The Right to Bear Nuclear Arms?


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Iran has no legal right to nuclear arms.  Iran is a party to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The NPT divides signatories into two groups of nuclear “haves” and “have-nots.”  Five “nuclear” states (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Red China) are allowed to possess nuclear weapons  This was a necessary concession to reality, as these were the states possessing nuclear weapons in 1968.  Iran falls into the NPT’s second category of signatories which are forbidden from acquiring nuclear weapons but which are allowed to develop nuclear energy solely for peaceful uses.  The International Court of Justice (the “World Court”) recognizes no universal right to nuclear arms.  To the contrary, the Court has not even been able to bring itself to endorse the use of nukes even in the extreme case of an existential threat.  In its 1996 Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, the Court could manage no more than a weak concession that in such an extremity, resort to nuclear weapons might not be unlawful.  Finally, the UN Security Council has passed four resolutions between 2006 and 2008 calling on Iran to cease enriching uranium.

The International Second Amendment may appear unassailable because its simplistic fairness:  if any state possesses nuclear weapons, all states must be allowed nuclear weapons.  But this is naive morality at best:  if Johnny gets a cookie, then Sally must get a cookie.  Reality is not so evenhanded.  In actuality, the Left only condemns nuclear weapons in the hands of the United States and Israel.  Russia, China, and Iran get a pass.  Left unanswered is the question of why nukes are objectionable in the hands of democracies but not in the hands of authoritarian states.

The answer may lie with the Left’s accusation that the United States and Israel are hypocritical to possess nuclear weapons while forbidding them to other states.  This is a morally frivolous objection for two reasons.  First, it dispenses with any assessment of the dangers states like Iran may pose.  Nor does it give any weight to the history of restraint represented by the United States and Israel.  The United States has proven a responsible steward of the atomic bomb.  We have used nuclear weapons only twice—sixty-four years ago—and that was in a war which began with an attack on the United States.  Israel, which has possessed nuclear weapons since the 1960s (an open secret), has never used them.  During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel’s very existence was on the line from the invading armies of Egypt and Syria.  Israel did not use nukes even then.

We can agree that hypocrisy is a bad thing.  However, advocates of the International Second Amendment think there is nothing worse.  By all means, let Iran incinerate Tel Aviv; at least we will not have hypocritically infringed Iran’s right to nuclear weapons.  During the Cold War it was often said, “Better dead than Red.”  Today that’s become “Better dead than hypocritical.”

But where is the hypocrisy? Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is not hypocritical since Israel has not signed the NPT:  Israel has not promised not to develop nuclear weapons. Any hypocrisy lies with Iran which has signed the NPT and thus has pledged itself to nuclear development only for peaceful uses.

There is no universal right for all states to possess nuclear weapons.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, no one argued that Cuba was entitled to nuclear arms. Instead, the United States, with the approval of the world, moved to interdict them.  What all states do possess, however, is the right to self-defense.  Since the prime target of Iranian nuclear weapons would be Israel, Iran’s putative “right” to possess nuclear arms gives way to Israel’s right to self-defense.  Israel has every reason to feel nervous.  Iranian President Ahmadinejad has declared that Israel “should be wiped off the map.”  Iran’s apologists have protested that this statement was mistranslated.  Irrespective of this statement, anxieties reasonably remain.  In 2006, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sponsored an international conference of Holocaust deniers in Tehran.  Iran continues to back the terrorist group Hezbollah, whose charter names the destruction of Israel as a goal.  Finally, the Iranian leadership adheres to an apocalyptic form of Islam which looks for the return to Earth of a legendary figure:  the Twelfth, or “hidden,” Imam.  Believers hold that the destruction of Israel is necessary for the Twelfth Imam’s return.  Even if it were true that Ahmadinejad’s provocative statement was “mischaracterized,” Israel’s fears would be far from allayed.  Iran refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and will not exchange ambassadors.  Iran also supports Hamas and Hezbollah.  It is no wonder that the West reads the worst in Iranian intentions.

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  • Farid Aghabi

    Are you for real? "Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is not hypocritical since Israel has not signed the NPT". What kind of argument is that? Intellectually bankrupt thats what.

    You also say that no country has the right to have nuclear weapons "if they intend to use them for aggression". First of all, who is to decide what each country's intentions are going to be in the future? The "international community" I suppose( i.e. the pro Israel lobby in the U.S.A)

    Fo your information, the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons aggressively is your very own, the good old U.S.A. In fact the nuclear attack on Japan was a nothing more than a shameless war crime (the deliberate targeting of a civillian population). Guess who was hanged hanged for war crimes? The Japanese leadership. So please spare us the talk about hypocrisy.

    I am not defending Iran. I don't think any country should have nuclear weapons. The only possible use of nuclear weapons is to commit war crimes. But when countries with nuclear weapons go around threatening countries that do not possess them, it is only natural that these threatened countries would feel the need to develop nuclear weapons of their own.

    The U.S.A, goaded by its master Israel, has created this mess by calling for Iran regime change and invading countries such as Iraq and threatening others such as Syria. Now it has to deal with the mess it has created.

    • USMCSniper

      Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said that the United States has no choice but to engage Iran in negotiations. Would further diplomatic negotiations encourage Iran to mitigate its ideology when in the past they have not? No, they would only intensify its hostility. Negotiations only buy Iran time. Above all, diplomacy grants Iran a moral legitimacy as a civilized regime: its hostile goals are death to America and the murder of Americans by Iranian proxy terrorists is a matter of record. Such appeasement confirms the perverse beliefs that Allah’s Jihadists hold, that materially weaker but morally self-righteous religious fanatics, can succeed in bringing down the mighty infidel West. We must learn the life-or-death importance of passing objective moral judgment. We must recognize the character of Iran and act accordingly. By any rational standard, Iran should be condemned and its nuclear ambition thwarted, now by massive military force.

    • Peter Lancz

      You are obviously a Jew-hating , antiIsrael, antiamerican, , pro-tyrannical, pro-barbarism, Islamic supremacist -so your response is a perfect reflection of who you are and what you stand for..Islamic Jihad

    • trickyblain

      Dropping the bombs saved Japan a great deal of suffering in the long run. Japan is now a stable Democracy with a top five economy. This is a good thing, no? Whould this have happened had the war pressed on for a few more months? Not likely.

      The USSR declared war on Japan two days after the Hiroshima bomb. They began a subsequent invasion of Japanese-held Manchuria. If the US were to initiate an invasion of the main island, the Russians would hve done the same at the other end. The result? An iron curtain in Japan. If you had your choice between East and West Germany in the late 40's, 50's, 60's 70's and 80's, which would you pick? West = prosperity, ingenuity, good quality of life. East = exact opposite. Japan could've very well faced the same fate. But the entire island propered. All because of a prudent surrender following a nuclear attack.

  • MullahAssassin

    You claim that you believe no country should have nuclear weapons. There are only 2 ways to make that happen: You either reduce current arsenals, or you prevent new ones from arising. Steps are being taken to reduce current arsenals by mature world powers (Russia, US) but the prospect of new one arising in the hands of islamic regimes (immature powers) doesn't seem to bother you as much.

    I think Muslims are the last people on earth you would want possessing nuclear weapons. I think Iran must be stopped to set a good example for other nuclear "aspirants".

  • Patrick

    Yes we are the only country on earth to use nuclear weapons on another country. A country led by a fanatical group of militants who would have preferred to see their entire population dead than surrender. Hmmn there is something vaguely familiar about that scenario.

    The truth is that nuclear weapons will likely be used sometime in my lifetime. But the cold war-mutual assured destruction, that I grew up with, probably won't happen. Eventually someone will realize that the limited nuclear exchange is a viable strategy for them, when that happens the world will lose a few more cities, a few million people, but the world itself and the billions of people on it will keep rolling on. I am confident that one way or another Iran is well down the path to resolving it's issues. :)

    • Farid Aghabi

      Guess you don't believe in the Geneva convention. Deliberately targeting civilian population is a war crime. These are the rules of war that the U.S.A. is committed to uphold. The U.S.A. has certainly committed war crimes during World War II. But I guess people can always come up with reasons for not applying the rules. Example the enemy was "led by a fanatical group of militants", or the enemy is an "illegal combatant".

      • Patrick

        LOL now that's funny! :) Did you just realize that now? But what do war crimes have to do with nuclear weapons. The firebombing of Tokyo by US forces killed tens of thousands more Japanese than did the atomic bomb. In total war there are no rules. It's not unique to the United States. The Brits did it to the Germans as did the Russians. The Turks did it to the Armenians as well. See we are all one when it comes to killing each other. It's good to have shared values, don't you think?

  • Dave

    Israel is disgusting.. and as a U.S citizen I do not support them only thru my hard earned tax money that I am forced to… Our government lost its way when we supported and condoned, all the cold blooded murder, thievery, kidnapping, piracy, their nuclear weapon arsenol. They are war criminals themselves and am ashamed that our government supports judeo-nazi's.. go to youtube and watch "if America knew what Israel was doing". and see the truth.

    • Patrick

      Dave,
      I don't want to hurt your feelings, it's good to see young people express themselves. You should know however that the nation that you live in has done far worse during it's existance than anything Isreal has ever done. You should look up the "Trail of Tears", "Slavery in the American South" and "Japanese American Internment: Manzanar" all occurred before the state of Isreal even existed. The US isn't a puppet state of Isreal. We can do our torture, oppression, and enslavement all by ourselves, heck we have a long and proud history of it. The skeletons in Isreal's closet are no different than those in most other countries. Compare Isreal to the Cambodian's for example, Pol Pot anyone? :)

    • Peter Lancz

      You are the only one who has lost his way..your antisemtic creed is in perfect sync with 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion" – Jew hating to the core-As Mark Twain said,' Jew-hatred is nothing other than the' Envy of Pygmie minds.'

  • thedirkster

    If there is a God given "International Second Amendment right (Nuclear Version) to bear arms, then the same rules should apply to the international version of this right as our national Second Amendment Rights. We don't sell guns to documented criminals or crazies. The international files are full of documentation that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s is not only a criminal but also completely insane. We don't give guns to criminals and crazies and we should not be giving Nuclear bombs to Iran, the mother of all criminals and Crazies. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon then we should treat them just like we would any crazy or criminal with a loaded gun pointed in our direction.

  • Guest-west coast

    None of the above commentators seems to be well informed. Geneva convention was convened due to atrocities of WWII. On another note-there must be something-to living in the desert that does not prevent being affected by the extremes of heat/sand and vast emptiness that seemingly tends to create the need to promote one's religious beliefs over another. But I guess it happens here in the US as well, but we do not have the same territorial /survival issues. Just saying.
    America was initially based upon Greco/Roman and Judeo/Christian beliefs. War and Peace (ie tolerance!)! But look at the great numbers of wars fought for those beliefs. History keeps repeating itself. The USA has world dominance in the last Century-due to the success of capitalism-entreprenurial thinking. The fall of Saddam accentuated the instability in the Middle East-did not stabilize it and as soon as US leaves Iraq, Iran will probably move against it. Not our war? This becomes Israel's Defense moment. The need for US military presence will not end due to these factors. If Iran uses nuclear weapons, the US or Russia could take out the entire country in short order-it would be a death wish on Iran's part if they did start an offense against Israel. US needs Afganistan/Pakistan, India and China to be pro-US, as anything less will result in a major meltdown. A united Russia and US is the main reason that nuclear disarmament exists. No other countries can ever match our existing arsenals. Nuclear power can be used peacefully-and for energy-but better if alternative energy sources can be used/invented, due to the waste and inherent dangers of nuclear weaponry. There will always be rouge nations, but as long as US/Russia are united in the end of nuclear proliferation, then diplomacy is the only real/lasting deterrent to global war.

  • Guest-west coast

    The Philosophy's of John Locke, an English liberal, was also a major influence of our Forefathers of the US Constitution.

  • richard

    a poster's assertion that 'no country should possess nukes', is frightening.
    our next military confrontation would involve boots on our own shores; (invasion).
    the principle players having nukes as a deterrent is what has kept the peace all these years.

    should iran have them? of course not. he has stated his intentions. anyone who thinks otherwise is mad,or an idiot. this is not a football game. we don't have to be fair. common sense should rule the day. this guy is a maniac, and would use nukes in a dangerous way.

  • Jack

    Another anti-Iran, demonization article full of lies and half truths.

    In the "73 war Israel armed its nukes and loaded them onto planes. It told the USA, provide us military aid, or we're using these bombs. The US, of course, complied.

    The neocons lied us into the unnecessary war with Iraq, which has served to practically bankrupt the country, and now they want to lie us into war with Iran, once again to benefit Jewish settler expansionism. They hate diplomacy and want ultra-crippling war-provoking sanctions. Our congressmen are nothing but Israel Lobby whores. This is of course what the warmongering Israel Lobby neocons yearn for. The blood is gushing from their fangs.

    • MixMChess

      "In the "73 war Israel armed its nukes and loaded them onto planes. It told the USA, provide us military aid, or we're using these bombs. The US, of course, complied."

      Did you just make this up out of thin air? No such thing ever occurred. The U.S. may have been Israel's main arms supplier by the mid-60's but Israel never used duress to procure arms. Don't forget providing arms to Israel was both economically and strategically beneficial to the US. Israel did not receive any grant military assistance from the US until after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

      "The neocons lied us into the unnecessary war with Iraq, which has served to practically bankrupt the country, and now they want to lie us into war with Iran, once again to benefit Jewish settler expansionism."

      All of Israel's political and military leaders including Ariel Sharon (a supposed right-winger) advised AGAINST the US invasion of Iraq, fearing it would create more instability in the region. Since the invasion, Israel has been left in a much worse neighborhood with stronger Iranian hegemony and greater zeal among terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Fatah.

      "They hate diplomacy and want ultra-crippling war-provoking sanctions. "

      Who walked away from Camp David in 2000? Oh, that's right it was the PALESTINIANS! NOT the Israelis. Get a clue moron.

      "Our congressmen are nothing but Israel Lobby whores."

      And there is also a secret Israel lobby that is stealing switching your coffee to decaf. Bwahahaha!

      "This is of course what the warmongering Israel Lobby neocons yearn for. The blood is gushing from their fangs."

      Nice use of a Blood libel from a Pali-Nazi. Funny enough, Hamas has publicly declared that they want to drink the blood of every last Jew on earth. Gee, I wonder who the real "vampires" are of the middle east?

  • Iranian Dissident

    Islamic Republic of Iran: Give them stones, they stone women, give them ropes they hang dissidents, give them guns they shoot demonstrators, GIVE THEM NUKES………

  • Liberal Amendment

    Liberal Second Amendment:

    The Right to Arm Bears !

  • vakil1974

    One correction is this article that everyone should know – I have heard also in press reports about how Obama and world leaders "outed" the Iranians about the "secret facility" in Qom, that is not the truth. The Iranian Government sent a letter to the IAEA a few days before the summit stating their intention to build the site. The US government and it allies twisted the media reports saying "we knew about it all along" and we did not want to let the Iranians know we knew – yeah right, if they had a smoking gun they would have been calling press reports in seconds.

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