In recent news, interviews, books, the drums of war with Iran are beating. Top political leaders have gone from talk of sanctions, to talk of “all options are on the table”, and finally to explicit statements that if all else fails we must be willing to invade Iran.
What is the justification for such a preemptive war? It echoes that of the Iraq war: “we must prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”
“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” – Ehud Barak (Israeli Defense Minister) talking about Iran on Charlie Rose. For him, and many others in the Israeli government, a nuclear-armed Iran is the end of Israel. Moreover, he claims that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, and then decides to invade a small state in the region (as Iraq did with Kuwait), the claim is no one will want to do anything about it.
Even if you believe everything Ehud Barak is saying, the common sense reality it seems is that most of the countries in the Middle East will gain access to a nuclear weapon eventually. That’s the reality from which all conversation has to begin.
It seems to me that there are no comforting answers here, but the hope has to lie in the doctrine of mutual assured destruction. We have to confront the terror of a nuclear attack rationally.
I’ve asked this question before: what happens if a nuclear bomb goes off in one of the major cities in the United States? From the interview above and the many conversations I’ve had on this subject, it seems that people are not willing to even remotely consider such a possibility. It is spoken of as some infinitely horrible event that would destroy all of civilization.
Talking about it in such a way does two things. First, the fear of it is grows without bounds and leads to irrational domestic and foreign policy. Second, it increases the likelihood that the response to such an attack will lead to an even worse catastrophe than the attack itself would cause.
These discussions need to happen in the international community and every country in the world has to be heard, included, and an agreement reached.