February 9-15, 2006
slantLet Them Have Nukes
If Iran wants weapons of mass destruction so bad, who are we to stand in their way?
U.S. hypocrisy about nuclear proliferation is truly boundless. For the past year America and its allies have warned Iran that it must halt its nuclear activities or the country will be sent to bed without dinner and have its TV privileges taken away. Meanwhile the United States sits atop a stockpile of nuclear weapons large enough to erase every man, woman and Republican from the face of the earth.
From the perspective of the Global South, this is like Bill Bennett telling you not to build casinos while he's shooting craps. In reality, it's even worse, since Bennett is at least repentant about dropping millions of dollars at gambling houses, while the U.S., France and Britain are utterly unapologetic about possessing nuclear weapons.
Many people point toward the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's unhinged statements about Israelit needs to be "wiped off the map"as proof that the typical calculus of nuclear weapons does not apply to Iran. His religious millenarianism indicates that he may not be deterred by Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)the idea that Iran would not launch a nuclear strike on Israel or any other nuclear-armed state because of the knowledge that Iran would, in turn, be destroyed in retaliation.
Of course the decision to launch nuclear weapons ultimately rests not with Ahmadinejad but with the actual center of power in Iranthe profoundly conservative Council of Guardians, stocked with clerics who would not sign off on a suicidal decision to destroy the Israelis. MAD may be just a theory, but it has proven to be a pretty good one, since no two nuclear-armed states have ever gone to war with one another.
But more importantly, this scare tactic is coming from the U.S., a country that in 2002 released a Nuclear Posture Review that indicated our willingness to launch first-strike nuclear attacks against countries who do not possess nuclear weapons. What's craziera virtually powerless Iranian president making empty threats against a sworn enemy, or the world's most powerful country threatening to obliterate you any time it pleases? Keep in mind that this country is still, 60 years after the dawn of the nuclear age, the only country ever to use nukes in combat.
And who could blame the Iranians for wanting nuclear weapons? Every developing country must look at nonnuclear Iraq, which was invaded and occupied by the U.S., and nuclear-armed North Korea, which was left alone, and draw the same conclusion: If you don't want your country crawling with American GIs, build some nukes.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which the Iranians are still a part of for the time being, makes it clear that the nuclear weapons states are eventually expected to disarm. The Cold War gave states an excuse to keep their nuclear weapons, but the disappearance of the Soviet threat left the nuclear weapons states with no rationale for their stockpiles. It's the same thing that happens to every pothead who graduates from collegewhat exactly to do with that brick of weed now that there's no dorm room to smoke it in?
And like most potheads, the U.S. is not thinking very clearly. Nobody can stop a country bent on acquiring nuclear weapons unless they are willing to unleash a bombing campaign. And with the U.S. military tied down in Iraq, even this administration is unlikely to start another war, particularly against a country that is much more capable militarily than circa-2003 Iraq.
The Iranians know this. They also know that they could cripple the world economy just by taking their oil off-line for a few weeks. So if you try to send them to bed without dinner, they may burn down the house. I say let them have their nukes.
David Faris is Ph.D. student at Penn. If you would like to respond to this Slant or submit one of your own (750 words), e-mail email@example.com.