Realism Vs. International Institutions
“While the end of the Cold War transformed the political landscape of Europe, it did little to ameliorate India’s security concerns. The rise of China and continued strains with Pakistan made the 1980s and 1990s a greatly troubling period for India. At the global level, the nuclear weapons states showed no signs of moving decisively toward a world free of atomic danger,” Jaswant Singh writes in an article published in Foreign Affairs Magazine (Singh., 1998, p.1). Singh continues to explain that, “Instead, the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) was extended indefinitely and unconditionally in 1995, perpetuating the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of five countries busily modernizing their nuclear arsenals” (Singh., 1998, p.1).
The experience and turmoil that India went through with a blustering China helped them make the hard decision in the late 1960s and 1970s to become a nation that possesses nuclear weapons. This article will delve into an argument that Iran should possess a nuclear weapon and finally will explain why being a nuclear pessimist in the face of what we have learned is the only correct position to take.
Kenneth Waltz explains in an article titled Why Iran Should Get the Bomb “In 1991, the historical rivals India and Pakistan signed a treaty agreeing not to target each other’s nuclear facilities. They realized that far more worrisome than their adversary’s nuclear deterrent was the instability produced by challenges to it. Since then, even in the face of high tensions and risky provocations, the two countries have kept the peace” Waltz continues, “Israel and Iran would do well to consider this precedent. If Iran goes nuclear, Israel and Iran will deter each other, as nuclear powers always have” (Waltz., 2012, p. 5). Waltz, a nuclear optimist, makes incorrect assumptions when he states, “Once Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, deterrence will apply, even if the Iranian arsenal is relatively small. No other country in the region will have an incentive to acquire its own nuclear capability, and the current crisis will finally dissipate, leading to a Middle East that is more stable than itis today (Waltz., 2012, p. 5).
Waltz is wrong. Dead wrong. Stating that no other country in the region will have an incentive to acquire its own nuclear capability is completely asinine. Let’s look at the history of Iraq and Iran. Tensions between Iraq and Iran have improved, if only slightly, in recent decades; however, it’s easy to assume that Iraq would not be comfortable with Iran having a nuclear weapon and they would begin to put together a plan to acquire the technology needed to build a nuclear arsenal for themselves. This arsenal would help deter any advances that Iran may possibly make in the same way that India developed the nuclear bomb so they would have leverage against a Chinese invasion. Now to extrapolate this argument, if Iraq develops nuclear technology what would Kuwait do next? A nuclearized Iran may bring short term peace to the area but it most definitely will not bring a decrease of nuclear arms to the region.
Short term peace may be brought by nuclear weapons but a destructive ending is all but guaranteed to happen. Joseph Nye states in his book Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation as he writes about nuclear deterrence that, “Nuclear deterrence encourages the reasoning ‘if you attack me, I may not be able to prevent your attack, but I can retaliate so powerfully that you will not want to attack me in the first place” (Nye 2013, p. 177). One of the problems with nuclear deterrence is understanding that there is a possibility that the person, country or organization that attacks do not care if it is attacked back? What if death is something that is hoped for? We saw that during the 9/11 attack suicide bombers were recruited because they believed they were ready to sacrifice their life due to religious ideology. If a leader of a nuclear state grows up with this religious ideology than the world must conform to the views of the leader or risk annihilation. What if a terrorist group like Isis overruns an area and captures nuclear weapons that are stored there? What if a state leader with complete control over his country, like Kim Jong Un, has a mental break?
The problem with being a nuclear optimist is that you must assume that are dealing with rational actors. Unfortunately, we know that the world is full of actors that are not rational. It is imperative to view the world as a nuclear pessimist and to begin to immediately reduce and ultimately remove all nuclear weapons from Earth. This is the only strategy for long term survival and a reason to be optimistic about being a pessimist.