Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Team America, World Police: Iran edition?

This WSJ op-ed presents a fair summary of security problems created by a nuclear Iran: clear and present danger to Israel, and provoking a Middle East nuclear arms race. Israel is noted to be openly telegraphing its strike capability, through media and military exercises.

The article's headline, "Obama Is Pushing Israel Toward War", seems a bit of a stretch, however.

The author, Bret Stephens, argues that it is not in America's interests that Israel be the instrument of Iranian disarmament. That seems fair. Stephens concludes "it is an abdication of a superpower's responsibility to outsource matters of war and peace to another state, however closely allied"

That conclusion carries with it the implicit assumption that it is America that must police the world. This blog does feel that the American military, particularly US naval power, has contributed to smooth global free trade and overall (relative!) peace. However, it's a fair question.

Nuclear capability is a point of national pride for Iran, and it increasingly seems likely that diplomacy, incentives and sanctions will not deter Iran from that goal. This seems to imply two likely outcomes: a military strike to eliminate this capability, or gritting our collective teeth and implicitly permitting Iran to join the club of nuclear-armed states.

Given that a military strike is difficult for reasons related to politics, resources and geography, is the most likely outcome a Middle Eastern arms race? The Saudis are certainly not going to calmly sit beside a Persian neighbor that has made war on Arab states in the past. But neither does anyone want an actual nuclear war.

So, do we want America to push the seemingly likely (and quite dangerous!) outcome aside? Is that our responsibility by default, as the lone superpower?

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