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Monday, May 25, 2009

Iran, North Korea and Pavlov

Yesterday evening, we all received this bit of news from North Korea.

North Korea claimed it carried out a powerful underground nuclear test Monday — much larger than one conducted in 2006 — a major provocation in the escalating international standoff over its rogue nuclear and missile programs.

The regime "successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of measures to bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense," the country's official Korean Central News Agency said.

Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed an atomic explosion at 9:54 a.m. (0054 GMT) in northeastern North Korea, estimating the blast's yield at 10 to 20 kilotons — comparable to the bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Less than a week ago, we got similar news from Iran.

The U.S. State Department said Iran "keeps going in the wrong direction" and urged it to "halt" its development of nuclear and missile programs after the country launched a long-range missile Wednesday -- capable of hitting Israel and other targets in the Middle East.

"Both we, the United States, and the entire international community have long expressed our serious concerns concerning Iran's missile development efforts," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday.

These latest provocations should surprise no one. For years if not decades both countries have been provoking and threatening their neighbors and not only have they faced no repercussions but often these provocations have benefitted each of the nations.

Ivan Pavlov was a researcher in what is now known as classical conditioning. Through a series of both punishments and rewards, Pavlov was able to control the behavior of his subjects, both mice and dogs, in his experiments.

Pavlov's theories can be applied to both nations. We can take the provocations of both nations to at least 1979, when the United States embassy in Iran was taken hostage for more than a year. The hostages were eventually released mostly unharmed however the hostage takers themselves never faced any punishment. Since then, Iran has engaged in hostage taking on numerous occasions. Their latest attempt was a few years ago when they took a set of British Navy officers hostage. Those hostages were also released, not before being used for propaganda on Iranian television, but once again, the hostage takers themselves never faced any punishment.

On another track, Iran has been aggressively seeking to build a nuclear weapon. At the same time, Iran has been threatening Israel with destruction. Outside of a few relatively weak sanctions, Iran has faced no provocations for these actions either.

North Korea has done something similar. In the 1990's, they agreed to a nuclear freeze agreement with the United States. In the early years of the Bush administration, the world found out that North Korea had been systematically violating these agreements. Since then, North Korea has on occasion tested a nuclear weapon much like they did last evening.

Never has either nation faced anything more than the proverbial slap on the wrist for any of these provocations. In fact, most of the world would like to pretend that none of this is happening or matters. Some of the rest act as though they are both perfectly within their right to do all of this. This leaves very few ready and willing to confront both and either.

So, again, we are at a crossroads. Both the State Department and the President himself have condemned this action. All of this is the sort of bellicose talk that happens everytime one of these nations engages in provocation. Never does any of this talk amount to very much more than this. It's unlikely that this current situation will be any different than any other. Until and unless both these nations face stiffer punishment for this type of provacation they will only engage in more and more serious provocation. That's how it worked on the dogs. It's how classical conditioning works, and it's no different for both Iran and North Korea.


Anonymous said...

This is a false analogy. You are comparing North Korea, a country that has openly acknowledged a pursuit of nuclear weapons since 1994, and Iran, a country you can't even prove has a nuclear weapons program. Yes the North Koreans hid their program for some time, but did you really think they wouldn't continue when Clinton practically began violating the "Agreed Framework" from the moment he signed it?

The only thing you've proven is that you think of the Iranians as animals. I can only hope that people with more knowledge and authority than yourself have enough sense to not deal with them like they're subhuman.

In any case, it really doesn't matter whether Iran is after nuclear weapons or not. Leaving aside the rather obvious fact that the only anti-Israeli propaganda coming out of Iran has been from a figurehead president with less than 3 weeks left in office, nuclear weapons have always been more of a political rather than military construct. It symbolizes a nation's technological, economic, and political clout.

But in the end that's really what you cannot tolerate, is it? If you're like many other conservatives, you have a religious devotion to American Exceptionalism and the idea that there exists a country the US cannot isolate or annihilate at will angers you. This would certainly explain your "Iranians are animals" ideology.

mike volpe said...

I think you have made this argument in another piece of mine. I said they are pursuing nukes not that they have them.

If you want to believe that they aren't actually pursuing them, that is your business. I argue in reality not in some fantasy world.

I don't know what Ahmadinejad is but he has stated unequivocally that he wants Israel wiped off the earth. That is a threat that I would take seriously.

No, my main concern is that a manical regime will gain nukes and then do with them what they want including using them. I know you think you know me but you don't actually know me.