Last night's Republican debates brought a heated exchange between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Paul was asked if his policy on Iran is unchanged from 2009, when he said, “Sanctions are not diplomacy. They are a precursor to war and an embarrassment to a country that pays lip service to free trade. […] One can understand why they (Iran) might want to become nuclear capable if only to defend themselves and to be treated more respectfully.” Dr. Paul, of course, stood by his position that the United States has no business meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, and not fight wars that are not directly related to our national security. Senator Santorum accused Dr. Paul of “seeing the world the same way Obama does.” and went on to discuss his mis-named “Iran Freedom Act,” which starves the impoverished masses of Iran in the name of making Iran want to be a free, democratic country like the United States supposedly is. Ironically, Mr. Obama's foreign polciy has more in common with Santorum and the rest of the Neo-Conservitaves that were at the debate than he does with Dr. Paul's. A Neo-Con Obama is the topic of another post, so, I'll get back to the purpose of this post, which is:
A nuclear Iran is not a real threat to our national security (or anybody else's for that matter), for reasons I will explain below. But first:
Why would Iran even want nukes?
To answer this question, we are going to try to see things from the point of view from the Iranian leadership. Yes, I know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a bad guy, but it is naive and dangerous to sit around and think that “they hate us for our freedoms,” when they have real reasons to not like how they are treated by the Western world. It is not difficult for Iran, or any other isolated government to see how they are treated compared with the rest of the world. Nuclear powers, such as Pakistan, Israel, India, and China never have sanctions imposed against them, and are welcome trading partners, even if our relationship with them is not entirely peaceful. Iran, on the other hand, sees that it has two options:
Option 1: Give into the international community, and give up their nuclear programs. This option is unattractive because it would effectively make Iran submissive to the whims of the international community. If they give in over nukes, then it is understood that they will give in to any mandate passed down from a body of countries that shows no respect toward them.
Option 2: Plow through the sanctions and disapproval of the international community, develop nuclear weapons, and then command the respect of the international community. This is the best of the two options for any country in Iran's circumstances that wishes to be respected.
If the international community, however, would back off of Iran and stay out their internal affairs, Iran might develop a nuclear weapons program, but they might not. If Iran saw that it was respected and treated as a peer in the international community, it would no longer feel obligated to build nuclear weapons in order to command the world's respect. More importantly, talking and trading freely with countries does more to bring about democratic and Western reforms than sanctions and other punishments ever could. This brings me to:
Sanctions don't work, and interfering with Iran's internal affairs is immoral.
The four-decade long failure of sanctions is so painfully obvious that I'm surprised that they are so unilaterally supported on both so-called sides of the political aisle. Basically, they prevent Western countries and their allies from selling or doing business with set countries, depriving of them of food, water, medicine, and other goods. (The international sale of goods and services on the free market are totally voluntary, and exist within they private sector. They should not be confused with foreign aid, wherein, to borrow a phrase from Ron Paul, money is stolen from the poor people in rich countries and given to rich people in poor countries.) Sanctions punish free trade and commerce. Sometimes they are targeted on specific goods, while other times they are more broad. The idea behind sanctions is that they will deprive the people of nutrition, healthcare, and other goods and cause the people to blame their government and enact reforms. Sanctions fail time and again, because repressive regimes who are sanctioned simply use state media to explain to the citizenry that the evil Western countries are the ones starving them, so the anger that sanctions hope to direct at, for example, Machmoud and the Ayatolla, are instead directed toward the United States government.
Apart from being ineffective, they are immoral. It is a natural right to engage in trade with whomever we wish, and sanctions violate that natural right
Iran is no threat, even with nukes
As crazy as Mahmoud is, he presents no threat, even with nukes, to Israel, the United States, or anybody else. Yes it's true that he believes that Israel has no right to exist, and that he denies the holocaust. However, it is absurd to even think that Iran would engage Israel, the United States, or anybody else militarily. They have almost no military, and they understand that any attack would be met with swift military action from the rest of the world. They know that they could not possibly get away with nuking Israel, as it would be an effectual committal of suicide.