- Site Feedback
- IDEA Sites
- Digital Freedoms
- International Justice
- 2012 Presidential Debates Guide
- Asia Youth Forum
- Big Apple Cogers
- Debate Changing Europe
- Debate in the Neighborhood
- Debating and Producing Media
- Debating the Future of Youth in Africa and Europe
- Dialogue without borders
- Digital Debating Blog
- Free Speech Debate
- Global Youth Forum
- Global Debate and Public Policy Challenge
- International Public Policy Forum
- Online Mentoring
- Securing Liberty Series
- Youth and Sports Mega-Events
- League of Young Voters
This House Believes the US is Justified in Using Force to Prevent States From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons
This House Believes the US is Justified in Using Force to Prevent States From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons
The proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has been a concern from almost before the first atomic bomb was developed, when a number of scientists on the Manhattan Project suggested that the weapons be placed under the control of the United Nations. Since that time there has been a constant fear that unstable nations will acquire access to them.
The identity of these states changes by the decade. During the late 1950s and early 1960s there were fears in both the United States and the Soviet Union over the prospect of Maoist China developing Nuclear weapons. In the 1970s the Shah’s Nuclear Program in Iran gave cause for concern, as did programs in Taiwan and South Africa. In the 1980s Argentina and Brazil competed to develop them.
The current discussion mainly focuses on three countries. Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons, but may or may not be able to control them. North Korea which likely already has them, but also is not known for its commitment to international peace and stability. And finally Iran, which again is pursuing an aggressive program.
The Legal international framework governing the development of Nuclear weapons is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, which has been signed by most countries and bans the development of nuclear weapons, but not of nuclear power. The question of whether or not a state can withdraw from the accords has been the subject of a prolonged international debate. In theory, a nation can leave with three months’ notice, if its vital interests are at stake. Israel, Pakistan and India are currently outside of the treaty.
This motion can likely be run in a range of ways, ranging from being a general philosophical motion, to mentioning certain countries (ie. Iran) specifically, or a specific scenario (a collapse of the Pakistani state, which would be its own debate). This article will focus on the general discussion with one or two points specific to Iran noted separately.
|Points For||Points Against|
|The United States has an obligation to protect international stability due to its unique military strength.||Existing international treaties that grant nuclear weapons to the US and other countries no longer reflect the changing global balance of power.|
|The possession of nuclear weapons by some states drives others to militarize, creating arms races.||No country has an inherent right to invade or use aggression against another.|
|Nuclear weapons can fall into the wrong hands.||The principle of Mutually Assured Destruction makes war less likely.|
|The development of nuclear weapons creates a self-perpetuating cycle of proliferation among other states.||[Iran specific] Iran has not invaded any other country in three and a half centuries; the same cannot be said for US allies including Israel, Pakistan, etc.|
|[Iran specific] Iran has threatened to destroy Israel|
|[Iran specific] Others, particularly Israel, would act if the United States did not|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
The United States has an obligation to protect international stability due to its unique military strength.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is one of the lynchpins on which the current Western-led international political and diplomatic order is dependent.1,2 Just as any normal legal system requires laws that are predictable and enforceable, so too does the international system. The Non-Proliferation Treaty provides this level of consistency and control over states’ nuclear assets.
In particular, one of those key principles is the assumption that once a country enters a treaty it will abide by its terms. If a country can leave a treaty at will, it means that no policy can be made with any degree of predictability. States are not able to formulate plans for future policies and development strategies if analysts and politicians are prevented from making reliable predictions about neighbouring state’s behaviour, economic policies and territorial ambitions.
This is particularly important with treaties relating to armaments, and of vital importance when it comes to Nuclear Weapons, because other countries choose to participate in military alliances and actions based on such assumptions.
Historically, arms build-ups and wars have occurred when the Great Powers fail to uphold the international legal system – fail to regard it as binding and inherently valuable and consequential. For example Germany’s willingness to disregard Czechoslovakian sovereignty prior to World War II. For that reason the United States has a vested interest in upholding the principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This is because the US is the major beneficiary of the present international system, both economically and politically.
Economically, the major loser in any upheaval around the world is almost guaranteed to be the United States or its corporations. However, the political incentives for the USA to continue upholding the non-proliferation treaty- by force if necessary- are far greater. A failure on its part to act will not just lead to nuclear proliferation, but also undermine other treaties banning chemical weapons and guaranteeing human rights as nations’ realize they are only pieces of paper.
1. ‘The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons’, 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), 1 July 1968, http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2005/npttreaty.html
2. Kasprzyk, Nicholas, ‘Nuclear Non-proliferation and Regional Changing Strategic Balances: How Much Will Regional Proliferation Impinge Upon the Future of the NPT?’, in Krause, Joachim and Wenger, Andreas eds., Studies in Contemporary History and Security policy, 2001, http://kms2.isn.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/EINIRAS/343/ichaptersection_...
The reality is that it makes far more sense for the United States to legitimatise actions it might take to prevent a state like Iran from developing nuclear by making reference to the uses that might find for a nuclear device, rather than the fact that they are have breached the terms of highly tenuous body of law.
While it may be true that the development of nuclear weapons is banned by international treaty, and that this treaty is recognised as a valid international legal instrument, it is far from clear whether it is in the United State’s interests to embrace either this specific version of International Law, or whether it should be the enforcer even if it does. For one thing, the current international legal system bans Iran from developing Nuclear weapons, but also bans Brazil from developing them. Consistency would obligate the US to actively prevent Brazil from developing a nuclear deterrent, by using threats and sanctions similar to those that have deployed against Iran. However,– common sense would argue that this would be both futile and counter-productive, since it would not only be difficult but result in enormous costs, both militarily and in terms of the reputation of the US. The alternative- granting an exception to Brazil, comparable to those previously granted to India, Pakistan and Israel-, India in particular now wishes to not just be an exception by join the NPT as a weapons state, would undermine those very legal standards that the government argues in favour of.1
After all, Brazil is unlikely to use such weapons aggressively, and the acquisition of such weapons by a regional hegemon(like Brazil) is unlikely to change the balance of power. It should be noted that most of the rising “responsible” regional hegemon like Brazil and South Africa opposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, out of risk of enshrining a legal precedent.
Furthermore, even if the US chooses to cleave to the premise that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should be enforced as a matter of law rather than of policy, it is unclear why the US alone should take on the burden of its enforcement. As Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated, even disarming and politically reforming countries that lack a nuclear deterrent is a financially and politically ruinous process – one that cannot be achieved without the support of allies and intergovernmental organisations. Furthermore, given the reaction against the US in international opinion, it’s worth asking whether or not the cure is worse than the cold when it comes to American influence around the world.
 Fidler, David P., and Ganguly, Sumit, ‘India Wants to Join the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a Weapons State’, YaleGlobal, 27 January 2010, http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/india-wants-join-non-proliferation-tr...
 Charbonneau, Louis, ‘Q+A: How likely are new U.S. sanctions against Iran?’, Reuters, 9 November 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/09/us-iran-nuclear-sanctions-idUS...
The possession of nuclear weapons by some states drives others to militarize, creating arms races.
Countries tend to go to war not just because they are governed by warmongers and hawkish leaders; the internal structure of a state often matters little, but because they think they can either gain something from a war, or at least minimise the losses that such a gamble might produce.,
Under the status quo, if a government lacking nuclear weapons invades a neighbouring country, it may face an invasion itself in the event of defeat, or even international intervention to depose its government.
If, however, the government possesses nuclear weapons it can threaten to use them, and thereby deter a counter-invasion or prevent the International community from being able to intervene to depose it.
This can be seen in the relative coddling Pakistan has received both from its political and territorial opponent India, and from the United States since its development of Nuclear Weapons. Actions that previously would have led to sanctions or worse, such as aid to the Taliban, assistance to the Nuclear Programs of Rogue States – most famously through the A.Q. Kahn network that supplied Libya, Iran and North Korea, and complicity in terrorist attacks in India are brushed off with empty words and meaningless semi-sanctions, India itself is deterred from making any response. Indeed, US policy in recent years has been to try to buy off Pakistan rather than to coerce it.
 Morgenthau, Hans J., Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, Fifth ed., 1978, pp.4-15, http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/morg6.htm
 Kaplan, Robert D., ‘Why John J. Mearsheimer Is Right (About Some Things)’, the Atlantic, January/February 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/01/why-john-j-mearsheim...
 Miglani, Sanjeev, ‘Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, a deterrent against India, but also United States?’, Reuters, 9 April 2011, http://blogs.reuters.com/afghanistan/2011/04/09/pakistans-nuclear-weapon...
 Kerr, Paul K., and Nikitin, Mary Beth, ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues’, Congressional Research Service, 30 November 2011, pp.20-23, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/RL34248.pdf
 The Associated Press, ‘India reluctant to blame Mumbai blasts on Pakistan’, CBCnews, 15 July 2011,
 Narang, Vipin, ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Posture: Implications for South Asian Stability’, Harvard Kennedy Sc http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/07/15/mumbai-explosions-attacks-india-investigation.htmlhool Belfast Center for Science and International Affairs Policy Brief, January 2010, http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/Pakistans_Nuclear_Posture_poli...
This would be an argument in favour of preventing countries from developing any deterrent at any time, because it would make them easier to invade. It presumes, firstly, that it would be a good thing for the United States to be able to invade countries that do things it does not like at will, and secondly that it assumes that deterrence will not deter the initial invasion in the first place.
The main reason why great powers involve themselves in wars, is because many smaller countries are not able to fight off larger ones using their own resources and so the great power expects an easy victory assuming it can avoid intervention by other great powers. Jammu and Kashmir could not stand up to the Indian army in 1947 and Kuwait could not stand up to Iraq; Georgian was unable to mount armed resistance against a Russian incursion and neither was Chechnya.
Nuclear Weapons are a great equalizer, and if one consequence of Iran developing Nuclear weapons is that all of her neighbours do so as well, then war will become far less likely, and US intervention will become unnecessary. As a consequence, in the long-run, Nuclear proliferation is a self-correcting problem.Improve this
Nuclear weapons can fall into the wrong hands.
Even if states do not use nuclear weapons themselves, or attempt to threaten their neighbours, they can sell their technology to other, less savoury states and individuals.
This was a particular problem with Pakistan. The former head of the Pakistani nuclear program, AQ Khan, sold technology on detonation mechanisms and Uranium enrichment to North Korea and Iran. Iran is also likely to be willing to pass on its own nuclear information to other states, particularly Assad’s Syria.
Such weapons could also find their way into the hands of terrorists. Iran has close links to Hezbollah and Hamas which it funds substantially, and a strong desire to hurt Israel. North Korea has close links to a number of nasty groups ranging from drug cartels to Islamist terrorists.
 Kerr, Paul K., and Nikitin, Mary Beth, ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues’, Congressional Research Service, 30 November 2011, pp.20-23, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/RL34248.pdf
 Gekbart, Jonathan, ‘The Iran-Syria Axis: A Critical Investigation’, Stanford Journal of International Relations, Vol. XII, No. 1, Fall 2010, http://www.stanford.edu/group/sjir/12-1/fall10-final_5.pdf
Preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists is a serious concern, but terrorists tend to be stronger in weak states than strong ones. That is one reason why Pakistan has figured so prominently in weapons sales in the past.
Invading a country like Iran would be more likely to destabilize things than stabilize them. This argument is underlined by analysis of the second Iraq war. Al Qaeda and Shi’a insurgent groups became a far stronger presence in Iraq following the coalition invasion than before the arrival of American and British troops. As a consequence, it is unclear if invading these countries is a better way of preventing transfers of nuclear technology than sanctions and other methods of coercing their governments.
 Mazzetti, Mark, ‘Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terroism Threat’, The New York Times, 24 September 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/world/middleeast/24terror.html?pagewanted=all
The development of nuclear weapons creates a self-perpetuating cycle of proliferation among other states.
The development of nuclear weapons encourages other countries to develop them as well. Rationally governed states without a nuclear deterrent are unlikely to allow themselves to be placed in a position where a nuclear armed neighbour can mount attacks against them with impunity. They therefore feel that they too need nuclear weapons in order to prevent the new nuclear power from taking advantage of their new capability.
For instance, the presence of an Iranian weapon would immediately threaten the Gulf States. Already unable to compete with Iran on a conventional level due to the vast disparity in size and population, states like the UAE would have every reason and motive to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent. A Saudi Prince actually floated the idea in 2011 that if Iran developed Nuclear Weapons, Saudi Arabia might follow.
As more countries develop Nuclear weapons, the likelihood that someone will use them, either deliberately or by accident, goes up substantially.
 Lindsay, James M., ‘After Iran Gets the Bomb’, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2010, http://www.cfr.org/united-states/after-iran-gets-bomb/p22182
 Burke, Jason, ‘Riyadh will build nuclear weapons if Iran gets them, Saudi prince warns’, guardian.co.uk, 29 June 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/29/saudi-build-nuclear-weapons-...
This is in fact a good thing. Nuclear weapons are a great equalizer between large and small countries. One of the great problems of history for tiny nations like Georgia or the Baltic states is that they have consistently been at the mercy of Russia. Nuclear weapons will allow them to fight the Russians on an equal level, and therefore deter the Russians from intervening as actively as they have in the past.
In the case of Iran and its neighbours, Iran’s position would actually be weakened if everyone in the region acquired nuclear weapons as the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain cannot compete with Iran conventionally, but could compete in a nuclear arms race. Wider uptake of nuclear arms would reduce Iran’s power and influence.
Moreover there is little evidence that this domino effect will happen. North Korea detonated its first nuclear weapon in 2006 but there has been no response from other countries in the region even though South Korea and Japan could have rapidly gone for nuclear breakout.
 Buchanan, Patrick J., ‘The Great Equalizer’, The American Conservative, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/article/2003/feb/10/00007/
 Berganas, John, ‘The Nuclear Domino Myth’, Foreign Affairs, 31 August 2010, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66738/johan-bergenas/the-nuclear-...
[Iran specific] Iran has threatened to destroy Israel
Iran has explicitly threatened to destroy Israel, President Ahmadinejad described Israel as a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the face of the earth". Such a prospect would be disastrous, not just in its initial consequences, but for the entire region. Even an unsuccessful attack on Israel would provoke a counter strike. The US would take much of the blame for the casualties of such a strike even if it counselled Israel against it. The United States must prevent Iran from ever being able to put such threats into action which may mean having to engage in military action to prevent Iran gaining the capability.
 MacAskill, Ewen, and McGreal, Chris, ‘Israel should be wiped off map, says Iran’s president’, The Guardian, 27 October 2005, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/27/israel.iran
Ahmadinejad’s words were mistranslated, and Iran’s position has been clarified by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has repeated Khomeini’s exhortation that Islam prohibits the use of nuclear weapons.
On the Presidential side, Esfandiar Mashaei, formerly Vice President in Ahmadinejad’s first term and now Presidential Chief of staff, suggested in 2008 that Iran is a friend of all peoples including Israelis.
Furthermore, Iran needs Israel to provide a bogeyman they can use to divide their anti-Iranian governments from their anti-Israeli people. Anti-Israel sentiment has allowed Iran to push anti-Persian sentiment in the Arab world to the backburner, something that would disappear along with Israel if Iran were to act on these ideas.
 Bronner, Ethan, ‘Just How Far Did They Go, Those Words Against Israel?’, The New York Times, 11 June 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/11/weekinreview/11bronner.html?adxnnl=1&a...
 Cohen, Dudi, ‘Iranian VP: We are friends of the nation in Israel’, ynetnews.com, 19 July 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3570266,00.html
[Iran specific] Others, particularly Israel, would act if the United States did not
A failure of the United States to act would motivate Israel to do so. Israel is under much more pressure to act as it would be the most affected by Iran going nuclear. The result would be catastrophic, as Iran would be able to portray itself as a victim of Israeli aggression, leading to a massive outpouring of pro-Iranian and anti-American sentiment in the middle east and central asia. It could easily spark a regional war across the middle east as Iranian proxies strike back against Israel and U.S. forces around the region.
The US would get all the harms of direct intervention with none of the benefits, and efforts to fight Hezbollah and Hamas, both within Palestine and elsewhere, would be undermined by their newfound sympathy in the region and the need of Arab governments to pander to it.
 Ravid, Barak, ‘Report: U.S. preparing for an Israeli strike on Iran’, Haaretz.com, 14 January 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/report-u-s-preparing-for-a...
 Benhorin, Yitzhak, ‘Attack on Iran would ignite regional conflict’, ynetnews.com, 3 November 2011, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4143358,00.html
Forcing Israel to act would remove the United States from direct responsibility for the consequences, and allow the US to strategically “condemn” Israel’s actions.
Iran and Israel already have a terrible relationship, so a lot of the harms here are already sunk costs.Improve this
Existing international treaties that grant nuclear weapons to the US and other countries no longer reflect the changing global balance of power.
The Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty is inherently unfair, in that it prevents countries that did not have nuclear weapons as of 1964 from developing them, but makes no effort to force those who already possess nuclear devices to disarm.
The result is that the list of countries with such weapons, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China, represents the balance of power as it existed at the time that the non-proliferation treaty was drafted. Countries that have entered the club subsequently, like India and Pakistan, did so in violation of the treaty and international law.
Any sort of treaty that seeks to limit access to nuclear arms has to provide opportunities for countries like Brazil to enter the “club” as they gain political or economic power. In the absence of any such mechanism the current treaty system is nothing more than a tool of Western dominance in order to keep the status quo which is favorable to the current nuclear powers something which is bound to build up resentment.
This would in effect offer not only to the pursuit of nuclear weapons by the targeted regimes, but to the rest of their policies. States like South Africa and Brazil already find it difficult to support a strong international line against Iran due to seeing the inequality of allowing some countries nuclear weapons programmes but seeking to punish others, especially when the nuclear weapons states that are signatories to the NPT have not moved towards disarmament as the treaty stipulates. This would in effect alienate them completely.
Second, even if the harm was justifiable by the ends, it would seem that in the long run, invading- or even censuring- every country that attempts to develop Nuclear Weapons in violation of the NPT is impractical as the United States and the rest of the world have de facto admitted by ending sanctions on Pakistan and India in 2001, two years after their nuclear tests. As such, there needs to be a political means that can separate states like Brazil from states like Iran, lest the policy collapse under its own weight.
The West, rather than using force, should attempt to repair the existing non-proliferation treaty framework, such that the standards for possession of nuclear weapons are based on behaviour rather than history.
 Charbonneau, Louis, ‘Q+A: How likely are new U.S. sanctions against Iran?’, Reuters, 9 November 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/09/us-iran-nuclear-sanctions-idUSTRE7A86Z220111109
 Spektor, Matias, ‘How to Read Brazil’s Stance on iran’, YaleGlobal, 16 March 2010, http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/how-read-brazils-stance-iran
 BBC News, ‘US lifts India and Pakistan sanctions’, 23 September 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1558860.stm
Regardless of its origins, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty is the cornerstone of an international system that has prevented the rapid proliferation of Nuclear weapons for nearly half a century.
The dangers of Nuclear weapons, especially in the wrong hands, mean that the ownership of nuclear weapons is an issue which transcends moral standards of “fairness”. It may be true that the treaty should be revisited in the case of say India or Brazil, but this debate is not about the nuclear ambitions of fundamentally stable, democratic states that would willingly comply with all of the terms of the non-proliferation treaty if they were permitted to become signatories. Rather, the question of America’s right to act to enforce the treaty should focus on rogue states that present a significant danger to their neighbours, and whose acquisition of such weapons is likely to destabilize regional balances of power, and make the entire world less secure. Iran, Syria and Pakistan’s use of the language of anti-colonialism is a sign of nothing more than political opportunism.Improve this
No country has an inherent right to invade or use aggression against another.
Given the moral bankruptcy of the NPT, and existing views of the United States in much of the developing world, any move by the United States to prevent other nations from developing nuclear weapons by force will be seen for what it is: an act of neo-colonialism. This would be the case with any act to enforce a treaty that is considered unfair towards most of the world.
This is especially true in areas where there is a long history of US support for regional actors who are less than popular. In moving against Iran, the United States will be perceived as a stalking horse for Israel, whilst any efforts to invade North Korea Would cause great alarm in China as well as in neighbouring South Korea despite being a U.S. ally where some Koreans believe the US is more of a threat to the nation than the North. In both cases, the image of the US in the region will be badly damaged, and the United States will face a hostile insurgency within the countries that they invade.
 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2011, http://www.pewglobal.org/database/?indicator=1
 Larson, Eric V. et al., Ambivalent Allies? A Study of South Korean Attitudes Towards the U.S., RAND Corporation, March 2004, p.93 http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/2005/RAND_TR141.pdf (n.b. before north detonated nuclear bomb)
The United States would ideally move with the backing of the world community, but even if that is not present, we think that the United States is more than capable of making clear that it is not anyone’s puppet and that it is intervening solely to uphold international law.
Any military action whether justified or not will cause resentment, but this not a reason to let genocide run amok or dictators get away with invasions nor is it a reason to let the same dictators get their hands on nuclear weapons, security is a vital interest whereas being liked by the rest of the world is not.Improve this
The principle of Mutually Assured Destruction makes war less likely.
States are fundamentally rational, and as such, nuclear proliferation has generally made war less likely, by promulgating the principle of mutually assured destruction (MAD).
States go to war with other states when they think they can win the conflict they will provoke. By making victory impossible, MAD makes wars unprofitable, and thereby prevents them from beginning in the first place. The Cold War never turned hot partially for this reason, and it is possible that the Israeli-Iranian relationship could be stabilized by both states possessing a nuclear deterrent. North Korea may well desire to Nuke the United States and Japan, and may well feel that there would be no moral issues with doing so, but they have refrained from doing so. As they have refrained from invading the South since 1950. There is substantial evidence that even the most irrational regimes can be deterred. No matter how dictatorial and authoritarian a state government, the prospect of complete nuclear annihilation will be effective in restraining its ambitions.
In the case of Iran, the threat to Iranian cities by the Iraqi army moving on to the offensive and using chemical weapons motivated Khomeini to make peace in 1988. It is worth noting that they have not explicitly attacked Israel themselves, preferring to work through proxies. It would seem unlikely that Iran, if it were to become the only nuclear power in the Islamic world, could avoid responsibility if Hamas or Hezbollah were to utilize a weapon.
 Kenneth Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,” I, Number 171 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981), http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/waltz1.htm
 Globalsecurity.org, ‘Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)’, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/iran-iraq.htm
Not all states are inherently rational, either by our standards or generally. North Korea is a xenophobic state based on the belief that they are racially and ideologically superior to all other states. A government that does not consider its enemies fully human in its official propaganda is unlikely to blanch at the prospect of nuking them, even at their own expense. Even seemingly rational states make tactical mistakes, like Saddam Hussein did when he invaded Kuwait.
Nuclear Weapons raise the stakes, and have the potential to make the consequences of those errors far more serious and deadly.
Furthermore, MAD does not operate solely due to the possession of Nuclear Weapons, but rather it requires that a state possess a “Second-Strike” ability. A “second Strike” ability means that a country has the capacity to nuke another country after it has already been attacked, whether through hardened silos or submarine launched warheads. Without such an ability, a state like Israel would risk losing its nuclear deterrent in an Iranian attack, and would therefore have every incentive to strike first if it thought such an attack might be about to occur. Iran, which is far less likely to be able to develop a “Second Strike” capability due to financial and technological limitations, would in turn almost constantly face a “use it or lose it” situation of its own.
 Myers, B.R., ‘Excerpt: The Cleanest Race’, The New York Times, 26 January 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/books/excerpt-cleanest-race.html?pagewanted=all
[Iran specific] Iran has not invaded any other country in three and a half centuries; the same cannot be said for US allies including Israel, Pakistan, etc.
For all the censure Iran has faced as a rogue state, it has not, in fact, invaded another country for more than three centuries and despite internal aggression against western embassies the Iranian revolution seems to have made little difference. On the other hand, it has faced invasion on numerous occasions, whether from Russia, Britain or Iraq. Both Britain – whom the Iranians are still extremely suspicious off due to events such as the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mosadeq – and Russia – who together with Britain occupied Persia during world war II - are nuclear weapons states.
Iran therefore has legitimate defensive reasons for developing Nuclear weapons. While Iran’s current government has pursued destabilizing policies in Lebanon and Israel/Palestine, the presence of Russia on its northern border and tensions with the United States justify their development. This is one reason why Iran’s nuclear program predates the current government and in fact goes all the way back to the Shah’s time. Rather than being the product or continuation of Iran’s policies in the region, the nuclear program is independent of them, and justified on those basis.
 Abrahamian, Ervand, ‘The 1953 Coup in Iran’, Science & Society Vol. 65, No. 2, Summer 2001, pp.182-215, http://www.webcitation.org/5kg6nFIXE
 Globalsecurity.org, ‘Azerbaijan crisis (1945-1948)’, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/azerbaijan.htm
 Milani, Abbas, ‘The Shah’s Atomic Dreams’, Foreignpolicy.com, 29 December 2010, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/12/29/the_shahs_atomic_dreams
What is not at issue is whether Iran will invade anyone. No one expects that, at least not immediately. Rather, the harm of Iranian possession of nuclear weapons is that they will provide Iran with immunity from retaliation which will encourage it to escalate its Cold War against Saudi Arabia in the Gulf, and increase its assistance to Hezbollah and Hamas.
As noted above, Pakistan has in fact behaved in exactly this manner. Safe behind its nuclear shield, it has provided increasingly blatant backing to anti-Indian terrorist groups and opp is right to note that there is little that can be done about that. The best bet is not to allow Iran to do the same thing.Improve this
Abrahamian, Ervand, ‘The 1953 Coup in Iran’, Science & Society Vol. 65, No. 2, Summer 2001, pp.182-215, http://www.webcitation.org/5kg6nFIXE
The Associated Press, ‘India reluctant to blame Mumbai blasts on Pakistan’, CBCnews, 15 July 2011,
BBC News, ‘US lifts India and Pakistan sanctions’, 23 September 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1558860.stm
BBC News, ‘Iran leader Khamenei brands US ‘nuclear criminal’, 17 April 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8627143.stm
Benhorin, Yitzhak, ‘Attack on Iran would ignite regional conflict’, ynetnews.com, 3 November 2011, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4143358,00.html
Berganas, John, ‘The Nuclear Domino Myth’, Foreign Affairs, 31 August 2010, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66738/johan-bergenas/the-nuclear-...
Bronner, Ethan, ‘Just How Far Did They Go, Those Words Against Israel?’, The New York Times, 11 June 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/11/weekinreview/11bronner.html?adxnnl=1&a...
Brown, Gary D., ‘Why Iran Didn’t Admit Stuxnet Was an Attack’, NDU Press, http://www.ndu.edu/press/why-iran-didnt-admit-stuxnet.html
Bruno, Greg, ‘State Sponsors: Iran’, Council on Foreign Relations, 13 October 2011, http://www.cfr.org/iran/state-sponsors-iran/p9362
Buchanan, Patrick J., ‘The Great Equalizer’, The American Conservative, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/article/2003/feb/10/00007/
Burke, Jason, ‘Riyadh will build nuclear weapons if Iran gets them, Saudi prince warns’, guardian.co.uk, 29 June 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/29/saudi-build-nuclear-weapons-...
Charbonneau, Louis, ‘Q+A: How likely are new U.S. sanctions against Iran?’, Reuters, 9 November 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/09/us-iran-nuclear-sanctions-idUSTRE7A86Z220111109
Cohen, Dudi, ‘Iranian VP: We are friends of the nation in Israel’, ynetnews.com, 19 July 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3570266,00.html
Fars News Agency, ‘MP: Iran Closes Strait of Hormuz if Attacked’, 14 December 2011, http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9007277398
Fidler, David P., and Ganguly, Sumit, ‘India Wants to Join the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a Weapons State’, YaleGlobal, 27 January 2010, http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/india-wants-join-non-proliferation-tr...
Gekbart, Jonathan, ‘The Iran-Syria Axis: A Critical Investigation’, Stanford Journal of International Relations, Vol. XII, No. 1, Fall 2010, http://www.stanford.edu/group/sjir/12-1/fall10-final_5.pdf
Globalsecurity.org, ‘Azerbaijan crisis (1945-1948)’, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/azerbaijan.htm
Globalsecurity.org, ‘Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)’, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/iran-iraq.htm
Goldberg, Jeffrey, ‘The Point of No Return’, the Atlantic, September 2010, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/09/the-point-of-no-return/8186/
Kaplan, Robert D., ‘Why John J. Mearsheimer Is Right (About Some Things)’, the Atlantic, January/February 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/01/why-john-j-mearsheimer-is-right-about-some-things/8839/2/
Kasprzyk, Nicholas, ‘Nuclear Non-proliferation and Regional Changing Strategic Balances: How Much Will Regional Proliferation Impinge Upon the Future of the NPT?’, in Krause, Joachim and Wenger, Andreas eds., Studies in Contemporary History and Security policy, 2001, http://kms2.isn.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/EINIRAS/343/ichaptersection_...
Kerr, Paul K., and Nikitin, Mary Beth, ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues’, Congressional Research Service, 30 November 2011, pp.20-23, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/RL34248.pdf
Larson, Eric V. et al., Ambivalent Allies? A Study of South Korean Attitudes Towards the U.S., RAND Corporation, March 2004, p.93 http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/2005/RAND_TR141.pdf
Lindsay, James M., ‘After Iran Gets the Bomb’, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2010, http://www.cfr.org/united-states/after-iran-gets-bomb/p22182
MacAskill, Ewen, and McGreal, Chris, ‘Israel should be wiped off map, says Iran’s president’, The Guardian, 27 October 2005, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/27/israel.iran
Maclean, William, ‘Analysis: Not-so-covert Iran war buys time but raises tension’, Reuters, 18 January 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/18/us-iran-methods-idUSTRE80H1SS20120118
Mazzetti, Mark, ‘Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terroism Threat’, The New York Times, 24 September 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/world/middleeast/24terror.html?pagewanted=all
Miglani, Sanjeev, ‘Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, a deterrent against India, but also United States?’, Reuters, 9 April 2011, http://blogs.reuters.com/afghanistan/2011/04/09/pakistans-nuclear-weapon...
Milani, Abbas, ‘The Shah’s Atomic Dreams’, Foreignpolicy.com, 29 December 2010, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/12/29/the_shahs_atomic_dreams
Morgenthau, Hans J., Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, Fifth ed., 1978, pp.4-15, http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/morg6.htm
Myers, B.R., ‘Excerpt: The Cleanest Race’, The New York Times, 26 January 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/books/excerpt-cleanest-race.html?pagewanted=all
Narang, Vipin, ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Posture: Implications for South Asian Stability’, Harvard Kennedy Sc http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/07/15/mumbai-explosions-attacks-india-investigation.htmlhool Belfast Center for Science and International Affairs Policy Brief, January 2010, http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/Pakistans_Nuclear_Posture_poli...
Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2011, http://www.pewglobal.org/database/?indicator=1
Ravid, Barak, ‘Report: U.S. preparing for an Israeli strike on Iran’, Haaretz.com, 14 January 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/report-u-s-preparing-for-an-israeli-strike-on-iran-1.407273
‘The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons’, 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), 1 July 1968, http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2005/npttreaty.html
Reuters, ‘How will Israel attack Iran?’, ynetnews.com, 9 November 2011, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4146086,00.html
Spektor, Matias, ‘How to Read Brazil’s Stance on iran’, YaleGlobal, 16 March 2010, http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/how-read-brazils-stance-iran
Waltz, Kenneth, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,” I, Number 171 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981), http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/waltz1.htm
Mark Levenstein "The case against attacking Iran" Foreign Policy Magazine 11/10/06Scholar at the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention Schlomo Brom writes in 'Is the Begin Doctrine Still a Viable Option for Israel?' of 10/2005
Curate this debate
If you are an academic or highly knowledgeable about a particular debate could you give an hour or two a month to curate a debate?
Be a debatabase editor
Idebate needs editors from around the world to check, moderate and create content for debatabase and the site more generally. Editors are vital in making the site run smoothly and ensuring that debates are as informative as possible.