I am a professional economist, not a military strategist or historian. Nonetheless, I think I can offer some perspective on typical arguments for U.S. government military action. Consider the following excerpt from a NYT article by Chris Hedges, titled, “Iran May Be Able to Build an Atomic Bomb in 5 Years, U.S. and Israeli Officials Fear” (HT2 Julie Borowski):
Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than previously thought, and could be less than five years away from having an atomic bomb, several senior American and Israeli officials say.
“The date by which Iran will have nuclear weapons is no longer 10 years from now,” a senior official said recently, referring to previous estimates. “If the Iranians maintain this intensive effort to get everything they need, they could have all their components in two years. Then it will be just a matter of technology and research. If Iran is not interrupted in this program by some foreign power, it will have the device in more or less five years.”
The reassessment of Iran’s nuclear potential is now described by Israeli officials as the most serious threat facing their country.
“When we look at the future and ask ourselves what is the biggest problem we will face in the next decade,” a senior Israeli military official said, “Iran’s nuclear bomb is at the top of the list.”
And if Iranian oratory is to be believed, the Islamic Government would support a showdown with the Jewish state, whose very existence, it says, is an affront to the Muslim countries in the Middle East.
So let me offer some quick points of pushback:
==> Look at the lack of accountability in the quotations from anonymous American and Israeli officials. After all, considering recent history it’s not as if our default position should be to trust their warnings when it comes to weapons programs in Middle Eastern countries.
==> It’s interesting that the same neo-conservative pundits who think Washington, DC is full of evil, incompetent liars when it comes to domestic welfare programs, all of a sudden forget how unintended consequences work when it comes to nation-building at missile-tip. As I sarcastically pointed out on Twitter: “If we make nuclear weapons illegal, only rogue nations will have them!” In case you don’t get it, that’s the way self-described conservatives react to progressive proposals for domestic gun control. Granted, the two situations are not exactly the same thing, but there are millions of Americans who (a) loved the type of argument put forth in John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime and yet (b) have never once in their adult lives seriously considered the possibility that more nuclear powers would result in fewer military conflicts.
==> The only government to ever use an atomic bomb against civilians is the United States.
==> The above NYT article was written in 1995.