The Munk Debates series live-streamed a debate tonight discussing Iran’s nuclear weapons capability. I sided with the con side before and after the debate. The following is a brief overview and my reaction immediately following:
The con side argued that the obvious analogy is America versus the Soviet Union; deterrence and containment will still be effective in the modern world. The pro side argued that this analogy is not applicable to the modern day Middle East, contending that Iran achieving nuclear capability would kick off a phase of hyper-proliferation in the Middle East. The pro side responded that throughout history this argument has not panned out when nuclear weapons were introduced into regions. Asia did not go nuclear as soon as China or North Korea went nuclear. Further the Middle East did not enter into a nuclear arms race when Israel acquired nuclear weapons. I don’t know whether Iranian nuclear weapons would cause an arms race. Iran has nothing to gain and everything to lose from using nuclear weapons and I just can’t see the imperative need to stop them.
The pro side further argued that Iran is not a rational actor but instead a theological and Messianic regime, essentially arguing that deterrence would not be effective with regard to Iran because they are zealously in favor of the destruction of Israel. The question one has to ask yourself is whether or not Iran is suicidal. Personally I doubt this; destroying Israel and – possibly but not certainly – itself does not restore the caliphate or eliminate Saudi Arabia, Iran’s other sworn enemy. I think this irrational actor argument is facile – I think Iran is more rational than hawks would have us believe.
The con side further argued that attacking Iran would do little but delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear capabilities and rally the people around the mullahs. The pro side retorted that many younger Iranians hate the regime and would not rally around them. I think we can’t forget that many Iranians support Iran’s nuclear capabilities seeing it as a point of national pride. After the most recent Israeli-Palestinian war I would expect almost the entire Middle East to rally around Iran after a strike by Israel.
The fact of the matter is that Israel is the Middle East’s sole superpower. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is not going to change this. I still think the best strategy is for the world to live with a nuclear Iran.