Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Fareed Zakaria says it's ironic. In the 1980s, the left abhorred deterrence when it came to the Soviet Union, preferring a nuclear freeze. Today the leading GOP candidates and others on the right abhor it when it comes to Iran, preferring a preemptive war:

Anguish over the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon is understandable. It would be better for Israel, the Middle East and the world if Tehran does not acquire such weapons. The U.S. effort, in collaboration with almost the entire international community, to prevent this from happening and to put tremendous pressure on Tehran, is the right policy. But were Tehran to persist, were its regime to accept the global isolation and crippling costs that would come from its decision, a robust policy of containment and deterrence would work toward Iran as it did against Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Kim Jong Il’s North Korea and the Pakistani military.

Zakaria may be right. The world might be able to live with an Iranian bomb. But his viewpoint is unhelpful at the moment, especially if the Iranians get the impression that the Obama administration shares it. Israel and the U.S. should be willing to go to the brink to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power. While it's true that deterrence helped keep the peace during the Cold War, preventing the Soviets from getting the bomb to begin with might have prevented the Cold War -- Korea, Vietnam, certainly the Cuban missile crisis, all of it. The Soviet communist regime, whose legitimacy was bolstered by its 50,000 warheads, would undoubtedly have been driven from the Kremlin much sooner. By the same token, an Iranian bomb would not only be a threat to Israel and the U.S. but would in the best of circumstances solidify a tyrannical regime. Better to make Teheran believe that we'd go to war to stop it from nuclearizing -- and that we'd be incredibly generous in a negotiated settlement if it wisely chose to back down voluntarily.

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