

Tue Feb 21, 03:05:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Karole said...

It wasn't quite a case of "restoring" your other comment. Whatever I set up the comments day one, it seems that comments do not go up until I ok them in blogger. Every comment that has been submitted to date has been published.

Apart from your view of his Ferguson's writings on the British empire, why do you suggest the Telegraph article is "awful rubbish"? I'm just curious; I wouldn't have classed Ferguson as a reactionary zeolot.

Tue Feb 21, 06:53:00 PM GMT  
Anonymous copernicus said...

You have turned on comment moderation, but that's cool.

Well for a start, the tone of Ferguson's article grates horribly. It's real schoolboy drivel, sub-Kevin Myers on his worst sub-Edwardian trip.

Why couldn't he just write a prediction instead of a fantasy history - obviously because he'd rather not go to the trouble of backing up his hypothesis. Where is he getting this four year post nuclear exchange war timeline from for example? Off the top of his head I imagine. It doesn't make any sense anyway. Other irritating features are his failure to explain who is writing this "history" given that it is supposedly penned after the waning of the west - if he had the imagination to do a good job of this, he should have indicated it was a Chinese imperial historian or something equally scary.

It's sensational without being remotely interesting. The whole thing is a vapid "I told you so" from a reactionary conservative sore and an impotent protest at the "left" for daring to call the coalition of the willing to account when it is the neoconservative mission which has squandered its credibility. He also lacks the courage to spell out a policy recommendation which is obviously "Nuke the ragheads now". By positing his spurious history lesson, he invites his readers to reach that conclusion without implicating him morally.

It actually undermines the possibility of engaging in a much needed debate on the subject. A little bit like the bastardisation of the so-called war on terror has undermined the need to properly address energy security, which concept is instead conflated with the war for oil.

Wed Feb 22, 03:25:00 AM GMT  

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