On A Nuclear Iran

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 31, 2009

Daniel Larison tells us that we have to accept a nuclear Iran because . . . well . . . we just do. He doesn’t tell us whether our need to accept a nuclear Iran is driven by technological advances in the quest for nuclear weapons that are irreversible. He just asserts his position and does not appear to entertain any serious questions on the issue.

He basically repeats the trick when it comes to considering whether a nuclear Iran will be an existential threat to Israel. Larison asserts–again–that Iran won’t dare launch a nuclear attack against Israel because it won’t want to be subjected to “the certainty of U.S. retaliation.” But there is a very real question as to whether an American President will want to be responsible for launching a nuclear attack against Iran if Iran has destroyed Israel with a nuclear strike of its own. It’s a close-run thing and a plausible scenario; an American President may consider that it will not be worth attacking Iran in the aftermath of a completely destroyed Israel, since the attack won’t bring Israel back. Deterrence, in that scenario, will have failed. Perhaps this scenario won’t come about, but one can see ways in which it might if an American President decides that he/she simply doesn’t want blood on his/her hands since a retaliatory strike will be for punishment only. Yet, Larison does not consider ways in which deterrence may fail and simply asserts that it will succeed. I wish I could be as sanguine.

To be sure, Larison is a smart guy, trying to deal with a very knotty problem. But by not backing up his assertions and by not considering what might happen and what might need to be planned for if his assertions don’t come to pass, Larison misses a lot of the big picture when it comes to dealing with Iran’s drive for nuclear power and the possible military use of that power.

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