The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Iran in a nutshell

January 18, 2006

Many critics of the Bush administration — including those on the left — have often over the past three years complained that the U.S. was focusing on the wrong state in the war on terrorism. Iran sponsors terrorists (especially Hamas) and pursues WMD. The evidence is arguably much, much clearer than it was with Iraq.

Setting aside the question of sanctions for a moment, which are quite problematic given the west’s great need for imported oil, just what would critics have the US and its coalition partners do about the problem of Iran?

Personally, I’m trying to figure out why a nuclear-armed Iran, which is apparently a decade away, hurts American security more than a nuclear-armed Pakistan?

Immediately after 9/11, the US ended proliferation-related sanctions against Pakistan — and India, for that matter.

Moreover, isn’t it sort of hypocritical for the US to develop new nuclear bunker-busting bombs in the name of counter-proliferation? Why doesn’t the US jump up and down about Israel’s bombs? How can Israel go around threatening an immediate attack on Iran, with apparent American approval…to prevent being the victim of some future Iranian attack?

I know the self-interested answers to those questions, but I’m not sure how they’ll play at the IAEA and UN when other states start asking them.

And what about deterrence? Why will the US and its western allies worry more about a small Iranian force than it did about the enormous Soviet force? Is deterrence really that fragile?

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.