Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Iran Bomb and the U.S.

There has been talk about whether or not the advent of the Iran bomb could be beneficial to the U.S. somehow. A few courageous analysts have argued that it would be. A larger number of analysts assert that the first group is crazy.

Slate's Fred Kaplan discusses a New York Times piece by Adam Lowther, analyzing it such:

Lowther argues that an Iranian bomb might be beneficial to U.S. interests: The Saudis and Egyptians would want us to protect them by pledging to retaliate against Iran if Iran attacks Saudi Arabia or Egypt; in exchange for this guarantee, we could insist that they institute massive economic and democratic reforms and make peace with Israel. Furthermore, Lowther claims, the Palestinians would also rush to make peace, because the radioactive fallout from an Iranian attack on Jerusalem would kill them, too.

Kaplan counters:

This is one of the nuttiest op-ed pieces ever published in a major American newspaper. Brief rebuttal: No American president is going to treat an attack on Cairo or Riyadh as an attack on the United States. Even if a president said he would, no Egyptian or Saudi leader would believe him.

They both miss the point. In most talk about Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, there is the assumption that the bomb will inevitably be used. It's an erroneous assumption and a potentially dangerous one if it becomes a staple of U.S. policy. The same assumption was used when Communist China became nuclear. U.S. arch-enemy the Soviet Union never dropped the bomb. The same is true of the vaunted "Islamic bomb" held by the Pakistanis. The reasoning went, what if a rogue military dictator with ties to Islamic fundamentalists took control of Pakistan? Well, it happened, and no bomb was deployed. Even North Korea, led by eccentric autocrat Kim Jong-Il, knows better than instigate a nuclear attack.

The fact remains that only the United States has actually used a nuclear bomb. The U.S. retains the most powerful military in the world. No country in the world, let alone the self-preservationists that run Iran, are willing to engage in a nuclear war with the U.S. or its allies.

If Iran obtained a bomb, it would give them more clout on the world stage. That reality could curb unilateral invasions and attacks committed by the U.S. and Israel. In that sense, it could create more (albeit tenuous) peace than the current situation allows. If one country has a nuclear weapon, there is no deterrent in using it, as exhibited in 1945. However, if competing sides hold that power, there is a deterrent. Of course, the best possible chance for peace is if no country possessed the bomb, a goal every nation on earth should aim towards achieving.

(The HQT-IE)

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