Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A nuclear Iran, answering Kenneth Waltz

In an opinion piece published in USA Today, under a title that can be mistaken for satire, Professor Kenneth Waltz of Colombia University suggests we shouldn’t worry about a nuclear Iran. His main argument, “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 enhancing its own security, not to improve its offensive capabilities.

Professor Kenneth Waltz of Colombia University 

As to what those security concerns might be he does not speechifies, however, unlike Israel Iran has a huge strategic depth. Its geography, its huge population, and its level of economic development, all adds up to a formidable deterrence; without any need for nuclear weapons. In short, Iran is a country that doesn’t have to worry about its own security, as long as it does not infringe on the security of others. Once it does that, it gives other countries a good reason to make a special effort in order to infringe on Iran’s security. Unfortunately for Professor Kenneth Waltz’s argument that is precisely the kind of Iran we have today. In Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and elsewhere. If Professor Kenneth Waltz wishes to reassure the world about a nuclear Iran he should first reassure the world about a non-nuclear Iran.

At another part of his article he argues that Israel’s nuclear capabilities are responsible for the instability in the Middle East. How does Israel’s, supposed, nuclear capabilities relate to the huge social gaps within the Arab world? How does it affect the total GDP of 22 Arab nations? Without oil this GDP is lower than that of Switzerland. How is that Israel’s fault? And what about illiteracy, high unemployment, the Sunna and Shia split, gross gender inequality, and other recognized internal causes of instability. Are they all because Israel has nuclear weapons? Under this type of reasoning, the moon landing is to blame for all the major airplane crashes that followed.
According to USA Today, Kenneth Waltz’s article is a condensed version of a paper that will be published in the July - August issue of Foreign Affairs, so maybe the answers will be there.

Geography alone debunks Waltz’s argument.

 See also Ira Stoll at Commentary Magazine.