Earlier today I cited yet another study discussing the real-world folly of contemplating preemptive aerial attacks on Iran's nuclear-development sites, whether those attacks were carried out by the Israelis or the United States.

Quickly I heard from a long-time friend who was raised in Europe, has lived around the world, and is deeply familiar with and fond of American habits and life. He said he had grown exasperated with discussions of practicality and impracticality and thought there should be more emphasis on whether such an attack could be "right." After the jump, most of his argument, followed by my view on the "right and wrong" point. He begins:

I wonder: why does everybody continue missing the point about Iran, particularly in the US?

The fact that Iranians, as a whole, love Americans is beyond dispute: I verified it directly and through many conversations with foreign observers during my two immensely pleasant visits there (I suggest you should go too, actually, when you get a chance). [I have been there once, long ago.] This is partly because Americans are not Arabs (who brought an unwelcome creed there), nor Brits (seen as scheming and unreliable rats)...
Hardly anybody ever heard of Mossadeq, and of course there is great glee about the Americans deposing Saddam (the fact that they are the same Americans who pushed Saddam into war against Iran is obviously a more distant and less gleaming fact). So, this is a plus, but should not give reason to excessive optimism; no flowers on the streets yet. The fact is that (hear, hear), Iranians are a proud people (just like Iraqis, Chinese, Burmese, Spaniards, etc)...

The press in the west has convinced itself and everybody else that the Iranians are busily setting up an infernal nuclear war arsenal (they are bad guys after all - why else would they be building up nuclear technology) to destroy Israel (this is the most ridiculous part, to think that an astute demagogue like Ahmadinejad could go beyond the occasional Israel bashing and Shoah denying that pleases some of his hard core followers on weekends is just beyond belief). The reality is that admiring Americans goes hand in hand with wishing to be like them - for example, by mastering complex technology projects.

In addition, you have an elementary equilibrium issue here. On what grounds is Israel allowed to have a massive nuclear arsenal, like India and Pakistan, and not Iran? Because Iran is an Islamic country? But that cannot fly. Because they are evil? (Back to the pride issue). Because they are belligerent? Iran, unlike the US and just about every other country in the world, has NEVER attacked a foreign country. Because its current prime minister says Israel should disappear? Do me a favour. Would the West have assumed a different position if, say, nuclear technology had been pursued and developed by the business-minded cleric it would have preferred being elected in 2005?

And about attack plans: enough. I am fed up with them. There are no "good" or "bad", "sensible" or "unrealistic" attack plans. Attack plans are plans that end up in testing new weaponry on thousands of innocent civilians. Enough. Please.

My view: in addition to being foolish and self-defeating, a preemptive attack on Iran would be wrong, except in the specific narrow circumstances that have always been held to justify similar action against a similar potential nuclear threat from any other source: clear evidence that deterrence had failed and that an attack by the other side was imminent. True self-protective preemption, that is; not this open-ended "preventive" war of recent years.

I'm not going to publish every incoming view but wanted to air this one in its own right and as a way to make my own view more explicit, for the record.

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