Don’t Get M.A.D. at Iran

Sam Roggeveen at The Interpeter (another new addition to the blogroll) makes some good points about Iran’s nuclear weaponization program. (Although the only time there was a “D” in Grunstein was back when I was playing pickup ball in NY. No harm, no foul, Sam.) As Sam rightly notes, as important as Iran’s intentions (which we can neither prove nor disprove, and which are subject to change) is the fact that any possible weapons capacity is significantly delayed by freezing the weaponization component of their program. That’s what’s known as a window of opportunity, no matter how slight the opening, and we would be very foolish if we didn’t explore every possibility it offers with the utmost seriousness of purpose.

I mentioned the reasons why, even if Iran is deterrable (and I believe it is), an Iranian bomb would be a disaster. But I’ve always been surprised by how flippant so many people are to the idea of nuclear deterrance as an acceptable outcome of this crisis. My generation is the last to have grown up through young adulthood under the weight of M.A.D., and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Indeed, one of the most exciting promises that grew out of the fall of the Soviet Union was the idea that it would finally be relegated to the dustbin of history. Noah Shachtman at Danger Room reminds us of why.

Instead, M.A.D. has found a new home in South Asia, with all the alarming scenarios that represents. The Middle East makes for an even more worrisome threat environment. In the absence of the necessary trust, President Bush’s declarations that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable sound like bellicose threats. That doesn’t make them less true. Hopefully the next American president can establish the kind of dialogue necessary to convince the Iranians of that as well.

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