Archive for July, 2012

First Published in the Valley News
Foreign Affairs Magazine has recently published an article arguing
that Iran should get the bomb. This is, to say the least, a
revolutionary and provocative statement. Nevertheless, it is worth
serious examination.
No one really knows Iran’s nuclear intentions. For the sake of the
discussion, however, let’s assume a worst-case scenario — that it really
is intent on getting the bomb.
Figuring out the best way the U.S. should respond is quite a challenge.
For starters, the country is now sharply divided on virtually every
contentious foreign policy issue, at least at the political fringes of
right and left. On the left, we have a vast array of Democrats who
simply are unprepared to consider that additional military action in the
Middle East makes any sense under any conditions. The right appears to
favor military action in Syria and Iran.
Further, AIPAC, the dominant pro-Israel lobbying organization, has
proudly reported that 32 senators from both parties have said that they
would reject “any United States policy that would rely on efforts to
contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.” This underlines the Israeli
position that it will not accept Iranian possession of nuclear weapons.
It also supports the assessment that Israel really wants to attack
Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Yet, aggressive military action by us or Israel, which our experts say
can at best only briefly slow down an Iranian quest for these weapons,
is the only thing that will unite a viscerally pro-Western Iranian
population against us and create massive problems for us in the Middle East.
Are there any good foreign policy options regarding Iran?
During the Cold War, we managed a highly competitive, tense,
nuclear-armed world with a policy called “nuclear deterrence.” Nuclear
deterrence was the doctrine that assumed that an enemy would be deterred
from using nuclear weapons as long as it recognized that it would be
destroyed as a consequence. In other words, the threat of nuclear
annihilation as a response to the use of nuclear weapons was sufficient
to keep all parties from using those weapons. Everyone with nuclear
weapons in the Cold War knew the facts. Those weapons were never used.
There are two critical issues involved in this doctrine of nuclear
deterrence. First, all concerned have to realize that nuclear weapons
are a powerful tool only as long as they are not used. For once they are
used, deterrence is irrelevant and the combatants are literally consumed
by their own stupidity.
And that brings the second critical point. Despite their incredibly
contrasting sets of values and interests, the Soviet Union and its
allies and the U.S. and its allies were not stupid enough to use the
bomb. If they had, most of us would not be here today.
And there’s the hooker. Those who cannot abide the notion of nuclear
deterrence as the foundation of our Iran policy say that the Iranians
would use the bomb, probably against Israel. Of course, what they are
implying is that the Iranians are a bunch of know-nothing rag heads,
prone to self-destruction.
How far from the truth can that be? The ancient Persians — the forbears
of modern-day Iranians — were in the process of working out a viable
alphabet when Europe’s ancestors were scuttling about in their caves
dressed in bearskins. Organized communities first existed in Iran around
8,000 B.C. The first Persian kingdom began around 2800 BC. Those
Persians ruled from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River until about
the sixth century B.C. It was the first great kingdom to exist in the
world and was certainly the greatest empire of its time.
The Persian cultural contribution to the world has ranged from art
through architecture, music, technology (underground aqueducts; some
close to 3,000 years old, some 1,000 feet deep and some dozens of miles
long) and science to literature.
Modern-day Persians are educated (77 percent literate), nationalistic
and anything but stupid. Despite the stupidly ugly rhetoric employed by
some of their political leaders since 1979, they are anything but the
wild-eyed fanatics that some in the West portray them to be. They are in
no way suicidal. They have the requisite characteristics to participate
successfully in “nuclear deterrence.”
Purely objectively, Persia is smart enough to avoid self-destruction and
enough aware of its history to believe it has a major role to play in
the Middle East. With Iran possessing a land mass of over 630,000 square
miles, a military establishment over 500,000, an educated population of
over 75 million, two-thirds of the world’s crude oil reserve and
potential control over the Arabian Gulf, it is time we recognized that
Iran has a role to play in its region and that we can help that role to
be either positive or negative.
There is no reason to believe that Iran will not respond positively to
respectful negotiations. They are worthy candidates for “nuclear
In many ways, Iran’s future is really up to us.

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