Michael Meeropol: Do We Really Want To Go To War With Iran

Apr 16, 2015

Let’s get real.  Do you want the US to go to war with Iran in a futile attempt to stop them from acquiring a nuclear weapon?   That’s what those who are trying to torpedo the deal that is being negotiated seem to want.   For most of the Republicans it appears that it is more important to damage President Obama than to avoid war.

Now that the fight over the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran has been postponed till sometime in June or even later, perhaps we the people can weigh in on this issue. 

Though I personally support the negotiated framework I am going to go out on a limb and argue a more extreme position.   That it’s none of our business whether or not Iran has a nuclear weapon.  Stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb is not an acceptable reason to go to war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says an Iranian bomb is a matter of Israel’s survival.   Why?    Israel already has numerous nuclear weapons and if the Iranians even came close to attempting an attack, the Iranians would be annihilated.   Those who assert that the Iranians are religious fanatics who do not care about life forget that it was the Ayatollah Khomeini himself who reluctantly agreed to an end to the decade long war with Iraq despite his great desire to see the “unbeliever” Saddam Hussein punished for invading Iran in the first place – an example of realpolitick far from the fanaticism that people routinely assign to the Iranians.

Those of us over the age of 45 well remember the fact that during the Cold War the Soviet Union had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the United States many times over.   Stalin and the Soviets were routinely depicted as maniacal revolutionaries intent on world-wide conquest, yet they behaved just like any great power.  No nuclear weapons were ever dropped on civilian or military targets after 1945, and when the world came close to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis it was the “fanatical” Soviets who backed down.   Why was there never a nuclear war? Because each side knew that a hint of a nuclear attack would bring massive immediate retaliation.

Why would there not be similar deterrence in the case of Iran and Israel? 

I challenge the war mongers in both the Democratic and Republican Parties --- why would you be willing to go to war with Iran to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons?    Some have argued that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia might then go ahead and acquire some?    Maybe but then again, that shoudn’t by itself guarantee that they will go to war with each other.

Consider the situation on the Indian subcontinent.  What damage has been done because Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons?   The real damage is to their own people because of the waste of resources on these weapons – resources that could be spent on education, economic development and feeding the hungry.  The last time they came close to fighting, the fact that they were both nuclear states actually stopped them from going over the edge.

Please don’t get me wrong.   Of course it would be better if the Indian subcontinent were nuclear free.  Of course it would be better if Iran and therefore Saudi Arabia did not develop nuclear weapons.   (It would also be better if Israel signed the non-proliferation treaty and destroyed their nuclear weapons as did Lybia.)  But would this situation  be SO MUCH better that it’s worth the US getting into an all out endless war with Iran to prevent that situation?    Everyone who has looked at the issue states that a sustained bombing campaign would only set back Iran’s nuclear program a few years.  They would reconstitute it deep underground and go back to work – this time to develop a nuclear weapon to deter us and Israel from attacking them again.   The only way to be sure that Iran will not have nuclear weapons would be to invade and occupy it.   This would be Vietnam and Iraq multiplied by suicide bombers and a fight against a massive modern military.  Iraq’s army could be conquered in a few short weeks – Iran’s would not be such a pushover.   And remember, even in Iraq we can all see the long run consequences of that so-called “easy victory.”  

In the end, I think the most important effort that has to be made is to persuade leaders in Congress that we the people really mean it when we say – we do NOT want war with Iran.   Yes, the polls are contradictory.  Many want a negotiated settlement yet a majority doubts the Iranians will keep their word.   To those people who worry about the Iranians keeping their word, I return to the major point --- one that too few leaders have had the courage to articulate.   That is --- why is going to war with Iran better than them having a nuclear weapon?

Michael Meeropol is professor emeritus of Economics at Western New England University. He is the author (with Howard Sherman) of Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies.

 

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