Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 02:25 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 02:25 | SYDNEY

Iran nuclear program: The moral dimension


Sam Roggeveen


23 March 2009 09:36

James Fallows notes the release of a major study by the Washington think tank CSIS on the possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, and what Iran might do in retaliation. I haven't read the report, but a quick scan, and Fallows' own summary, indicates it is written in a fairly typical pro/con policy terms. That's how we've discussed this issue on The Interpreter too.
In a subsequent post, however, Fallows reminds his readers that this is not purely a technocratic question relating to policy outcomes; it is also a moral question. And I agree with Fallows that, absent an immediate and overwhelming threat, an Israeli or US strike on Iran would be morally wrong. 
This is an issue I meant to discuss last week, on the sixth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, because the same moral judgment applies. There was no instant and overwhelming threat from Iraq that could have justified a truly pre-emptive war. Even based on the intelligence judgments made at the time (which we now know were deeply flawed), the threat did not meet that criteria. The Iraq war was preventive rather than pre-emptive, and to my mind that made it illegal and a grave moral crime. 

It bothers me to this day that, at the time, I allowed the 'militant optimism' of the neoconservatives to overwhelm my judgment on this question. I was conflicted about the war and, depending on what day you asked me, I could have been strongly in favour of it or not sure. But even based on what I knew then, it should not have been a close call. The war was wrong.
Not that I could have done much about it — I was just a low-ranking Australian bureaucrat. Nowadays I'm a low-ranking Australian blogger, so I can at least add my voice to that of James Fallows and others who say that a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would be wrong, and should be opposed.

Photo by Flickr user Ammar Abd Rabbo, used under a Creative Commons license.