[Freemanlist2] Alan M. Dershowitz -OBAMA'S LEGACY AND THE IRANIAN BOMB
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OBAMA'S LEGACY AND THE IRANIAN BOMB
Neville Chamberlain was remembered for appeasing Germany, not his
progressive social programs.
By Alan M. Dershowitz
The gravest threat faced by the world today is a
nuclear-armed Iran. Of all the nations capable of producing nuclear
weapons, Iran is the only one that might use them to attack an enemy.
There are several ways in which Iran could use nuclear
weapons. The first is by dropping an atomic bomb on Israel, as its
leaders have repeatedly threatened to do. Hashemi Rafsanjani, a
former president of Iran, boasted in 2004 that an Iranian attack
would kill as many as five million Jews. Mr. Rafsanjani estimated
that even if Israel retaliated with its own nuclear bombs, Iran would
probably lose about 15 million people, which he said would be a small
"sacrifice" of the billion Muslims in the world.
The second way in which Iran could use nuclear weapons
would be to hand them off to its surrogates, Hezbollah or Hamas. A
third way would be for a terrorist group, such as al Qaeda, to get
its hands on Iranian nuclear material. It could do so with the
consent of Iran or by working with rogue elements within the Iranian
Finally, Iran could use its nuclear weapons without ever
detonating a bomb. By constantly threatening Israel with nuclear
annihilation, it could engender so much fear among Israelis as to
incite mass immigration, a brain drain, or a significant decline in
people moving to Israel.
These are the specific ways in which Iran could use
nuclear weapons, primarily against the Jewish state. But there are
other ways in which a nuclear-armed Iran would endanger the world.
First, it would cause an arms race in which every nation in the
Middle East would seek to obtain nuclear weapons.
Second, it would almost certainly provoke Israel into
engaging in either a pre-emptive or retaliatory attack, thus
inflaming the entire region or inciting further attacks against
Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas. Third, it would provide Iran with a
nuclear umbrella under which it could accelerate its efforts at
regional hegemony. Had Iraq operated under a nuclear umbrella when it
invaded Kuwait in 1990, Saddam Hussein's forces would still be in
Fourth, it would embolden the most radical elements in the
Middle East to continue their war of words and deeds against the
United States and its allies.
And finally, it would inevitably unleash the law of
unintended consequences: Simply put, nobody knows the extent of the
harm a nuclear-armed Iran could produce.
In these respects, allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons
is somewhat analogous to the decision by the victors of World War I
to allow Nazi Germany to rearm during the 1930s. Even the Nazis were
surprised at this complacency. Joseph Goebbels expected the French
and British to prevent the Nazis from rebuilding Germany's war
In 1940, Goebbels told a group of German journalists that
if he had been the French premier when Hitler came to power he would
have said, "The new Reich Chancellor is the man who wrote Mein Kampf,
which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our
vicinity. Either he disappears or we march!" But, Goebbels continued,
"they didn't do it. They left us alone and let us slip through the
risky zone, and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs. And
when we were done, and well armed, better than they, then they
started the war!"
Most people today are not aware that British Prime
Minister Neville Chamberlain helped restore Great Britain's financial
stability during the Great Depression and also passed legislation to
extend unemployment benefits, pay pensions to retired workers and
otherwise help those hit hard by the slumping economy. But history
does remember his failure to confront Hitler. That is Chamberlain's
enduring legacy. So too will Iran's construction of nuclear weapons,
if it manages to do so in the next few years, become President Barack
Obama's enduring legacy. Regardless of his passage of health-care
reform and regardless of whether he restores jobs and helps the
economy recover, Mr. Obama will be remembered for allowing Iran to
obtain nuclear weapons. History will not treat kindly any leader who
allows so much power to be accumulated by the world's first suicide
nation-a nation whose leaders have not only expressed but, during the
Iran-Iraq war, demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice millions of
their own people to an apocalyptic mission of destruction.
If Iran were to become a nuclear power, there would be
plenty of blame to go around. A National Intelligence Report, issued
on President George W. Bush's watch, distorted the truth by
suggestion that Iran had ended its quest for nuclear weapons. It also
withheld the fact that U.S. intelligence had discovered a nuclear
facility near Qum, Iran, that could be used only for the production
of nuclear weapons. Chamberlain, too, was not entirely to blame for
Hitler's initial triumphs. He became prime minister after his
predecessors allowed Germany to rearm. Nevertheless, it is
Chamberlain who has come to symbolize the failure to prevent Hitler's
ascendancy. So too will Mr. Obama come to symbolize the failure of
the West if Iran acquires nuclear weapons on his watch.
Mr. Dershowitz is a law professor at Harvard.
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