Answer Iran threat with more diplomacy
Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Updated: Sunday, March 11, 2012 15:03
On March 4, President Barack Obama appeared before the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee to denounce the "loose talk of war" with Iran that has been building in recent weeks and advocate a diplomatic approach.
Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is best handled diplomatically, not militarily. There are practical and ethical reasons not to go to war with Iran. The most obvious reason is the cost of opening another front in a decade-long war in the Middle East, as well as starting a firestorm in the region. There are also ethical questions about our right to wage preventative war.
Peace is cheaper than war. Most people don't realize how expensive war is. All war-related expenses in Iraq totaled $802 billion as of January 2011, according to the Daily Caller. The total in Afghanistan was $455 billion. War with Iran would be similarly expensive, and with the economy recovering from recession, such an expenditure would be unwise.
An attack would have an effect on the region. Iran would likely respond through proxies and allies like Hezbollah and Hamas. Combined, these two groups have more than 10,000 rocket launchers in range of Israel, according to the BBC. And given anti-Israeli and anti-Western sentiment in the region, Iran may be able to recruit additional allies. Karim Sadjapour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, "Iran will want to respond enough to inflame the regional security environment and negatively impact the global economy." Such response could mean a long, costly war.
There are also ethical considerations.
The most dramatic cost of war is human lives. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost 114,631 and 15,414 lives, respectively, according to Iraqbodycount.org. War with Iran could cost a comparable amount of lives.
Then there is international law to consider. Under the United Nations charter, force may be used against the threat of violence, with permission from the U.N. Security Council. Whether the Security Council would grant permission for a preventative strike would likely depend on the Caroline test, which stipulates the threats are "instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation," according to a report on ASIL.org.
The threat of a nuclear attack from Iran does not satisfy the Caroline test because Iran is not capable of producing a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, Iran could not produce one until 2015, retired Israeli intelligence chief Meir Dagan said, according to the BBC. The time required for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon means the threat is not instant and it certainly gives "moment for deliberation" and "choice of means."
There is doubt that Iran would attack Israel if it had nuclear weapons. Dagan told CBS News that the "regime in Iran is a very rational one," and "they are considering all the implications of their actions." Iran knows it would face massive reprisals if it used nuclear weapons against Israel. Under Article 51 of the U.N. charter, Israel would have the right to wage full-scale war against Iran. And if a nuclear weapon were used, then the U.S. and Israel would likely retaliate with their nuclear weapons, which total almost 11,000 warheads.
Iran knows these consequences and would not want to incur them. Iran would most likely use a nuclear weapon as a deterrent, not for aggression. This means the threat of attack from a nuclear Iran is not overwhelming.
A diplomatic solution with Iran has several advantages over war. Diplomacy is cheaper than war. A diplomatic solution could also help repair our relationship with the Middle East, while military action would inflame the region. Moreover, diplomacy has the advantage of being legal.