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Mullen's Myth of Geostrategic Equivalence

On Iran's nuclear program.

12:50 PM, Apr 19, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen told a forum at  Columbia University yesterday, "Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome...In an area that's so unstable right now, we just don't need more of that."

But Mullen's formulation of geostrategic equivalance ignores a massive difference between the two outcomes: Even assuming the degree and kind of "destabilization" would be the same in both the cases of attack and appeasement (which I don't think would be so), one scenario--attack--leaves Iran without nuclear weapons, at least for now; the other--appeasement--means Iran would have nuclear weapons going forward. Which unstable outcome is less damaging to U.S. interests? I think the answer is pretty clear: An attacked Iran that does not have nukes.

Mullen's Myth of Geostrategic Equivalence

And when Mullen goes on to say, "we just don't need more of that [destablizing of the region]," he's being silly. It's not a question of whether we "need" or would like more instability in the Middle East. Everyone would like to be able to wish the Iranian nuclear program (and the currrent Iranian regime) away, and to wish a happier "stability" into existence. The real question is what form of instability would be more dangerous--that caused by this Iranian regime with nuclear weapons, or that caused by attacking this regime's nuclear weapons program. It's time to have a serious debate about the choice between these two kinds of destabilization, instead of just refusing to confront the choice.

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