Suppose that you and your neighbor were not on friendly terms. One day you saw a large cannon in his front yard, pointed in your direction. Hmm. Concerned, you sought to obtain a similar weapon for yourself, and were not surprised to learn that your neighbor objected to such a move on your part.
You were astonished, however, to learn that people hundreds — even thousands — of miles away also objected. Your acquisition of such a weapon, they claimed, was a provocation. Several of them stopped doing business with you, even though you had not as yet acquired any weaponry, and they urged others to take the same action. You have difficulty understanding how it can be a provocation for you to arm yourself, but not a provocation for others, via sanctions of some sort, to slowly starve you to death.
Today this situation prevails in the Middle East, with Iran being the nation suspected, but certainly not proved, of developing nuclear weapons. Horrors!
There are nine governments with nuclear weapons: U.S., Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel. Russia has the most, with 5830, followed by the U.S. with 4075. Israel has 100—200, according to estimates. Israel isn’t particularly forthcoming about its nuclear arsenal, or whether or not it is actively developing nuclear weapons. It is Israel, of course, that expresses the greatest concern about Iran’s possible development of nuclear devices.
Well, that’s understandable. Iran and Israel are hardly on good terms. Mutual suspicion is to be expected. We could easily sympathize with Israel’s accumulation of a nuclear arsenal as a response to one possessed by the Iranians. But it’s the other way around. It’s the Israelis who have a nuclear arsenal, but few are sympathetic with the Iranians desire to have one, too.
Actually, no one can say with certainty that the Iranians are making weapons. In the fall of last year, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported seeing "no evidence" of Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. "But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No," said ElBaradei. He said he would welcome seeing any actual evidence of nuclear weapons development in Iran.
Nonetheless, a prominent Israeli lawmaker, Tzahi Hanegbi, who chairs the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Israeli Parliament, decried the fact that the world (!!) wasn’t doing enough by way of sanctions against the possible weapons development by Iran. He suggested that all Iranian planes, ships, and sports teams be forbidden to enter Western countries.
Both Obama and Clinton have declared that, if Iran persists in developing nuclear weapons (despite the lack of clear evidence that they are doing so) they would not rule out the use of force against that government. McCain has not been so direct, but has stated that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. If that is his belief, what would he do, as president, if Iran actually developed such weapons?
So the question arises: why is it quite proper and fitting for one nation to have nuclear weapons, while at the same time it is provocative, aggressive, and "de-stabilizing" for a neighboring nation to have them — or even possibly have them?
Of course, no one wants to see Israelis killed in a nuclear attack. Nor, I would hope, does anyone want to see Iranians suffer that same fate. But if Israel can have nuclear weapons to defend itself, by what logic is that same defense denied to its neighbors? If Iran’s development of atomic weapons is "de-stabilizing," then why not urge Israel to do away with its own nuclear arsenal? Then both countries could be subject to inspections to maintain their nuclear innocence.
And finally, why should other nations intrude themselves into Middle Eastern affairs? The usual answer, I believe, is: oil. But it’s Iran (and Iraq) that have the oil. Well, then, Western governments want to protect Israel, presumably for humanitarian reasons. Fine and good. But why not protect Iran as well? Aren’t Iranians as human as Israelis? My gosh, we wouldn’t discriminate, would we? And Iran’s got the oil, remember?
It’s enough to make you wonder if the world is ruled by a relative handful of people with an agenda of their own — which transcends national boundaries. In that world, you and I have no influence at all, even if we like to go to the polls and pretend otherwise.