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The scaremongering over Iran seems to be unending these days. Victor Davis Hanson has resumed his traditional role as the loudspeaker of jingoism, this time with his latest tiresome, tendentious invective over Iran’s nuclear program, published in today’s Chicago Tribune (sorry, no link). Coming on the heels of North Korea’s claim or ‘admission’ of possessing nuclear weapons already, the continued zeal to ‘do something’ about putative Iranian nuclear plans is more than a little bizarre. It recalls the buffoonish logic of Mr. Bush in 2003: we must avoid any confrontation with the state that apparently has the nuclear weapons, and is therefore immediately much more dangerous, at least to neighbouring countries, and attack the one country everyone can be fairly sure has no nuclear program worth mentioning. Nonetheless, Mr. Hanson wants us to press ahead, because “the very worst alternative” would be for Iran to acquire nuclear technology. Practically every reason he offers for why this is so is either specious in itself or works from the obnoxious assumption that Iran’s energy and security policies are the concern of the United States. Let’s review them briefly.
First, there is the fear of an arms race being started, and the related concern that proliferation is already too dangerous. It is apparently unimportant to Mr. Hanson that all the other regional powers that might acquire nuclear weapons are either reliant on our subsidies or have been traditional allies of the United States for some decades–it is axiomatic for a neocon, or any hard-boiled American militarist, that Arabs must never have nuclear weapons. That would be destabilising, you see, unlike invading other countries or toppling their governments, which is not. The laughable claim that “third-rate states” are more reckless than “traditional world powers” is simply untrue; perhaps Mr. Hanson should stick to ancient Greek history, since he seems completely at sea in modern history: all the great conflagrations of the modern age have been the product of the “traditional world powers.” Almost by definition, “third-rate states” tend to avoid wars because they are so strapped for resources; they are far more prone to internal instability than aggression against other states. Exceptions seem to crop up when U.S.-backed regimes try to play at national greatness, such as the last ill-fated expedition to destroy the Iranian revolutionary regime or the foolish Greek colonels overthrew the Cypriot government and provoked the awful Turkish invasion. It is, of course, the great powers that can afford excessive risks that come with reckless and hasty decisions–no “third-rate state” could have invaded another country as whimsically and carelessly as we have done, nor could it have been as militarily dominant or financially immune from passing on real costs of war to the general population.