As I read the piece titled “Bipartisan pressure key to halting Iranian nuclear program,” by Chris Hoffman and Jeff Snow in The Badger Herald on Tuesday, I was struck not only by the complete lack of specifics but also by its neo-colonial mentality concerning the United States’ role on this issue.
There is no doubt the Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon would be a threat to the security of the world. Hyperbolic quotes from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad aside, adding nuclear weapons to a region where strong realpolitik is still practiced would make it more likely that others countries, namely Saudi Arabia, would want to pursue these devices as well.
There is a debate among political science scholars about whether nuclear weapons inspire caution or brinksmanship – the U.S. government has clearly come down in the “more nuclear weapons make for a more dangerous world” camp, and it is correct to do so. The more devices there are, the greater the chance for an accident or a misperception from which there may be no recovery.
That being said, what exactly are the College Republicans and College Democrats in agreement about? That American leaders should “remain vigilant”? I’ll wake the president up from his nap. That our country should “take action together”? Great, which actions?
The implication of their call for “action” seems to be there is not enough action now. But America has thrown the playbook at the issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, engaging in every tactic short of overt military action.
As former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller wrote in January 2012, “American policy has been consistent through the Bush and Obama administrations: (1) a declaration that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable”; (2) a combination of sticks (sanctions) and carrots (supplies of nuclear fuel suitable for domestic industrial needs in exchange for forgoing weapons); (3) unfettered international inspections; (4) a refusal to take military options off the table; (5) a concerted effort to restrain Israel from attacking Iran unilaterally – beyond the Israelis’ presumed campaign to slow Iran’s progress by sabotage and assassination; and (6) a wish that Iran’s hard-liners could be replaced by a more benign regime, tempered by a realization that there is very little we can do to make that happen.”
The last line of Keller’s quote is the most important. There is very little America can do to stop Iran from acquiring a bomb. One of the most complicated cyber weapons ever developed, Stuxnet (assumed to have been built by the United States and Israel), is not believed to have delayed the Iranian program by more than a few years. Comprehensive international sanctions have also been slow and unspectacular: although Iranian hyperinflation rates of about 70 percent were reported back in October 2012, these were best case scenarios made with faulty assumptions. Economists have put the real number closer to 30 percent.
Hoffman and Snow claim Iranian nuclear weapons are an American issue. I would challenge that. The real American issue is America’s nuclear weapons arsenal, a massive elephant in any negotiating room.
According to Daryl Kimball, Arms Control Association executive director, the United States maintains an arsenal of “approximately 5,113 nuclear warheads,” over a third of which are actively deployed. In retaining this arsenal and deploying it overseas, the United States shows a blatant disregard for Articles I and IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. To ask Iran to play by international rules which we ourselves do not adhere to is flagrantly hypocritical. It’s not very surprising that it doesn’t work.
I am truly disappointed in the political discourse of this university if this is the best the College Democrats and the College Republicans can come up with. Their article exemplifies the problem we have in Washington today: the only things Democrats and Republicans can seem to agree on are broad principles which are useless for guiding action.
Trying to make the world a safer place by limiting the spread of nuclear weapons is a fine goal. But our leaders have exhausted our avenues for exerting influence on the world. If we want the globe to be a safer place, let’s let it know by starting at home.
Nathaniel Olson ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science, history and psychology.