We can live with a nuclear Iran

Paul Pillar writes: Those in the United States who genuinely yearn for war are still a neoconservative minority. But the danger that war might break out—and that the hawks will get their way—has nonetheless become substantial. The U.S. has just withdrawn the last troops from one Middle Eastern country where it fought a highly costly war of choice with a rationale involving weapons of mass destruction. Now we find ourselves on the precipice of yet another such war—almost purely because the acceptable range of opinion on Iran has narrowed and ossified around the “sensible” idea that all options must be pursued to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Given the momentousness of such an endeavor and how much prominence the Iranian nuclear issue has been given, one might think that talk about exercising the military option would be backed up by extensive analysis of the threat in question and the different ways of responding to it. But it isn’t. Strip away the bellicosity and political rhetoric, and what one finds is not rigorous analysis but a mixture of fear, fanciful speculation, and crude stereotyping. There are indeed good reasons to oppose Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, and likewise many steps the United States and the international community can and should take to try to avoid that eventuality. But an Iran with a bomb would not be anywhere near as dangerous as most people assume, and a war to try to stop it from acquiring one would be less successful, and far more costly, than most people imagine.

What difference would it make to Iran’s behavior and influence if the country had a bomb? Even among those who believe that war with the Islamic Republic would be a bad idea, this question has been subjected to precious little careful analysis. The notion that a nuclear weapon would turn Iran into a significantly more dangerous actor that would imperil U.S. interests has become conventional wisdom, and it gets repeated so often by so many diverse commentators that it seldom, if ever, is questioned. Hardly anyone debating policy on Iran asks exactly why a nuclear-armed Iran would be so dangerous. [Continue reading…]

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1 thought on “We can live with a nuclear Iran

  1. Norman

    What in reality need to be done, is to remove the bomb[s] from Israeli hands. They are the bully in the sand box that really needs to be taken to the wood shed and spanked. The use the weapons the U.S. gives to them to intimidate their neighbors, sell to the enemy’s or opposition to the U.S., snivel and whine about an act that happened in the first half of the last century as if it was yesterday, which if one dissects it, is the same as the boy crying wolf to today’s inhabitants of the world. There have been such massacres before and since, which hardly bring a headline, but all the Israeli leaders know and seem to want, is war, especially with its neighbors. They have the ability to make the M.E. into a powerhouse with them as a driving force, but they would rather make war instead, at least the political leaders would.

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