A reader writes:
I just read your post on 'Preparing for the worst' and I agree any attack on Iran will lead to many sleepless nights. My question for you is, do you not think a nuclear Iran could be worse?
Aside from the fact that a nuclear Iran can hold the entire Middle East (and their oil) and potentially even Europe hostage to the threat of a nuclear attack. They can also go on the offense and do all of the things Eli Lake highlighted, knowing full well that any potential retaliation would lead to a nuclear attack (on Israel, on Saudi Arabia, Dubai, UAE, Turkey, etc)?
I am convinced that any preemptive strike on Iran will be ugly. I am also convinced that letting them have the bomb will be even uglier.
This is the dreadful choice, of course. But I am not convinced that a nuclear Iran means a non-deterrable nuclear Iran. Deterrence worked with Mao and the Soviets and with Kim Jong-Il. Why not the mullahs in Tehran? Of course, if you believe that Tehran is a suicidally fundamentalist regime, then the case for action is strong. But I'm unconvinced. And a policy of containment, of isolation, of fostering democracy within Iran as best we can, may well be the better option.
One thing worth remembering: allowing Persia a role as a great power in the Middle East is, to my mind, an obvious long-term goal. In the long run, they are more likely to be allies than the corrupt Arab regimes that we currently enable and protect. In the long run they are also more likely candidates for democratization and Westernization. And giving Podhoretz and Ahmadinejad the conflict they crave may be the worst and the easiest temptation of all.