Disagreeing to Agree

July 15, 2015

An agreement has been reached between P5+1 countries and Iran regarding the latter’s nuclear program [1], and politics has risen to the occasion. Much has been said already regarding the fact that Iran’s capability to build a nuclear weapon will be substantially diminished under the agreement, and that there will be an inspection regimen in place to ensure compliance. [2] 

But perhaps a larger view of the issue must be taken given that there is so much opposition to the agreement in Congress and amongst the 2016 presidential candidates. Some give the impression that they would reject any agreement with Iran, which would leave a military attack as the only option. The din of political noise was to be expected, but, perhaps, we mere citizens may call to our aid the common sense with which have been blessed in evaluating this situation. 

One question we must ask ourselves is whether Iran is any threat to the United States, and “of course not” is the correct answer. While it is worthwhile to engage in efforts to stabilize the Middle East, there is no serious concern that any country in that region can attack us and replace our government with an Islamic republic or any such thing. There is no need to worry that we’ll be, as they say, speaking Persian anytime soon. In the days when sanity was looked up to, this was what we really cared about when it came to consideration of overseas threats. 

The next question is whether an attack by the United States on Iran would have been justifiable even if no agreement had been reached. Here, again, we recall those halcyon days when people used their heads, and realized that only bad nations attacked countries that hadn’t started a war with them. The Church, always the purveyor of sanity, has developed the Just War Doctrine, which has these elements:

“- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

“- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

“- there must be serious prospects of success;

“- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.” [3] 

The key word in the first element is “aggressor.” It is justifiable to go to war only with a nation that fits that designation. It is not permissible to attack a country that is minding its own business being obnoxious. There is also the matter of not producing “evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated,” and inflicting a war on a populace already suffering from sanctions, not to mention having to live under a government run by an Ayatollah, would really be kicking them when they’re down. 

But what about Israel? Won’t Iran get a nuclear weapon and drop it right on them? There are two considerations to keep in mind.

First of all we should consider why Iran would consider getting a nuclear weapon. Do you remember when President George W. Bush called North Korea, Iraq, and Iran an “axis of evil”? The next year the U.S. invaded Iraq. Three years later North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, because the North Koreans are crazy, but they’re not crazy. The Iranians had to be wondering where they were on the list, and got to work. Everyone knows that the United States doesn’t like to fight countries that can fight back. Just look at how we shake our fist at Vladimir Putin after he brazenly annexes the Crimea. So, no, the Iranians didn’t start working on nuclear weapons because they wanted to drop it on Israel. 

But let’s say the Iranians got a bomb, so we decided we were a peaceful nation after all. Would they say in their government councils, “Say, we have these nuclear weapons lying around, let’s take care of this Israel problem once and for all”? No, they wouldn’t. 

If Iran dropped a nuclear bomb on Israel, the United States would have to react forcefully, by which I mean all-out war. Now in spite of our feckless efforts at nation-building after conflicts, nobody wants to go to war with the United States. The U.S. has shown that it is capable of visiting major unpleasantness on populations, and no nation is going to bring that on itself deliberately. For the Iranians, it is much better to let Hezbollah do the grunt work when it comes to Israel.  

As for the agitation from some of our politicians about attacking Iran, it must be pointed out that the loudest among them are also those who are vehemently opposed to raising taxes, and who even want to reduce them. Wars cost money, and we have a large national debt to prove it. Another war, followed by yet another dip in the nation-building silly pool, would likely blow a hole in the budget large enough to create a vortex. Attacking Iran would be against our national interests. 

Jack Quirk