By Jeffrey Goldberg
October 14, 2010
A very interesting quote embedded i on Iran’s nuclear program. Read the whole thing, but here are a couple of grafs:
Tony Blair recently said in a telephone conversation, “personally, I think Israel would not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons.” In March, Joseph Biden declared that “the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period.” Barack Obama has repeatedly called a nuclear Iran “unacceptable.” Just a few weeks ago, Obama reiterated to a group of reporters in the White House that he would use “all options available to us to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region and to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Gewen argues that one heretofore-obscured question about Iran’s nuclear program is not whether a military strike would destroy it, but merely delay it:
Taken together, all these statements add up to a consensus that if sanctions don’t work, the U.S. or Israel will move to the next step and bomb Iran. The key assumption here seems to be that we have it within our power to stop Iran in its tracks by military means. But do we? Read the fine print of the debate and it becomes clear that very few commentators believe we do. Instead, what’s being argued is the much more modest proposition that we can delay Iran from going nuclear–some say for as little as one year, others for as many as seven. Goldberg (ed. note: He means the proprietor of this blog) suggests a 3-5 year delay and that seems to be as reasonable a guess as any.
The real policy question, then, should not be whether to bomb in order to forestall a nuclear Iran but whether to bomb to delay a nuclear Iran, and in any cost-benefit analysis, the latter calculation carries a very different weight. The advantages of denying Iran the bomb are self-evident, but how much will be gained from delay, and how much lost? (It should be added that we have two ways to prevent Iran from going nuclear. One would be to put boots on the ground, invading and occupying the country; the other would be to employ nuclear weapons. Presumably, neither of these options has been put on the table, though there has been some talk of Israel’s using tactical nuclear arms to reach deeply buried Iranian facilities.)
Read the whole thing.
* Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. Author of the book , he has reported from the Middle East and Africa. He also writes the magazine’s advice column.