“The usual suspects say that some state may eventually give terrorists an atomic bomb. That is, put the crown jewels of its national power into hands it doesn’t control, in much the same way that the Great Powers at the end of the 19th Century were always handing out battleships to anarchists…

“As a practical matter, anyone who is all that willing to die for his principles seems to manage to do so early in his career, well before he achieves high office. Most of the people running Iran today could have easily become martyrs under the Shah if they’d felt like it. Somehow, they avoided it.” ~Greg Cochran, The American Conservative (via Steve Sailer)


 What a refreshing experience to see someone else exploding this particular nonsensical argument.  This is one of those claims that’s so ”serious” that you have to provide an answer to a scenario that is about as likely as happening as the island nation of Mauritius landing a man on the man.  It is a potential threat as likely to come into being as the great existential threat that America will someday face from Burkina Faso.  It is one of the most implausible scenarios in the book, yet every time we have a proliferation “crisis” (i.e., a nation Washington dislikes seeks weapons that our allies developed without penalty of invasion) this absurd possibility is held up as if it were the silver bullet that kills all realist doctrines of deterrence. 


Over the years, I have occasionally dismissed the same claim (”they might give the bomb to terrorists”) whenever supporters of intervention would throw it up as an example of why containment and deterrence no longer work.  Their spiel goes something like this:


“You see, they’re crazy and suicidal, and if you don’t believe that just consider that they might hand it off to terrorists who are definitely suicidal.  And why would they give away their most powerful weapons to people who might turn around and use them for a completely different purpose?  Didn’t you hear me before?  They’re crazy and suicidal!”


As I said a year and a half ago in one of my early anti-Hanson posts:


Next is the canard of Iran arming terrorists with nukes. One does not need to be an expert in Near Eastern affairs (and Mr. Hanson certainly is not) to know that no state, whatever its ideology, will ever hand over nuclear weapons to some rogue third party, no matter how much it may theoretically agree with that group. Raison d’Etat and a basic logic of the government keeping control over such an immensely powerful weapon dictate that any state that invests its resources in such a weapon will not squander that weapon on a group over which it has no meaningful control, but to which it will inevitably be linked should that group decide to use the weapon. The political calculation of the risks involved would show any remotely sane person, however fanatical he might otherwise be, that there is nothing to be gained by such a course of action. Even if some ayatollah were moved to pursue such a mad plan, the military would probably sooner depose him than allow such a stupid decision to be carried out, or he would be ousted by other elements of the clerical regime itself. Nothing is more certain in politics than the desire of a state to preserve its existence and power, and every ideology will come crumbling down when it conflicts with that basic imperative of Realpolitik.


Earlier this year I hit a similar note in response to the Official Persophobe Hysteric, Stanley Kurtz:


People who obsess about an Iranian bomb frankly baffle me. What do they think the Iranians are going to do with nuclear weapons? What do all states do with nuclear weapons? They stockpile them and use them as a deterrent. They do not wantonly launch them, nor do they hand them off to terrorist or paramilitary groups. The chief reason to fear Iranian nukes is the threat of their use, and particularly the threat of their use against America or an ally of ours. The Iranian government is not so daft as to invite openly the complete annihilation of their country by doing anything so transparent as first-strike nuclear attacks against anyone.   


And then again more recently I answered Mario Loyola on this same charge:


This is to hide behind the propaganda that Iran will give away one of its yet-to-be-made nukes to some third party (presumably Hizbullah)–something that no nuclear weapon state has ever done and which no remotely self-interested government ever would do.