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Implications of an Iranian Bomb

 Whether Iran is secretly trying to build nuclear arms or not, the longer US/Israeli economic war, terrorist attacks on nuclear scientists, cyber-war, and diplomatic marginalization continue, the more Iranian national security officials are likely to view nuclear arms as essential defensive weapons.

In this dangerous context, the US obviously needs the clearest possible understanding of what is in the interests of US national security (NOT the same as being in the interests of some particular elite faction with its own agenda).

Renown political scientist Kenneth Waltz has just published what, in the short-sighted US political context, constitutes a breakthrough essay in Foreign Affairs Jul/Aug 2012 on "Why Iran Should get the Bomb." It's only four pages and is critical reading before the election.

His point is simple: given the Israeli nuclear threat, an Iranian bomb would be likely to increase regional stability by creating a deterrent balance. This argument is standard international relations theory with lots of historical evidence to support it, but it is important because a major US political scientist got the article published in the leading US international relations journal...not an academic journal but one policymakers (if they are literate) read.

Waltz's thesis is particularly interesting because the minute one considers it, one comes face to face with the great taboo of US foreign policy: the distinction between US national interest and Israeli national interest.

Let's assume he is correct that an Iranian bomb would increase regional stability (by giving Iran security since Israel would no longer be able to attack). Of course, one can offer lots of conceivable if unlikely counterarguments.

But let's just make that assumption. Then, US national security is satisfied: no Iranian-Israeli war, we all get on with life. But are Israeli interests met?

The answer to that depends on whether one defines Israeli national interests as equivalent to those of the Netanyahu faction (which would suffer a real defeat of its expansionist plans in the West Bank and its overall desire for regional supremacy) or as equivalent to the interests of those Israelis who favor a small, democratic, pluralist Israel (the vision of the wave of European Jewish immigrants who settled in Palestine in the 1940s).

Whatever one's opinion about Israeli interests, it would be a real step forward for American interests if we could start as a society to discuss this whole issue openly and calmly.