Iran’s nuclear program is by far the greatest immediate threat to the world today. However, some people don’t seem to understand the magnitude of the threat and need a reminder of what the world is facing. It is an existential threat to Israel that cannot be ignored, a lesser but still massive threat to the United States, and a threat to the world economy due to the possibility of the Mideast simply disappearing one day.
The threat to Israel is obviously the greatest. A single nuclear bomb would wipe out most of the tiny country. The Israelis are also only a couple minute flight time from Iran. This would cause an extremely compressed timeframe for Israel to determine whether the missile is aimed at them, armed with a nuclear warhead, and necessitates a retaliatory nuclear strike. While the Israelis do have missile defense systems in place, they would leave precious little time to make a decision if they miss and would likely not impact the decision only the numbers killed. Israel would be placed one twitch on a hair trigger away from bringing down the entire Middle East. Given this it is obvious why Israel does not want Iran to have nukes. (Note: arguing Israel should give up her nukes is a non-starter, namely because they aren’t going to since they need those nukes to protect themselves from their enormous Arab neighbors).
The threat to us is more limited simply do to our size and distance from Iran. I would also expect Iran to go after Israel at the first opportunity before being ready to hit us. Even if Iran could not hit us and didn’t attack Israel they would still pose a major problem for us. Iran would become much more open about supporting terrorists and assisting them in attacks against us. It took 3,000 killed to get a Republican President to invade Afghanistan so a nuclear armed Iran would be largely safe from reprisals for such activity. We would be quickly forced out of Iraq and Afghanistan and most likely the rest of the Mideast and Central Asia. The way will have been shown for every other petty dictator to challenge the United States. Start a nuclear program (with Iranian help undoubtedly) and we will grovel until you have a bomb and pay tribute after you do. Our freedom of action in the world would be over along with what peace and stability we’ve been able to maintain.
The world economy as we know it would be unable to handle the risks a nuclear armed Iran involves. The world needs access to a stable source of oil. Part of the problem with the recent run up in oil prices is the need to factor in the risks of Iran’s 3 million barrels per day being taken off the market for up to a year along with several million Gulf barrels being taken off for a few months. Now every time there is a terrorists attack, oil prices jump $10 or so. What would happen if every time there is a terrorist attack, oil prices would have to factor in the risk of the entire Mideast’s oil production being permanently lost? Even worse, what would happen to oil prices after the entire Mideast’s oil production was permanently lost? There would also be disruptions to world trade as the U.S. Navy would not be able to protect the Straits of Malacca from a nuclear Burma, or the Red Sea from a nuclear Egypt, or the Panama Canal from a nuclear Venezuela, etc. Simply put, it would be extremely difficult for the world economy to function in such an environment.
There are people who believe that Iran only wants nukes to act as a deterrent to Israel and is therefore no real threat. The Israelis are not buying that line and for good reason. They have a much keener sense of history than most. They remember when the Nazis said they were going to kill all the Jews. Sure enough the Nazis tried to kill them all. Then they arrived in the Promised Land to the Arabs promising to drive them back into the sea. Shockingly, the Arabs tried to drive them into the sea. Now the Persians are threatening to wipe them off the map, and saying the loss of Iran is worth the loss of Israel. Due to history, the Israelis are not surprisingly trying to keep that capability out of Ahmadinejad’s hands. We cannot allow the quote about Hitler’s rise to be rewritten as “first they nuked the Jews and I didn’t stand up because I wasn’t a Jew…” We can’t keep making little Israel do our dirty work for us.
Some argue that since we let Israel have nukes we must let Iran have nukes; otherwise we would be the worst kind of person according to a liberal, a hypocrite. There is also the argument that we caused Iran to go nuclear by invading Iraq so this is our punishment for Bush’s sins. Both of these are completely unconstructive arguments. Iran having nukes is not a game, it’s not funny, it’s not something to cheer on as the Bushitler gets his comeuppance, and it’s not something to manipulate for partisan advantage. Millions of people’s lives are at stake, they are worth more than an extra person with a D next to their name in the Senate. While oil prices would go higher with an attack on Iran, if we let them develop their nuclear program we will face even greater price spikes on a regular and possibly permanent basis in the future. The only way to ensure none of these nightmarish futures come to pass is to do everything possible to keep Iran from having nuclear weapons. There is no other way, whatever the price Tehrano delenda est.
(Yes I was lazy this weekend and didn't get links to anyone making the idiotic arguments I referenced. However, if you would like to see someone make them just go into any Yahoo political chat room at any time.)
Thanks to AddeRabbi for the link and nice comments.