Forcing the Mideast to Renounce Nuclear Arms

Despite the obvious bias of John Bolton’s tunnel-vision view of Mideast affairs, his writings should not be dismissed out of hand. There is no obvious substantive reason why his rather superficial piece in the Wall Street Journal should have been published, but if you read between the lines, you can infer the glimmerings of a genuinely useful idea.

Bolton referred to “hard decisions on whether to accept a nuclear Iran or support using force to prevent it.”

On its face, that may not be very useful, but think about the logic of the fundamental underlying question.

Should the U.S. employ force to create a nuclear-free Mideast?

If the U.S. created a level playing field by enforcing a Mideast nuclear-free zone, no country would have a legitimate reason for acquiring nuclear arms. The Mideast would be free of that particular source of tension.

All regional countries would be justified in asking why the U.S. had the right to tell them what to do, but in return the U.S. could reasonably argue that it was protecting them from a very expensive fool’s errand. Nuclear weapons in South Asia, for example, have enormously undermined the security of the people of that region, where nuclear wars have almost begun several times.

Is the U.S. a “mature and responsible” country that, after managing the Cold War for all those horrifying decades, has demonstrated a sufficient maturity so that it “deserves” to hold the fate of other countries in its hands? In the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. did manage to avoid a war; its record in the last 10 years is of course a bit less stellar. Nevertheless, perhaps there is a case to be made that the Mideast would be better off with the U.S. imposing a nuclear-free zone than allowing continuation of the insane situation that exists today.

If the U.S. were to make such a choice, it would do well to make it quickly, however. Having to force one Mideast country to relinquish nuclear arms would be a lot better than having to force two of them. And today, there is only one. Bolton is looking at the wrong country.

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