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Stripping the enemy

From the Guardian:

Iran led the resistance to new anti-proliferation measures in 2005, rallying developing countries behind the claim that the weapons states were trying to impose double standards — keeping their weapons while denying nuclear technology to the have-not nations.

The strategy being pursued by Obama, with the support of Gordon Brown, is to make such significant strides towards disarmament that Iran can no longer credibly make that argument next May. “This is about isolating the Iranians, and denuding them of the arguments they made in 2005,” a British official said.

Denuding the Iranians — an odd-looking word to use. No doubt it is merely an unfortunate coincidence that it carries an echo of the sexual sadism towards the Other that was practised in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. The “British official” no doubt meant denuding simply as stripping away or exposing through erosion (as in denuded rock). Even so, the image is curiously more vivid than would be the case with a more ordinary term, such as “depriving” them of their arguments. Denuding seems to imply that the arguments make up a kind of protective carapace that, once stripped off, will expose Iran’s soft, quivering underbelly, to attack or perhaps petting.

One may also raise the question as to whether “significant strides towards disarmament” are actually enough to “denude” the Iranians in this way. If, come next May, the US has a few hundred or even a few thousand fewer nuclear weapons than the 9,000-odd it possesses right now, will the Iranian argument rehearsed above be made moot? One may, of course, make “significant strides towards disarmament” for a very long time, without ever actually disarming, or denuding oneself of nukes altogether.

  1. 1  Torquil Macneil  September 22, 2009, 10:34 am 

    But surely this is just an example of a well-chosen word? It has always been the position of the US that Iranian objections were just rhetorical covers to allow them to continue with their illegal nuclear armament programme and so it is appropriate (if a bit undiplomatic)to talk about ‘denuding’ them of this rhetorical cover. The other part of the strategy, of course, is to facilitate the peaceful use of nuclear technologies in Iran in order to rob them of the ‘we are as entitled to nuclear power as the rest of you’ argument (which seems to have some traction depsite the fact that Iran is sitting on a sea of oil).

  2. 2  Steven  September 22, 2009, 1:46 pm 

    Yes, I think it is an illuminatingly well-chosen word! But the question remains as to whether the “rhetorical cover” will actually be denuded by the strategy, or whether it provides some shelter as long as other countries keep any nukes at all.

  3. 3  Torquil Macneil  September 22, 2009, 2:56 pm 

    I think the point is that the strategy is two-pronged (although it isn’t clear in the article). Iran has been excusing its nuclear programme by claiming that it is for peaceful purposes, not that it is entitled to missiles (which it isn’t, having signed the NPT).

  4. 4  Steven  September 22, 2009, 3:07 pm 

    I see: a two-pronged denudation might indeed have a better chance of success, however uncomfortable it sounds.

  5. 5  john c. halasz  September 22, 2009, 11:43 pm 

    OT, but Obama said today that global warming would result in increased hunger and conflict in regions where they “already thrive”. “Thrive”?

  6. 6  Jeff Strabone  September 23, 2009, 5:04 am 

    You know what they say: ‘True Wit is Nature to Advantage drest’.

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