3 years ago
Here are the key, closing paragraphs of an opinion piece by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in The Washington Post on March 5, 2012:
As for Iran in particular, I will take every measure necessary to check the evil regime of the ayatollahs. Until Iran ceases its nuclear-bomb program, I will press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must. I will speak out on behalf of the cause of democracy in Iran and support Iranian dissidents who are fighting for their freedom. I will make clear that America’s commitment to Israel’s security and survival is absolute. I will demonstrate our commitment to the world by making Jerusalem the destination of my first foreign trip.
Most important, I will buttress my diplomacy with a military option that will persuade the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. Only when they understand that at the end of that road lies not nuclear weapons but ruin will there be a real chance for a peaceful resolution.
I am not seeking to pick on Mitt Romney. Rather, his approach to the obvious Iranian drive for nuclear weapons is emblematic of a far wider phenomenon. As James Carville so succinctly pointed out, the 1992 presidential campaign primarily turned upon the economy and not national security (“the economy, stupid”). It must be pointed out (repeatedly) in this context that the primary issue is not the development of nuclear weapons per se but the nature of those who would control such weapons. In short, It’s the Regime, Stupid.
It is a fool’s errand to simply “check the evil regime” or “persuade the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.” This is akin to persuading water to flow uphill. The Iranian Regime seeks nuclear weapons because they rightly surmise that possession of such weapons provides them with the same kind of invulnerability that has allowed a succession of dictators in North Korea from being threatened by the West. No amount of sanctions or finger-wagging or diplomacy will convince them otherwise.
We must face the fact that the nuclear genie is already out of the bottle when it comes to Iran. They have the scientists and industrial resources right now to re-build or re-constitute their nuclear program even if the U.S. and/or Israel successfully destroyed the present facilities. According to the German newspaper, Die Welt, the Iranians have already successfully tested a uranium nuclear device under cover in North Korea.
This is not to say that the United States should throw up its hands and accept the inevitable. By all means, preventing the Regime from advancing further and producing multiple devices in the near future is an imperative. But it is simply not enough. As Jamie Fly and Gary Schmitt argue in Foreign Affairs :
The Obama administration has avoided the choice between a military operation and a nuclear Iran — relying on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Iran has not made the final decision to develop a weapon. But if history is any guide, its faith in receiving any intelligence to the contrary in a timely and unambiguous way is misplaced. Kroenig is correct then to argue that a military strike should be in the cards. But he is wrong to suggest that a limited strike is the only one that should be on the table. If strikes are chosen, it would be far better to put the regime at risk than to leave it wounded but still nuclear capable and ready to fight another day.
But even beyond this view, the real hope— the only hope, really– is that the Iranian people will reject the militant Islamist policies of the Regime and return the country to its pro-Western, democratic norm. If an open, pro-Western government is installed in Tehran, the fears and difficulties associated with nuclear weapons dissipate. In the end, it is already too late to keep Iran from possessing nuclear weapons if they truly want them. We can only ensure that those possessing such weapons are at least as unlikely as India to use them for nefarious ends. The 21st Century, in fact, will largely be about not only preventing the spread of nuclear weapons but, perhaps more than anything, about ensuring that dangerous regimes who seek them are toppled quickly and remorselessly.