Today's Bomb-Iran Reading List

1) The weakest case anyone has made in public for going to war, from a celebrity professor. Reflect upon this being published in a leading magazine.

2) Historical analysis worth reflecting on (including the comments), from a less publicly-known professor who makes a more serious contribution. This essay, by James Fearon of Stanford, argues that today's existing nuclear powers have, overall, been less militarily aggressive after acquiring nuclear weapons than they were beforehand. One of his sample charts:

Fearon is obviously not contending that such correlations prove cause-and-effect, and he is not complacent about the possible consequences of Iran's getting the bomb. But he addresses one crucial part of the argument for pre-emptive strikes on Iran: that, if its regime had control of nuclear weapons, it might behave in an "irrational," necessarily suicidal, non-"deterrable" way, unlike the other nine countries that have had nuclear weapons. That is: Iran will be "different," or more precisely that Israel and the United States cannot tolerate the risk that it might be different. A sample of his case:
The fact that the other members of the nuclear club generally didn't get much more aggressive in their foreign policy behavior after they tested [nuclear weapons] doesn't mean that Iran won't.  But I think it's astonishing how weak a case for this we are hearing from the preventive war advocates...

To be clear, I'd strongly prefer that the Iranian regime not get the bomb, mainly because of the risks of further proliferation in the region and attendant risks of preventive war and loss of control of weapons.  But attacking Iran seems likely to guarantee pursuit till acquisition, to more effectively license future attacks on Israel, and to greatly increase popular support for the current Iranian regime and a course of nuclear self-defense.
Very much worth reading, and comparing closely with dashed-off cases for war like the other article. Especially in light of the recent statement from the U.S. intelligence community that they are not sure that Iran is even trying to build a bomb.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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