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Have a Take: Unique Solutions to Avoid War with Iran

(To read the rest of our series, “The Case Against War with Iran”, please click here.)

I hate a lot of things about the debate over Iran’s nuclear program. I hate the exaggerations of Iran’s threat to America. I hate that no one mentions the costs of military intervention. But of all the things I hate about the debate, I hate one thing above all: the complete lack of unique solutions to the problem.

If pundits and politicians--specifically American Senators--are to be believed, America has three options with Iran: 1. Go to war. 2. Continue negotiations or 3. Sanctions. We--America/Israel/Europe/Iran--have way more options than that, and if we don’t, we need to find them.

Before our break, I did a post on “Unique Takes on War with Iran”. Today’s post is a more important sequel to that post--not just unique viewpoints, but unique solutions to the Iranian nuclear problem. And in the spirit of unique solutions, next week I plan to roll out my solution.
   
1. “Influencing Iran: A Fourth Way” on the Small Wars Journal

This Small Wars Journal article proposes a semi-non-violent or ”non-kinetic”--more aptly non-military--way to discourage Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons: degrade their electronics via cyber attacks so their society can barely function. I don’t think the U.S. has the capabilities to do this right now, and such an operation would backfire if Iran could trace it back to the U.S. Even if this can’t influence our debate on Iran, it does point to how warfare could look in the near future.

2. “Using Religion to Restrain Iran’s Nuclear Program” on Stephen Walt’s Blog

Nina Tannenwald writes that the U.S. should harness, “moral and religious norms as a source of nuclear restraint”. If the U.S. could use religion (ironically someone else’s religion) to prevent war, I am all for that. (Ironic, to clarify, because America’s primary religion, Christianity, barely constrains America from starting wars. The more religiously minded politicians in America--being blunt, conservatives--openly advocate war.)

3. “Five Tips for Obama on Nuclear Negotiation with Iran” on Time

In this article, Trita Parsi gives five “lessons” to help U.S. diplomacy with Iran, and they all make sense. American negotiators should especially heed lesson number two to, “Broaden the agenda beyond the nuclear program”. We need a dialogue with Iran on as many fronts involving as many people as possible. The more connections we can make with Iran, the less chance we will blunder into a war. However, Parsi’s first point is as correct as it is impossible to implement, “Don’t allow the domestic politics to define your strategy”. So yes, this solution is basically “continue diplomacy”, but it is a much more expansive diplomacy than the U.S. has so far pursued.

4. “Where Congress Can Draw the Line” on The Atlantic

James Fallows makes a plea in this article (whose date I can’t find, but I believe it comes from the late Bush administration) that the U.S. Congress could stop war with Iran if it specifically passed a resolution forbidding war with Iran. His advice is as timely now as it was then, but it will never happen with the current Republican congress. In fact, most recent resolutions on Iran have gone in a completely opposite direction, making war more likely, not less.

5. “Preventing a War: What You Can Do” on Stephen Walt’s Blog

Stephen Walt--who I keep linking to in my Iran posts because we completely agree on this issue--has a simple, and not very novel solution: sign an online petition. I don’t think it will work, but if politicians do listen to voters, maybe it has a chance. Unfortunately, too many Americans want war with Iran, a different issue.

6. “Why Iran Should Get The Bomb” by Kenneth N. Waltz on Foreign Affairs

Always willing to push the envelope, Kenneth Waltz’s most recent Foreign Affairs comment certainly fits the bill. I love this “solution” because it wildly redefines the problem. For Waltz, power “begs to be balanced”, so a nuclear Israel threatening the rest of the Middle East is a much bigger problem than a beleaguered Iran trying to get a nuclear weapon. While personally, I think the world needs to move towards the goals of the Global Zero campaign (more in a future post), at least Waltz is trying to avert another disastrous war in the Middle East that probably won’t even solve the problem.

two comments

I have not read all of Mr. Waltz’s article because I am a cheapskate and can’t get if for nothing. But he did say more or less that Iran will get the bomb. That is true. The populace wants it as well as the ayatollahs so Iran will get the bomb. Period.

Our policy has to recognize this and go from there. Anything else is like trying to defy gravity. If it were accepted then various courses of action would realistic, otherwise no.

Unless…we just shamble along making threats until they actually get it then we can deal with the fait accompli. From a political standpoint, that might be a way of squaring the circle. When they get the bomb then Iran and Israel will deter each other from using it and we could imply Israel is under our nuke umbrella and that would be that. Which leaves the Saudis. I don’t know what to do about that.

I am mostly thinking out loud so to speak but Iran will get the bomb so we should be thinking of ways to manage that rather than prevent it.


Whenever I get a Foreign Affairs, I am always pleased. However, the article “Why Iran should get the bomb” is actually really short.

However his point—and my solution—agree with your conclusion. Iran could get the bomb tomorrow or in ten years. But neither America nor Israel can really stop them.