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We're Having the Wrong Conversation About Iran

Author: Madison Schramm
February 7, 2012
TheAtlantic.com

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In a string of recent articles, we've been given many a reason to strike Iran. Considering there is no indisputable evidence Iran is building a nuclear weapon, it seems the logic for not attacking is, at the moment, stronger. But the use of force against Iran, or any country for that matter, at some point can become worthwhile; if the ends justify the means. For all our discussion over the past few weeks over the means -- a strike on Iran -- what is missing in the discussion is the end.

Our ultimate goal is ensuring that Iran does not weaponize. If a military strike won't accomplish that, it should not happen. We have a better option: diplomacy. It is more likely to succeed because it could offer a permanent solution and because it could address the causes of Iran's nuclear program rather than just the threat itself. But, if diplomacy is to work, there is one major hurdle: the American electorate.

The U.S. could succeed in significantly damaging or destroying known Iranian nuclear sites with an airstrike. Estimates are that this would set the Iranian program back two to three years. However, the turmoil that would likely erupt in the region as the result of such a strike poses the question, is three years worth it?

A strike could reinforce the hardliners' push to weaponize--a path to which the Tehran has not yet committed. In 2009, the Bookings Institute simulated potential Iranian responses to an air strike. Some of Iran's responses include attacking military outposts in Afghanistan, attacking supplies transported from Kuwait through southern Iraq, and launching missiles at oil installations in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province.

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