December 07, 2004
Nuking Mecca and MAD
Nearly two months ago I made the case for nuking Mecca as a rational deterrent to radical Islamists bent on using WMD against American civilians. It seems that David Atkins over at WND is either a Jawa Report reader or that no thought is original (thanks to Andre for the link).
Based on the Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine (MAD for short) which successfully deterred a Soviet first strike against the United States for 40+ years of the Cold War, Atkins urges the following policy stance:
In the event of a WMD attack by terrorists on the U.S. homeland or U.S. military facilities overseas, the U.S will immediately and without discussion use its immense nuclear weapons capabilities to destroy the 100 largest Islamic cities on earth, regardless of state, and destroy all of the military facilities of Islamic-dominated states. This will include all of the capitals and at least the 10 largest cities of all Islamic-dominated states and the "holy" cities of Mecca and Medina. In addition, North Korean cities and military installations will be destroyed.
His MAD logic is summarized this way:
Now suddenly everybody from Casablanca, Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, Tehran, Islamabad, Pyongyang and Jakarta have skin in the game. The last thing they want would be a WMD attack on the U.S. It would mean certain destruction of their societies. They might even be motivated to actually and feverishly work against Islamic terrorism instead of the tepid lip service they currently give. Those "freedom fighters" currently being cheered in the streets would be transformed to deadly threats in the very societies that spawned them.I have numerous problems with the specifics of Atkins proposal--starting with the inhumanity of killing millions of innocent people because a handful of states support Islamic terrorists--but agree that MAD could be used to deter Islamic terrorism. It seems to me that a much more reasonable form of MAD would be to limit the target list to one city, Mecca. The terrorists really don't care if we nuke the capitals of Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Syria. As I argued earlier:
The beauty of this doctrine is that it encourages the 1.2 billion Muslims to actually prove that they are adherents to a "religion of peace," and it holds all Islamic states and North Korea accountable for their behavior. If you don't want your cities on the target list, you have to earn your way off the list.
...if incinerating Damascus were the only threat we could use to deter terrorists then certainly a MAD scheme would not work in this new Cold War we find ourselves in.
However, Mecca is not Damascus. It plays a central role in Muslim worship. Five times a day Muslims pray toward it. All Muslims who have the means are expected to make the Hajj--a pilgrimage to Mecca which revolves around the Kaaba stone. The Kaaba stone is really the reason Mecca is considered holy. Muslims believe the site was used for worship as far back as Adam and that the shrine around the stone was first placed there by Abraham (Ibrahim). There is a 12 mile zone around the stone that infidels are restricted from entering. It's that holy. No non-Muslims near it. In fact, without Mecca and the Kaaba stone, Islam would be very different.
Mecca, then, is quite unlike any other place in the world for Muslims. It is an entire city dedicated to Muslim worship. A place set apart. A holy place. It is an entire city that is thought to be the Temple of God.
Islamist terrorists also consider Mecca the holiest place in the world. It is central to their mode of worship. They face it when they pray. They too believe they must make the hajj. If we take them at their word, then the reason they commit terrorist acts is because they take their religious convictions so seriously. When they kill us, it is because they believe that this is what their God wants them to do.
So, ask yourself the question again: Can terrorists be deterred from using WMD against American targets?
Maybe they can. If Islamic extremists really love their religious institutions in the way that they claim they do, then pointing an ICBM at Mecca may not be the most irrational thing to do. They may not care if the rest of the world goes up in a nuclear mushroom cloud...but Mecca is not the rest of the world. Would they really risk blowing up New York City if they believed the consequences of such an action would be a 30 kiloton nuclear explosion over the Kaaba stone? After all, the nuclear destruction of Mecca would end Islamic forms of worship as they presently exist.