The central foreign policy debate of the 2012 campaign has been what to do about Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program. The republican candidates and President Obama have both said a nuclear armed Iran would be unacceptable and a major threat to national security and to the rest of the world.
Leaving aside the fact that there is no evidence that Iran is close to obtaining a nuclear weapon, let’s assume the worst case scenario comes to fruition and Iran builds a nuclear weapon. Would it really be that bad? The answeris no.
We have all heard the doomsday scenarios about Iran getting a bomb. They will use it against Israel, or they will give it to Hamas, Hezbollah, or al Qaeda to use against Israel or the United States.
But haven’t we heard of all of this before?
There was worldwide panic when India and Pakistan became nuclear powers in 1998. Analysts feared that a nuclear conflict was imminent between the two enemies who had fought three major wars with each other in 1947, 1965, and 1971. However, those fears never came to pass. If anything, one could argue that both countries possessing nuclear weapons have prevented another major conflict between the two countries from taking place. Both countries had troops massed along their border in 2002 in the wake of the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament but pulled back and avoided a major war. Would a major war have been avoided without that nuclear deterrent?
When North Korea was building its nuclear weapons program, many feared that the notoriously unstable Kim Jung-Ilwould use nuclear weapons against Japan or South Korea. Instead, North Korea has been a nuclear power since 2009. We haven't seen a nuclear attack nor has Japan and South Korea entered into a nuclear arms race with North Korea. North Korea is another example of rhetoric not matching up with reality.
In regards to the fear and the prediction that Iran would use a nuclear weapon or sell it to a terrorist organization to use, why do analysts believe it will happen? Like all dictatorships, the Iranian regime is all about survival and maintaining its grip on power. If the Iranians were to use a nuclear weapon or give a nuclear weapon to a terrorist organization to use, it would be the end of their regime and possibly the end of their country as it would provoke a major retaliatory strike from Israel and/or the United States. The Iranian regime may be crazy, but they are not stupid.
We also need to keep in mind that countries build nuclear weapons as deterrents and not as offensive weapons. Since the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945, Russia, China, England, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea have all become nuclear powers. And not one nuclear bomb has been dropped since. There has also never been a major war between two countries that possess nuclear weapons.
This is not to say that I want Iran to get nuclear weapons. I fully support the president’s policies of tough sanctions and diplomacy to prevent Iran from obtaining the bomb. However, before we continue saber rattling, we should take a step back, look at history, and really wonder whether it will really be that bad if Iran does in fact get the bomb.