Lurking in the background of the news these days is the story about Iran and the possibility that it has, or might be ready to build, nuclear weapons. There are stories of underground labs and hardened bunkers buried deep in mountains. Then the questions fly: Will Israel strike from the air? Can, or would, the United States stop Israel?
The campaign trail has exhibited some especially heated rhetoric on this subject, with virtually all the Republican candidates (except Ron Paul) implicitly threatening military action to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. They advocate what sounds like "pre-emptive strikes."
If any of these highly religious candidates -- two of them Catholic (Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich) -- have ever read the just war theory, it's not apparent.
Yet a new report financed by the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP) says that "Iran is unlikely to decide to dash toward making nuclear weapons as long as its uranium enrichment capability remains as limited as it is today."
The report went on to say that Iran had not made a decision to build a nuclear bomb. For the record, the USIP is an independent, nonpartisan center created by the U.S. Congress in 1984 that receives federal government funding. It is considered a respected source on the issue of Iran.
Sometimes, when I read the usual news stories, I think I am transported back to those months before the U.S. attacked Iraq. The warnings were similar: Saddam Hussein might have nuclear weapons, or he had them. In any case, he was a danger and a dictator, and if we don't do something, a "mushroom cloud" might be in our future. It was fear-mongering, pure and simple -- and it was false.
Those warnings around Iraq, led by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, tried to justify war based on a possible threat, not an attack -- or even threat of attack -- against the United States. There are lots of dangerous nations in the world and lots of dictators and even would-be nuclear powers. If we attacked them all, we'd do nothing but fight wars.
But some politicians apparently see an electoral advantage in fear-mongering -- especially when it's a predominantly Muslim nation -- and so they continue to raise the "threat of Iran."
But this Iranian dance is just like the one in Iraq -- pure lunacy.