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Nothing is Unacceptable

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Matt hits the nail on the head with this:

It certainly makes sense as a negotiating tactic for the American government to appear open to military action. For similar reasons, efforts at diplomacy are probably strengthened insofar as Bush appears to be under domestic political pressure to use force. . .The trouble is that actually doing this stuff is a bad idea.

Right. Discussions of the Iran situation that fall on absolutes, such as the notion that Iranian nuclear weapons are “unacceptable” or that the United States should take whatever steps necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran are fundamentally unserious. A serious foreign policy analysis weighs that costs and benefits of a particular policy. We may decide that Iranian nuclear weapons are bad (I think they are, but feel free to disagree), but this does not mean that stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons needs to be the absolute final goal of US policy. The costs of such action may override any likely benefit that we can imagine; in fact, I’m inclined to think that this is the case.

An argument, like Bill Kristol’s, that treats a nuclear Iran as unacceptable is not an effort to open a discussion; it’s an attempt to close off a particular line of thinking. If Iranian nukes really were unacceptable, then a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and Iranian industrial targets would be entirely justified from a policy point-of-view. This is not, however, a position that even most self-appointed Iran toughs would express, at least in public.

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