From Britain, Pragmatically Distributed receives this question from prolier than thou:
So how does wanting to rip up the Iran nuclear deal fit in with this Hamiltonian ethic? By all accounts it’s been successful, and opening up to trade with America is surely in America’s interests. What are the critical American interests which require these kind of entanglements with Iran?
In the first place, the deal itself is dubious simply because it was signed by a terrorist supporting Iranian government with an outgoing “American” President whose policy has been to overthrow Western-allied Muslim dictators in Libya and Egypt, and intentionally replace those regimes with ones led by Islamic terrorists. At a minimum the deal should be subjected to a very skeptical review by a Trump administration; and that administration should be free to alter or scrap this deal as it sees fit.
Aside from the questionable nature of the agreement itself and the equally questionable nature of the parties who agreed to it, there is the general issue of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Trump’s broader opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weaponry remains true to the best traditions of Hamiltonian foreign policy realism because his goal maintains the regional status quo, which is currently:
- The reality of a nuclear Iran does not have to be factored into the present actions of regional powers because Iran is not nuclear at present.
- Ensuring Iran does not become nuclear – regardless whether the means to accomplish this involves harsh sanctions or an Israeli and/or American air attack against that program – leaves the region in its present strategic condition.
In the case of Iran it is, interestingly, the arguments of non-interventionists which are radical because an Iranian nuclear arsenal would alter in undesirable ways these current considerations for Iran, its neighbors, and the United States.
Even assuming the probability Iran would use a nuclear weapon in a first strike is zero (used either directly or by covertly handing them to a terrorist proxy) a nuclear weapon gives Iran immunity from the consequences of future non-nuclear aggression. Western experience with Pakistan has demonstrated that a Muslim bomb allows an unstable, hostile government to safe harbor terrorists such as Bin Laden and attack its neighbor, India, with Kashmir separatists without having to fear conventional retaliation.
Nuclear weapons would give Iran considerable freedom to push the envelope of what terrorist and military activity it can engage in similar to that which Pakistan now enjoys. It is not difficult to see realistic scenarios where Iran would use them as shields for their hostile behavior: They may attack oil tankers in the Persian Gulf with conventional missiles in order to raise oil prices, or force the West to give into diplomatic blackmail (more airlifted Swiss Francs?) knowing that the West would be hesitant to counter-attack. Even the risk of moderate financial sanctions in response to greater Iranian aggression would be curtailed.
Of course, the probability a mad Iranian government would launch an unprovoked first strike is not zero. If it is still only one in billions, it is still higher than it is today when Iran has no nuclear capacity – therefore, keeping a weapon out of that nation’s hands in the future is still worthwhile from a strict cost-benefit analysis; ignoring their program is reckless.
Then there are the strategic responses Iran’s neighbors would make if Iran becomes nuclear: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey would likely begin developing their own programs to deter Iran. Israel would accelerate development of their missile defense systems which in turn would met by an arms race of Muslim nuclear powers to develop more advanced missiles to defeat Israel’s shield.
These region-wide responses would be still more dangerous considering all of these regimes may be potentially brought down at a later date by very radical native movements who would then inherit control of the previous regime’s arsenal.
Non-interventionists have compared an airstrike against Iran’s nuclear facilities to the Second Iraq War.
In truth, the non-interventionist case against an Israeli and/or American airstrike against Iran is similar to their destabilizing arguments made before the First Iraq War. In 1990-1991 non-interventionists would have permitted Iraq to shift regional power to itself with its occupation of oil-rich Kuwait and threaten pro-American regimes in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, and Jordan. The correct action of interventionists in the First Persian Gulf War was to restore the region to the old status quo through a limited military action that did not overthrow the enemy regime or require us to rebuild the enemy afterwards. An airstrike would likewise be a move in favor of the current order, not require post-war nation building, nor overthrow the existing enemy regime.
In the case of modern day Iran, it is advocates of preserving the option of an air assault who are the real champions of stability and the opponents of an attack who are promoting anarchy just as was the case during the buildup to Operation Desert Storm.