Byron v. Hudson: Let's Inform, Not Inflame, on Israel and Iran

Note: This article is part of a continuing debate on this topic. For an alternative perspective, see PolicyMic Contributing Writer Adam Hudson's article. Also see PolicyMic Contributing Writer Gaby Kohan's original piece.

While I agree with my colleague Adam Hudson's premise that an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran would be disastrous, I believe it has quite a low likelihood of occurring. My main disagreement with Adam's article is that many of the points he makes might be more inflammatory than informative.

First of all, specific claims concerning Iranian intentions or the progress of their nuclear development program should be taken with a grain of salt. The official, publicly-available intelligence is notoriously inconsistent on the subject and specific conclusions cannot be drawn, especially from a document that is over three years old. What seems to be the case is that Iran is intent on having some kind of nuclear program, the character of which is unclear. The fear that Iran could co-opt a civil nuclear program into a nuclear weapons program in a relatively short amount of time is not an irrational fear. Furthermore, Israeli possession of nuclear weapons is irrelevant to the main premise, which concerns the nature of the Iranian threat to the Middle East.

His argument then glosses over Iran’s support of terrorist organizations and attempts to show that Israel’s past aggression justifies regional terrorism and Iranian support for such. This argument does not relate to the premise concerning the Iranian threat; instead, it is intended to inflame readers by reminding them of past Israeli aggression. While Israel has made mistakes in the past, I cannot agree with anyone that attempts to justify terrorism or the actions of terrorist organizations.

Adam is arguing that within the context of past aggressive actions by Israel and the United States, we should not be harsh in judgment on the actions of Iran. That is a dubious metric with which to judge international relations and the ethics of international affairs. Past atrocities or mistakes should not be used as meter sticks by which to excuse current aggressive acts. Iran is a state sponsor of terror, its leaders regularly call for the destruction of Israel, and it is on a path that may lead to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Whether or not Iran will achieve such an end is unknown. But we should not allow our disgust with certain Israeli aggression in the past to turn us into apologists for Iranian aggression.

It is too often that we allow ourselves to conflate past sins or looming disaster in order to inflame or terrify audiences into acceptance of our claims. The regional context and historical depth of regional affairs is so complex and obscure that I am inherently skeptical of those who claim to have certain foresight into such matters. Rather, let us debate the steps we have before us: a continuous effort for regional and international pressure and sanctions on Iran; a diplomatic effort to calm the regional waters if Iran should proceed with nuclear development; and well-thought contingencies that may be employed as conditions permit.

Adam may be correct, and I tend to agree with him, that the Iranian nuclear issue is exaggerated. At this time, Israeli preemption would be counterproductive and a strategic error. But, we should not attempt to casually brush aside the seriousness with which Israel believes that an Iranian nuclear weapon poses an existential threat. The justification for such a belief is much less murky than the justification for Iranian aggression.

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Benjamin Byron

Ben is a policy analyst interested in national and foreign affairs. Ben's focus is on international security issues, but he is also very interested in national issues, such as government reform, economic policy, education reform, and technology policy. Ben received a B.A. from Dickinson College in International Studies and a Master's Degree in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. Recently, Ben has been particularly interested in media and technology, specifically with regard to how media and technology affect the relationship between the state and society.

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