22 January 2012
Imagine if, in 1944, the government of Japan had learned what Fermi and Oppenheimer and other scientists working in the US were up to: the creation of a new bomb that could wipe out an entire city in a single puff of radioactive smoke.
Would it have been wrong, would it have been a war crime, for Japanese agents to seek to kill some of the key scientists?
Frankly, I don't think so. Abstracting for a moment from the fact that the Japanese were the aggressors in the war in thr Asia-Pacific region (and I'm not thinking specifically of December 7, 1941 -- they had been engaged in rapacious behavior for years before that) ... abstracting from that, as "laws of war" do, the use of a hit squad to target key figures in the Manhattan Project would not have been shocking or criminal at all. It would simply have been ... war.
Fast forward. It may well be that Israel's Mossad has agents killing Iranian nuclear scientists. It may well be, also, that the US CIA is providing assistance. I don't know. (If I knew, those two respective secret agencies would be far less competent than their reputations suggest.) My suspicion is that Mossad could and probably did pull this off without extraneous assistance.
Is that different in any principled way from the case imagined above? The head of state in Iran speaks not just of prevailing against Israel, not just of forcing an "unconditional surrender" (a term the Roosevelt administration was using vis-a-vis Germany and Japan in 1944) but of wiping Israel off the map. There is every reason to believe that the nuclear program is designed exactly for that purpose.
So: where is the shock value here? Just wonderin'
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.