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Clinton on Iran

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Can I clear up your concerns about Sen. Hillary Clinton's "massive retaliation" strategy? ("Indy endorsements 2008," cover story, April 23) In short, her strategy is designed to eliminate dangerous confusion that can lead to war.

Nuclear catastrophe can happen when adversaries are confused. If they think they can bluff, play "chicken" or intimidate, things can spin out of control and weapons may launch. The goal of "massive retaliation" strategy is not to destroy Iran, but to make sure we never have to retaliate because Iran knows what will happen if they act aggressively.

Put another way, the reason we blundered into Iraq is President George W. Bush didn't understand what would happen. That's why confusion is dangerous in foreign policy.

There is dangerous confusion in the Middle East because, as with Iraq, there are no good options for Israel. A pre-emptive strike against Iran would be a disaster. But for Israel, it would also be a disaster to let Iran acquire nuclear weapons. Since Israel is between a rock and a hard place, Iran can't predict Israel's reactions. They may think Israel is bluffing when Israel is not bluffing. The result will be a horrible war. Clinton talks tough to clear up confusion so no one makes a terrible blunder.

Clinton believes there is linkage between nuclear non-proliferation and deterrence. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, other Middle East nations will feel pressure to get their own weapons. If we offer a deterrent shield against Iran's weapons, those nations can feel secure without their own nuclear weapons. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East increases the danger that al Qaeda may acquire a loose nuke.

I'm sure you oppose a pre-emptive strike against Iran, like I do. But that does not mean Iran is a sympathetic country. Iran is neither friendly nor sympathetic.

Canaan Parker
New York, N.Y.

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