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Why Iran Should Get the Bomb
Foreign Affairs ^ | July/August 2012 | Kenneth N. Waltz

Posted on 06/27/2012 11:11:56 AM PDT by nickcarraway

Nuclear Balancing Would Mean Stability

The past several months have witnessed a heated debate over the best way for the United States and Israel to respond to Iran's nuclear activities. As the argument has raged, the United States has tightened its already robust sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic, and the European Union announced in January that it will begin an embargo on Iranian oil on July 1. Although the United States, the EU, and Iran have recently returned to the negotiating table, a palpable sense of crisis still looms.

It should not. 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.

POWER BEGS TO BE BALANCED

The crisis over Iran's nuclear program could end in three different ways. First, diplomacy coupled with serious sanctions could convince Iran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. But this outcome is unlikely: the historical record indicates that a country bent on acquiring nuclear weapons can rarely be dissuaded from doing so. Punishing a state through economic sanctions does not inexorably derail its nuclear program. Take North Korea, which succeeded in building its weapons despite countless rounds of sanctions and UN Security Council resolutions. If Tehran determines that its security depends on possessing nuclear weapons, sanctions are unlikely to change its mind. In fact, adding still more sanctions now could make Iran feel even more vulnerable, giving it still more reason to seek the protection of the ultimate deterrent.

The second possible outcome is that Iran stops short of testing a nuclear weapon but develops a breakout capability, the capacity to build and test one quite quickly. Iran would not be the first country to acquire a sophisticated nuclear program without building an actual bomb. Japan, for instance, maintains a vast civilian nuclear infrastructure. Experts believe that it could produce a nuclear weapon on short notice.

Such a breakout capability might satisfy the domestic political needs of Iran's rulers by assuring hard-liners that they can enjoy all the benefits of having a bomb (such as greater security) without the downsides (such as international isolation and condemnation). The problem is that a breakout capability might not work as intended.

The United States and its European allies are primarily concerned with weaponization, so they might accept a scenario in which Iran stops short of a nuclear weapon. Israel, however, has made it clear that it views a significant Iranian enrichment capacity alone as an unacceptable threat. It is possible, then, that a verifiable commitment from Iran to stop short of a weapon could appease major Western powers but leave the Israelis unsatisfied. Israel would be less intimidated by a virtual nuclear weapon than it would be by an actual one and therefore would likely continue its risky efforts at subverting Iran's nuclear program through sabotage and assassination -- which could lead Iran to conclude that a breakout capability is an insufficient deterrent, after all, and that only weaponization can provide it with the security it seeks.

The third possible outcome of the standoff is that Iran continues its current course and publicly goes nuclear by testing a weapon. U.S. and Israeli officials have declared that outcome unacceptable, arguing that a nuclear Iran is a uniquely terrifying prospect, even an existential threat. Such language is typical of major powers, which have historically gotten riled up whenever another country has begun to develop a nuclear weapon of its own. Yet so far, every time another country has managed to shoulder its way into the nuclear club, the other members have always changed tack and decided to live with it. In fact, by reducing imbalances in military power, new nuclear states generally produce more regional and international stability, not less.

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 balancer to emerge.

Of course, it is easy to understand why Israel wants to remain the sole nuclear power in the region and why it is willing to use force to secure that status. In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq to prevent a challenge to its nuclear monopoly. It did the same to Syria in 2007 and is now considering similar action against Iran. But the very acts that have allowed Israel to maintain its nuclear edge in the short term have prolonged an imbalance that is unsustainable in the long term. Israel's proven ability to strike potential nuclear rivals with impunity has inevitably made its enemies anxious to develop the means to prevent Israel from doing so again. In this way, the current tensions are best viewed not as the early stages of a relatively recent Iranian nuclear crisis but rather as the final stages of a decades-long Middle East nuclear crisis that will end only when a balance of military power is restored.

UNFOUNDED FEARS

One reason the danger of a nuclear Iran has been grossly exaggerated is that the debate surrounding it has been distorted by misplaced worries and fundamental misunderstandings of how states generally behave in the international system. The first prominent concern, which undergirds many others, is that the Iranian regime is innately irrational. Despite a widespread belief to the contrary, Iranian policy is made not by "mad mullahs" but by perfectly sane ayatollahs who want to survive just like any other leaders. Although Iran's leaders indulge in inflammatory and hateful rhetoric, they show no propensity for self-destruction. It would be a grave error for policymakers in the United States and Israel to assume otherwise.

Yet that is precisely what many U.S. and Israeli officials and analysts have done. Portraying Iran as irrational has allowed them to argue that the logic of nuclear deterrence does not apply to the Islamic Republic. If Iran acquired a nuclear weapon, they warn, it would not hesitate to use it in a first strike against Israel, even though doing so would invite massive retaliation and risk destroying everything the Iranian regime holds dear.

Although it is impossible to be certain of Iranian intentions, it is far more likely that if Iran desires nuclear weapons, it is for the purpose of providing for its own security, not to improve its offensive capabilities (or destroy itself). Iran may be intransigent at the negotiating table and defiant in the face of sanctions, but it still acts to secure its own preservation. Iran's leaders did not, for example, attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz despite issuing blustery warnings that they might do so after the EU announced its planned oil embargo in January. The Iranian regime clearly concluded that it did not want to provoke what would surely have been a swift and devastating American response to such a move.

Nevertheless, even some observers and policymakers who accept that the Iranian regime is rational still worry that a nuclear weapon would embolden it, providing Tehran with a shield that would allow it to act more aggressively and increase its support for terrorism. Some analysts even fear that Iran would directly provide terrorists with nuclear arms. The problem with these concerns is that they contradict the record of every other nuclear weapons state going back to 1945. 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. This awareness discourages nuclear states from bold and aggressive action. 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. There is little reason to believe Iran would break this mold.

As for the risk of a handoff to terrorists, no country could transfer nuclear weapons without running a high risk of being found out. U.S. surveillance capabilities would pose a serious obstacle, as would the United States' impressive and growing ability to identify the source of fissile material. Moreover, countries can never entirely control or even predict the behavior of the terrorist groups they sponsor. Once a country such as Iran acquires a nuclear capability, it will have every reason to maintain full control over its arsenal. After all, building a bomb is costly and dangerous. It would make little sense to transfer the product of that investment to parties that cannot be trusted or managed.

Another oft-touted worry is that if Iran obtains the bomb, other states in the region will follow suit, leading to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. But the nuclear age is now almost 70 years old, and so far, fears of proliferation have proved to be unfounded. Properly defined, the term "proliferation" means a rapid and uncontrolled spread. Nothing like that has occurred; in fact, since 1970, there has been a marked slowdown in the emergence of nuclear states. There is no reason to expect that this pattern will change now. Should Iran become the second Middle Eastern nuclear power since 1945, it would hardly signal the start of a landslide. When Israel acquired the bomb in the 1960s, it was at war with many of its neighbors. Its nuclear arms were a much bigger threat to the Arab world than Iran's program is today. If an atomic Israel did not trigger an arms race then, there is no reason a nuclear Iran should now.

REST ASSURED

In 1991, the historical rivals India and Pakistan signed a treaty agreeing not to target each other's nuclear facilities. They realized that far more worrisome than their adversary's nuclear deterrent was the instability produced by challenges to it. Since then, even in the face of high tensions and risky provocations, the two countries have kept the peace. Israel and Iran would do well to consider this precedent. 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. No other country in the region will have an incentive to acquire its own nuclear capability, and the current crisis will finally dissipate, leading to a Middle East that is more stable than it is today.

For that reason, the United States and its allies need not take such pains to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon. Diplomacy between Iran and the major powers should continue, because open lines of communication will make the Western countries feel better able to live with a nuclear Iran. But the current sanctions on Iran can be dropped: they primarily harm ordinary Iranians, with little purpose.

Most important, policymakers and citizens in the Arab world, Europe, Israel, and the United States should take comfort from the fact that history has shown that where nuclear capabilities emerge, so, too, does stability. When it comes to nuclear weapons, now as ever, more may be better.


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Israel; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: iran; middleeast; nuclearweapons; thirdworldwar; waltz
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1 posted on 06/27/2012 11:12:07 AM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Wow...we actualy found someone with a zero IQ.


2 posted on 06/27/2012 11:15:36 AM PDT by Scott from the Left Coast
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To: nickcarraway
Why Iran Should Get the Bomb or
Why Iran SHOULD GET BOMBED
3 posted on 06/27/2012 11:16:54 AM PDT by Paul46360
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To: nickcarraway

The Saudis gave China an open ended contract to supply them with nukes to protect themselves form the insane Iran leaders. Give Iran a bomb and Israel will be their first target. I guess some want a nuclear war.


4 posted on 06/27/2012 11:18:25 AM PDT by mountainlion (I am voting for Sarah after getting screwed again by the DC Thugs.)
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To: nickcarraway

Some delusions are just too stupid to comment upon


5 posted on 06/27/2012 11:18:25 AM PDT by Nifster
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To: nickcarraway

I think the the school of thought is called “defensive realism”. Nuclear weapons are “defensive” weapons that deter attack. And a stable balance of power is the guarantee of peace.


6 posted on 06/27/2012 11:20:32 AM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
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To: nickcarraway

The author is missing one itty-bitty, tiny crumb of information that really negates his entire position.

IRAN HAS REPEATEDLY AFFIRMED THAT THEY INTEND TO WIPE ISRAEL OF THE FACE OF THE EARTH (alah willing).

That is kind of important as Iran would not be able to remotely consider forcing that issue with conventional military engagement.


7 posted on 06/27/2012 11:23:23 AM PDT by Tenacious 1 (The Click-&-Paste Media exists & works in Utopia, riding unicorns & sniffing pixy dust.)
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To: nickcarraway
Once Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, deterrence will apply, even if the Iranian arsenal is relatively small.

All his arguments assume rational players.

In the real world, Iran is run by people who believe that if they can initiate World War IV, they can coax Imam XII out of his little well and they will go to heaven.

8 posted on 06/27/2012 11:23:37 AM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: nickcarraway
Israel's regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkably durable for the past four decades, has long fueled instability in the Middle East

Been a long time since I've seen something so breathtakingly stupid in print.
9 posted on 06/27/2012 11:24:11 AM PDT by chrisser (Starve the Monkeys!)
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To: Colonel Kangaroo

yeah and that only works if you are not dealing with people who believe in the 12th Imam


10 posted on 06/27/2012 11:24:46 AM PDT by Nifster
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To: nickcarraway

This is satire, right?


11 posted on 06/27/2012 11:30:03 AM PDT by Da Bilge Troll (Defeatism is not a winning strategy!)
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To: nickcarraway

I would be in favor of an article “Why we should bomb Iran with Nuclear Weapons.”


12 posted on 06/27/2012 11:31:31 AM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I can neither confirm or deny that; even if I could, I couldn't - it's classified.)
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To: nickcarraway
The point of this idiot is that if you give a homicidal psychopath the an atomic bomb, that will make them less likely to do something homicidal.

Gosh, where could the flaw be in that logic.

13 posted on 06/27/2012 11:33:23 AM PDT by SampleMan (Feral Humans are the refuse of socialism.)
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To: nickcarraway

Why Iran Should Get the Bomb?

So we can turn their sand into glass.


14 posted on 06/27/2012 11:35:18 AM PDT by Red_Devil 232 (VietVet - USMC All Ready On The Right? All Ready On The Left? All Ready On The Firing Line!)
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To: SampleMan

So I should have a gun to insure peace, right?


15 posted on 06/27/2012 11:36:23 AM PDT by null and void (Day 1254 of our ObamaVacation from reality - Obama is not a Big Brother [he's a Big Sissy...])
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To: nickcarraway

If only there was some way to get that on my garden. I’d grow the biggest vegetables in the world!


16 posted on 06/27/2012 11:36:43 AM PDT by Portcall24
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To: nickcarraway

The author ascribes old outdated Cold War style “balance” thinking to a regime that believes it can force the islamic messiah The Mahdi to appear by using nukes on their enemies.
The author needs a dose of reality and quick.


17 posted on 06/27/2012 11:39:17 AM PDT by Darksheare (You will never defeat Bok Choy!)
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To: null and void
So I should have a gun to insure peace, right?

Bad people with weapons are dangerous.

Good people with weapons are stabilizing forces.

The equation does not change whether the weapon is a gun or an atomic bomb.

18 posted on 06/27/2012 11:42:27 AM PDT by SampleMan (Feral Humans are the refuse of socialism.)
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To: null and void; SampleMan

But Nully, you’re not a homicidal psychopath that daily preaches from the rooftops about martyring your friends and neighbors in the hopes of forcing some bigger psychopath to appear and destroy the world.

But you do live in an area that has people of a similar bent.
Uh.. hmm..

Any escape plans yet?


19 posted on 06/27/2012 11:45:53 AM PDT by Darksheare (You will never defeat Bok Choy!)
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To: nuconvert; txhurl

Ping.


20 posted on 06/27/2012 11:46:59 AM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: Tenacious 1

yep


21 posted on 06/27/2012 11:51:22 AM PDT by F15Eagle (1 John 5:4-5, 4:15, 5:13; John 3:17-18, 6:69, 11:25, 14:6, 20:31; Rom10:8-11; 1 Tim 2:5; Titus 3:4-5)
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To: nickcarraway
Waltz is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley.

He is a leading proponent of the academic theory of "structural realism" in international relations, and accordingly, highly gifted in the art of rectal-cranial infarction.

22 posted on 06/27/2012 11:54:28 AM PDT by andy58-in-nh (America does not need to be organized: it needs to be liberated.)
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To: Scott from the Left Coast

I think he is just faking a “Biden”.

“...one most likely to restore stability...”
Even the Stalinist traitors of the 1930s and 1940s didn’t use that excuse for stealing the secrets for the Atomic Bomb, though they used a similar excuse for invading and dividing up Poland in 1939. It also worked for the Stalinist sympathizers of the late 1940s, ‘50s and up to date as to why the Soviets needed to conquer eastern Europe, Korea, China and the World.


23 posted on 06/27/2012 11:55:13 AM PDT by BilLies (330,000 northern Union Whites died 1861-65 so that Obama could have Affirmative Action)
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To: SampleMan
The point of this idiot is that if you give a homicidal psychopath the an atomic bomb, that will make them less likely to do something homicidal.

I recently made the argument like this to a liberal friend.

"Why don't you let your 5 year old play with matches? He knows not to set anything on fire with them, right?"

"Well in the case of Iran with Nuclear Weapons, they are building weapons that are designed to anihilate entire cities. They have repeatedly stated that they intend to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. This "child" nation is not planning to just play with matches, they intend to set something on fire, which is what the match is designed to do."

24 posted on 06/27/2012 12:01:48 PM PDT by Tenacious 1 (The Click-&-Paste Media exists & works in Utopia, riding unicorns & sniffing pixy dust.)
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To: Army Air Corps

He dares to compare Israel having nukes to the IRI with nukes?

What color is the sun in his world?


25 posted on 06/27/2012 12:02:25 PM PDT by nuconvert ( Khomeini promised change too // Hail, Chairman O)
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To: null and void
So I should have a gun to insure peace, right?

That depends on who you are and what your intentions are. If you are a murdurous thug with a healthy rap sheet, I doubt your having a gun will bring about any peace. If you are a law abiding citizens looking out for the best defense of yourself and your family, I think it could ensure some personal peace.

Your premise is flawed however. For your hypothetical gun to be an effective peace maker, you would have to let all would be criminals that you have the gun and intend to use it with lethal intentions should you be attacked. Then, your gun could serve the purpose or intent of insuring peace.

The state may help you by making it legal for all good citizens to have and use weapons in self defense. In this way, guns can and do insure peace by deterence.

26 posted on 06/27/2012 12:09:16 PM PDT by Tenacious 1 (The Click-&-Paste Media exists & works in Utopia, riding unicorns & sniffing pixy dust.)
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To: Darksheare
Darksheare ~ But Nully, you’re not a homicidal psychopath that daily preaches from the rooftops about martyring your friends and neighbors in the hopes of forcing some bigger psychopath to appear and destroy the world.

That's what you know think...

SampleMan ~ The equation does not change whether the weapon is a gun or an atomic bomb.

Precisely. According to Mr. Waltz, it doesn't matter if I'm nutz, if my Model Citizen neighbor has I gun, I need one to insure neighborhood stability.

27 posted on 06/27/2012 12:19:43 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1254 of our ObamaVacation from reality - Obama is not a Big Brother [he's a Big Sissy...])
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To: Tenacious 1
That depends on who you are and what your intentions are. If you are a murdurous thug with a healthy rap sheet, I doubt your having a gun will bring about any peace.

But but but but, that's the author's whole premise!

28 posted on 06/27/2012 12:23:01 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1254 of our ObamaVacation from reality - Obama is not a Big Brother [he's a Big Sissy...])
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To: nickcarraway

This writer shows signs of a rectal cranial inversion, I believe.


29 posted on 06/27/2012 12:32:34 PM PDT by Wicket (God bless and protect our troops and God bless America)
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To: Colonel Kangaroo

I think the the school of thought is called “defensive realism”. Nuclear weapons are “defensive” weapons that deter attack. And a stable balance of power is the guarantee of peace.

<><><><><

When all sides exhibit rationality, mutually assured destruction is indeed a fine guarantee of peace.

Does that sound like Iran to you? Rational, that is?


30 posted on 06/27/2012 1:09:24 PM PDT by dmz
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To: nickcarraway

I think we should give the bomb to Iran. In fact, I believe we should give them a bunch of bombs. Dropped from very high and carpet bomb them into the stone age.


31 posted on 06/27/2012 1:10:09 PM PDT by History Repeats (If Obama had a son, he'd have his picture hanging on the wall of the Post office wanted board.)
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To: DuncanWaring

Yes, after the Iranians kill half the population of Israel with nukes, and Israeli counter-attacks kill half the population of Iran, the survivors will join hands and sing “Kumbaya.”


32 posted on 06/27/2012 1:17:56 PM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: Verginius Rufus

But will they be singing in Yiddish or Farsi?


33 posted on 06/27/2012 1:21:51 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: nickcarraway

So with this logic, all criminals should be given guns to balance the power with police.


34 posted on 06/27/2012 1:37:31 PM PDT by American in Israel (A wise man's heart directs him to the right, but the foolish mans heart directs him toward the left.)
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To: nickcarraway

35 posted on 06/27/2012 1:42:39 PM PDT by PT57A
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To: American in Israel
So with this logic, all criminals should be given guns to balance the power with police.

Bravo!

36 posted on 06/27/2012 1:50:01 PM PDT by Wyatt's Torch (I can explain it to you. I can't understand it for you.)
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To: null and void

Reminds me, I need a trebuchet.


37 posted on 06/27/2012 2:33:59 PM PDT by Darksheare (You will never defeat Bok Choy!)
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To: Darksheare; Lakeshark

I think sharky has a spare.


38 posted on 06/27/2012 2:43:38 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1254 of our ObamaVacation from reality - Obama is not a Big Brother [he's a Big Sissy...])
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To: Darksheare; Servant of the 9

Or was that Swervie?


39 posted on 06/27/2012 2:45:32 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1254 of our ObamaVacation from reality - Obama is not a Big Brother [he's a Big Sissy...])
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To: Darksheare
Need a trebuchet? Get your trebuchets right here!
40 posted on 06/27/2012 2:45:43 PM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: nickcarraway
A "neorealist" such as Waltz should know better than this:

Of course, it is easy to understand why Israel wants to remain the sole nuclear power in the region and why it is willing to use force to secure that status. In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq to prevent a challenge to its nuclear monopoly. It did the same to Syria in 2007 and is now considering similar action against Iran.

If it is easy to understand, it should be equally easy to state: Israel's desire for nuclear weapons may be described by two dates, and they are not 1981 and 2007, but 1967 and 1973. Israel needs an equalizer because she has faced more than existential threats but actual wars; Iran does not and has not.

Anyone using the phrase "would be" in international analysis is by definition speculating. Stating that a nation's arms "would be" safe because other nations' arms have been in the past led an awful lot of sober commentators to insist that Hitler was bluffing. The cost of that mistake is also "easy to understand".

41 posted on 06/27/2012 2:47:37 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: null and void; Lakeshark; Servant of the 9

I think Swervie had the trebuchet.


42 posted on 06/27/2012 3:01:07 PM PDT by Darksheare (You will never defeat Bok Choy!)
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To: Army Air Corps

Can easily get one’s self lost at that site.


43 posted on 06/27/2012 3:08:20 PM PDT by Darksheare (You will never defeat Bok Choy!)
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To: AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Berosus; bigheadfred; Bockscar; ColdOne; Convert from ECUSA; ...

Thanks nickcarraway.


44 posted on 06/27/2012 3:09:09 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: dennisw; Cachelot; Nix 2; veronica; Catspaw; knighthawk; Alouette; Optimist; weikel; Lent; GregB; ..
Middle East and terrorism, occasional political and Jewish issues Ping List. High Volume

If you’d like to be on or off, please FR mail me.

..................

45 posted on 06/27/2012 3:25:22 PM PDT by SJackson (blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad at you, take him on a car ride; he sticks his head out the window)
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To: SJackson
Why Iran Should Get the Bombed
46 posted on 06/27/2012 3:32:25 PM PDT by MestaMachine (obama kills)
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To: nickcarraway

Well, we can drop a few off over there right away... :)


47 posted on 06/27/2012 3:35:11 PM PDT by GenXteacher (You have chosen dishonor to avoid war; you shall have war also.)
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To: Scott from the Left Coast

Negative 200 IQ.

“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 balancer to emerge.”

Maybe because Israel has never tested a nuclear bomb? Gosh. That’s why the ME is so f@#$ed up./s


48 posted on 06/27/2012 3:50:41 PM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: chrisser
Been a long time since I've seen something so breathtakingly stupid in print.

Well, this was published in "Foreign Affairs" magazine, so it shouldn't really be a big surprise.

Mark

49 posted on 06/27/2012 4:08:30 PM PDT by MarkL (Do I really look like a guy with a plan?)
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To: Darksheare

Tell me about it, amigo!


50 posted on 06/27/2012 5:41:17 PM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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