Even Cato Institute Agrees that Nuclear Iran is an Exaggerated Threat

March 22, 2012

by Malou Innocent and Jonathan Owen

The Republican presidential hopefuls, Ron Paul excepted, would prefer a more bellicose response to Iran’s nuclear aspirations than President Obama’s current stance.

But a more aggressive policy could lead to another war in the Middle East, or at least a regime in Tehran more committed to seeking a nuclear bomb.

Basic Assumption is Flawed

The assumption that a short war of limited strikes will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is flawed. Damage to Iran’s nuclear program from such a strike would be modest, likely requiring more strikes in another few years or a longer-term presence on the ground.

James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, said an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would set back its nuclear program by one to two years. U.S. military action every few years is an unmanageable strategy.

Iran Not an Imminent Threat

Even with a bomb, Iran is not an imminent threat to America’s security.

Worse, attempts to stop Iran’s program militarily will bolster its resolve to pursue a nuclear deterrent. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the military solution will make Iranians “absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons.” He continued, “… they will just go deeper and more covert.”

So if Iran lives to fight another day, with the ayatollahs still standing, hawks in Washington will surely argue that the U.S. cannot afford to show weakness — and that our credibility depends on staying behind to create a friendly state in Tehran.

It would be a slippery slope from this to a wider war.

If that is the case, Iran, a country with two-and-a-half times the population and four times the territory of Iraq, will not be a cakewalk.

Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute. Jonathan Owen is a former Marine infantry officer. This article appeared in New York Daily News on March 8, 2012.

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