Let Iran Have Nuclear Bombs? Easy to Say From Ivory Tower

By Dan Raviv

Even at age 87, Professor Kenneth N. Waltz has a knack for being provocative. In the new issue of Foreign Affairs, he suggests a nuclear armed Iran “would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East.”

iran nuclear, nuclear proliferation, spies against armageddonConsidered the father of an international relations theory called “neorealism,” Professor Waltz—famous for a career at UC Berkeley but now identified with Columbia University in New York—has published his views that the world would be safer with many nuclear-armed nations. The idea, which probably does not make many of us comfortable, is that they all would deter each other. Some call the notion “nuclear peace.”

According to a summary of Waltz’s latest article by Foreign Affairs, here are some of Waltz’s reasons why a nuclear Iran would be a good thing:

1) It would produce a more stable balance of military power in the Middle East: “Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkably durable for the past four decades, has long fueled instability in the Middle East… It is Israel’s nuclear arsenal, not Iran’s desire for one, that has contributed most to the current crisis…In fact, by reducing imbalances in military power, new nuclear states generally produce more regional and international stability, not less.”

2) It would reduce the risk of war between Israel and Iran: “If Iran goes nuclear, Israel and Iran will deter each other, as nuclear powers always have. There has never been a full-scale war between two nuclear-armed states. Once Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, deterrence will apply, even if the Iranian arsenal is relatively small.”

3) It would produce a more cautious Iran: “History shows that when countries acquire the bomb, they feel increasingly vulnerable and become acutely aware that their nuclear weapons make them a potential target in the eyes of major powers…Maoist China, for example, became much less bellicose after acquiring nuclear weapons in 1964, and India and Pakistan have both become more cautious since going nuclear.”

I had a chance to get reaction to Waltz’s article, “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb,” from an Israeli strategic thinker who is not particularly militant but—living in the Middle East—adheres to his own version of a new realism (if not Waltz’s neorealism). Should the Islamic Republic of Iran, where top politicians have spoken about a need to wipe “the Zionist entity” off the map, almost be encouraged to build a nuclear arsenal? The Israeli, preferring not to be named, called Waltz’s arguments “rubbish and nonsense.”

He continued: “My answer, especially to Americans who think like Waltz, would be this: Let Cuba and Hugo Chavez have nuclear bombs—in the name of stabilizing your region. And see how well you don’t sleep at night!”

June 22, 2012

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