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Preemption

Justin Logan has a striking, unargued for thesis he'd like to get out there:

Not only might the existence of a nuclear Iran fail to harm the U.S. national interest, but in fact it might help it. In a big, profound, far-reaching, remarkable, historic way.
Why is he publishing this thesis in an unargued for way, rather than waiting until he can complete his (lengthy) argument?
It's an idea that I'm hearing that lots of people are considering, but are unable to do so publicly and openly, because of think tank and foundation politics and the general aversion to radical controversy.
As one of the people from whom Justin is hearing that, I'd like to go on the record with my reporter hat on (taking a piece of advice from Eli Lake, I'm trying to avoid running off with half-assed proposals on Iran policy at the moment and just talk to people and get a sense of the shape of the debate) and say that I think it's interesting that there is a pretty large group of credible, semi-important people out there who think a nuclear Iran would (or at least could) be a good thing for the United States but who are basically afraid to say so out of fear that the ensuing controversy would damage their careers or the financial prospects of organizations with which they are affiliated.

October 31, 2004 | Permalink

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» A Nuclear Iran? from Fester's Place
I think that Logan will argue that Iran currently sees itself threatened by the United States and Isreal. The US currently has significant military forces in Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with a vast network of bases and logistics si... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 1, 2004 8:22:28 PM

Comments

Hard for me to understand this. If the idea is that Iran and the US have mutual enemies that would be weakened, I just haven't noticed anyone attacking or threatening Iran recently. I would love for there to be a non-Sunni non-Arab counterforce in the ME/Islamic world, but don't see why that is seriously strengthened with nukes.

Unless this is about Pakistan.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 31, 2004 1:23:41 PM

I can't imagine any argument that makes this a good idea.

Posted by: Walt Pohl | Oct 31, 2004 1:48:26 PM

I think that actually telling us the reasoning behind this would make for a more interesting post. Arguably.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Oct 31, 2004 1:54:05 PM

Hm, an emboldened nuclear Iran could take over the job of restabilizing Iraq, letting our troops come home! I like it!

Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft | Oct 31, 2004 1:59:22 PM

Is this about scaring Israel into making peace?

It is structurally not possible for Israel to give the Palestinians more than a reservation that some may describe as a state but others will not.

The Native Americans would never have accepted reservations if there were several bordering nations, each with larger populations than the US who identified with the Native Americans.

Would Israel accept a South African-style one-nation solution such as what the Palestinians originally asked for?

Regardless of which side is right, scaring Israel just wouldn't work unless you are willing to scare them a _lot_. As scared as an internationally supported ANC scared white South Africans.

Posted by: Johnny Grasso | Oct 31, 2004 2:06:08 PM

Maybe, but it's structurally possible for more to be offered than has been since Oslo. It's certainly structurally possible to offer the pre-1967 borders.

Posted by: otto | Oct 31, 2004 2:10:33 PM

Matthew Yglesias:

Mutually assured destruction works. Marvelously concentrates the mind as to whether you really want another global war.

A nuclear Iran is inevitable (in the long run) and you need to stop worrying and learn to love the bomb.

Bob McManus' (hi bob) perfervid nightmares aside, we can live with a nuclear Iran. And North Korea. And Communist China.

Posted by: epistemology | Oct 31, 2004 2:11:46 PM

"Is this about scaring Israel into making peace?"

Probably. But since there is no partner for peace, and never will be, it means a P state that is a platform for terrorism, a defense by Israel that has an entirely different legal framework, and likely nuclear war in the ME.

I really don't understand why intelligent people buy bullshit from dictators named Abdullah, but they do.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 31, 2004 2:24:33 PM

"perfervid" neat word

Oh, epist, I would just ya know, prefer less nuclear weapons in the world to more nuclear weapons.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 31, 2004 2:29:07 PM

I would prefer a multipolar world to the one with a single superpower. A little superstate in the near east antagonistic to the US could just balance it out nicely. I vote for the bomb.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 31, 2004 2:59:59 PM

Those who favor a nuclear Iran probably don't much care for the continued survival of Israel very much. In fact, they probably think a nuclear Iran brings us that much closer to the Armageddon starring Kirk Cameron that I keep hearing about.

This hope is based on such derangement and would result in such ruinous policy that it needs to be exposed to the air of scrutiny as quickly as possible. So I'm glad this fellow has deigned to mention it. The Kate O'Beirnes may not be far behind (should the unthinkable happen and millions of Kerry voters somehow evaporate between now and Tuesday night).

Posted by: Jeff Smithpeters | Oct 31, 2004 3:01:28 PM

If the US vacillates, Israel will strike.

It's that simple.

Posted by: David | Oct 31, 2004 3:03:25 PM

bob mcmanus:

I just haven't noticed anyone attacking or threatening Iran recently.

Perhaps you slept through the Iran/Iraq war. And Saddam's WMD fantasies were certainly geared toward Iran, not the US.

You feel threatened in the safety and comfort of the US but can't appreciate the anxieties of the Iranians? Really?

Posted by: epistemology | Oct 31, 2004 3:06:38 PM

>Maybe, but it's structurally possible for more >to be offered than has been since Oslo. It's >certainly structurally possible to offer the pre->1967 borders.


And then what ?

Posted by: David | Oct 31, 2004 3:07:40 PM

The only way for Israel to survive is be counterbalanced by some other state in the region, to be forced to compromise.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 31, 2004 3:09:36 PM

bob mcmanus:

I would just ya know, prefer less nuclear weapons in the world to more nuclear weapons.

Me too. And a Christmas goose for everyone. Oh, yeah, and broadband internet access for all.

I'll get rid of my nukes if you get rid of yours. Promise. You first.

Posted by: epistemology | Oct 31, 2004 3:10:34 PM

>You feel threatened in the safety and comfort of >the US but can't appreciate the anxieties of the >Iranians? Really?

Fascinating argument for nuclear proliferation.

The 'anxiety test'

Posted by: David | Oct 31, 2004 3:11:32 PM

abb1 writes: The only way for Israel to survive is be counterbalanced by some other state in the region, to be forced to compromise.

Not that I agree with you (I don't), but let's assume for the sake of argument that you are correct.

If the "counterbalance" state is one that has announced its intentions to use nuclear weapons offensively - then its value as a counterbalance is severely lessened.

Even if a Westerner, comfortably sitting in Colorado or Geneva, would argue that Rasfanjani, Khatami and the Mullahs are only engaging in strong-man puffery when they talk about their Islamic bomb destroying the Jews, and put posters on their missles with slogans about wiping Israel off the map, an Israeli Prime Minister (whoever it is) does not have the luxury of taking that Westerner's word for it.

I hope there is no strike from either Israel or America, and I hope that Iran can be convinced to stand down.

But they have made their own bed with their heated, genocidal rhetoric, and they should not be surprised if someone tries to blow up some of their nuclear facilities.

It's both sad and funny to me that the Mullah "solution" to the Palestinian problem, pushed by some Westerners, if they can't get the Israelis to play ball, would kill almost all the Palestinians and render their land uninhabitable for generations.

Hell, but at least they'd be "martyrs" and the descendants of "pigs and dogs" would be in hell where they belong.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 31, 2004 3:39:09 PM

SoCal,
aren't you taking their rhetoric a bit too literally?

There has been a lot of very strong rhetoric coming out of all quarters. N.Koreans say: Bush calls us 'evil', this means he'll nuke us. And their point seems to be as good as yours. Sharon has said many stupid things too.

Clearly, when this Logan guy says what he says he doesn't mean that a bunch of madmen having the bomb would be beneficial for anyone, we are assuming that they are sane politicians, domestic rhetoric notwithstanding.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 31, 2004 3:49:39 PM

abb1,

You ask: aren't you taking their rhetoric a bit too literally?

Again, it's not up to me, comfortably sitting on my couch (after a nice, day long hike with my dog and some friends in Great Falls, VA), on a beautiful, indian summer autumn day, watching football, to decide whether their rhetoric should be taken literally.

If one is the object of that rhetoric - and the leader responsible for their safety - it's up to them.

You can't expect people to put up with that.

When you use Bush's "evil" example, you then have to say that people "interpret" it one way or another.

That makes sense.

There's only one way to interpret "we will wipe [insert country X] off the map."

you write: "we are assuming that they are sane politicians."

To be honest, I'm a little more comfortable assuming that with Khomeini dead and Rasfanjani out of the number one leadership position. But whoever is in charge is still crazy enough to continue the same level of rhetoric.

What do they expect the Israelis to think/do, aside from trying not to be "wiped of the map"?

The Iranians have been playing a dangerous game.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 31, 2004 3:58:03 PM

What do they expect the Israelis to think/do, aside from trying not to be "wiped of the map"?

To compromise? To think: hey, it looks like we're doing something that makes those people real mad. Let's try to find out what it would take to pull them to our side or, at least to bring the hype down a notch.

Apparently they don't hate Israel just for being a 'Jewish state', because they allocate seats in the parliament to their Jewish citizens, so, it must be something the Israeli government is doing they don't like.

I agree, you certainly have a point, but it's not The Point. It's one of many.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 31, 2004 4:13:16 PM

Nuclear Iran? Hmmm ... that rings a bell.
Oh yes, MIT almost 30 years ago.
This from The Tech TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 1975:

By Mark P. Abbate et. al.
The recently initiated plan for the
training of 54 Iranian students in nuclear
engineering allows a significant number of
potential harms as its byproducts which
are serious enough to warrant dis-
continuation of the program. Analysis of
Iran's internal and external politics
strongly suggests that abuse of the nu-
clear power capability resulting from
MIT's training is both possible and
probable.

More at:
http://kurzweil.mit.edu/archives/VOL_095/TECH_V095_S0176_P005.txt

Posted by: Z | Oct 31, 2004 4:28:22 PM

"Perhaps you slept through the Iran/Iraq war. And Saddam's WMD fantasies were certainly geared toward Iran, not the US."

Saddam is gone. As I remember that war, Saddam's original purpose was a small chunk of coastal territory, and Khomeini extended the war beyond reason. Iran is one tough country to conquer, and Saddam never posed an existential threat to Iran.
On the other hand, with a 60% Shia population, Saddam and Iraq does have reason to worry about Iran.

I really can't see Iran needing nukes for defensive reasons, unless it has offensive intentions east or west (north?)....and war really isn't waged that way anymore. Except for madmen in America, war is waged with proxies and terrorism in an attempt to gain political hegemony and influence over areas. And this is not the kind of war you go nuclear over.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 31, 2004 6:04:24 PM

Ah, business at the same old stand- the idea that we would "let" Iran develop nukes is, in itself, enough to nuke our imagination.

This is the same kind of "reasoning" that gave us the biggest drug problem in the world- it's so unthinkable to not be 'against' drugs that even top experts can't speak their minds until they've retired. Doesn't bother us a bit that our problem is of our own making.

In fact, I'm so old I can remember Dr. Frederick Stare saying that our insulin-dependent diabetics were our largest single class of drug addicts, and that half of them wouldn't need insulin if they lost weight. Only took 30 years, and an obesity crisis, to move that thought into the 'thinkable' column.

Relax- the powers-that-be have no intention of letting Israel lose its mideast nuclear monopoly. If it happens it will probably be because Bush won re-election.

Posted by: serial catowner | Oct 31, 2004 6:27:05 PM

Matt's right. A nuclear Iran would be good for the U.S. Any visible counterwieght to U.S. power is a good thing right now,because the apparent absence of such a counterweight leads us to throw our weight around in all sorts of destructive ways.

Not a complicated argument, really.

I would add that the U.S. has NO "interests" of any consequence in the Middle East. I hope to see the day when the U.S. has no troops stationed overseas, a greatly scaled-back military, no involvement in supporting or overthrowing foreign regimes, and no engagement with the rest of the world besides peaceful trade and, I guess some non-military foreign aid.

A nuclear Iran, by helping deflate our imperial ambitions, would be a step in that direction.

Posted by: lemuel pitkin | Oct 31, 2004 7:27:56 PM

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