Katic: Should Iran get the bomb?


Kenneth Waltz has a provocative article in the most recent Foreign Affairs (premium content, but available through the UBC network) arguing that Iran developing a nuclear weapon would actually make the world a safer place.

Most U.S., European, and Israeli commentators and policymakers warn that a nuclear-armed Iran would be the worst possible outcome of the current standoff. In fact, it would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East.

Why? It would bring balance back in a region where Israel has dominance:

Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkably durable for the past four decades, has long fueled instability in the Middle East. In no other region of the world does a lone, unchecked nuclear state exist. It is Israel’s nuclear arsenal, not Iran’s desire for one, that has contributed most to the current crisis. Power, after all, begs to be balanced. What is surprising about the Israeli case is that it has taken so long for a potential balance to emerge.

It’s a classic deterrence argument. Do you buy it?

Check out a BBC debate about the article, and our podcast on the issue, where we speak to former US assistant secretary of defense, Lawrence Korb:

Gordon Katic (@gord_katic) has been student coordinator for the Terry Project for over two years, and in that time started BARtalk, and the Terry Project on CiTR 101.9FM. A former Ubyssey columnist, and now a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Gordon is trying to use journalism to tell important stories about global issues.

Related Topics

terryman

Gordon Katic (@gord_katic) has been student coordinator for the Terry Project for over two years, and in that time started BARtalk, and the Terry Project on CiTR 101.9FM. A former Ubyssey columnist, and now a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Gordon is trying to use journalism to tell important stories about global issues.

3 Responses to “Katic: Should Iran get the bomb?”

  1. Ashish Sinha

    Kenneth Waltz and Scott Sagan co-wrote the first book I ever read on the topic of nuclear weapons. Waltz’s argument always seemed far weaker than Sagan’s and it doesn’t appear any stronger today. Sagan recognizes that nuclear weapons, like any weapon, are vulnerable to use through madness, miscalculation, or by accident.

    While institutional controls over nuclear weapons tend to be a focus of nuclear-weapon states, there is no such thing as a perfect system and there are historic examples of those controls failing in the past. Different countries have varying levels of controls in place to avoid nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands or suffering an accidental detonation. Even the United States has accidentally dropped nuclear weapons from bombers, launched a bomber armed with nuclear weapons without anyone knowing, and other egregious breaches of security.

    In 1995, the United States and Russia almost launched a nuclear war over a simple error in communication. As per regulations, the United States notified Russia that they were launching a rocket from Norway to study the Northern Lights. Someone in Russia forgot to relay the message and, what should have been an innocent weather study, turned into one of the few times that the Russian nuclear “football” was opened. That day in 1995 was a normal day without any reason for either side to suspect a surprise attack.

    Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara once remarked that it was luck that separated the United States and the Soviet Union from nuclear war. A continued reliance on good luck is not a sound national security policy for any country. Waltz’s suggestion to encourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons simply increases the opportunities for systems to break down or for madness to take hold and a nuclear exchange to occur. Unlike most armaments, a nuclear detonation is not something the world can afford to get wrong.

  2. Gordon Katic

    Ashish, I think I agree. There are far too many cases where we almost accidentally set off nuclear war. As with the first story in our podcast, which I linked to, it was a combination of a hot-headed commander and a communication breakdown (the Soviet sub did not get the memo that the US would throw warning signals to all the Soviet subs, to get them to emerge).

    On the other hand, I think where Waltz’ essay is strong is how it defeats alarmist views about Iran being particularly crazed. They simply don’t operate that way. Other than that, I’m with you.

  3. Jonathan Lerner

    Restore the balance? Seriously?!

    First off, there is no such thing as ‘balance’ when it comes to nuclear weaponry. Allowing multiple countries to produce these armaments isn’t going to create any semblance of stability, but rather induce arms races. What do you think will happen if Iran obtains nuclear weapons? Saudi Arabia will want some, too. Then Syria. Then Turkey. And on and on.

    And what is this about Israel’s “monopoly” on nuclear weapons in the region? What about Pakistan? There hasn’t even been any confirmation that Israel has such weapons, but Pakistan is more than happy to tout their nuclear program.

    Waltz has it all backwards. Israel’s supposed nuclear weapons aren’t creating an instability or crisis. If anything, they are the biggest and best deterrent to armed conflict in the region. The fact that Israel may hold such weapons is the main things keeping large-scale wars at bay.

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS