Why Rand Paul Should Learn to Stop Supporting Iran Sanctions And Give Them The Bomb: Part 1


This is a two-part series examining what US policy toward Iran should look like. Please note that these ideas are not entirely my own; I have taken great influence from international relations giants like John MearsheimerStephen Walt, and Kenneth Waltz

Rand Paul has been vocally supportive of economic sanctions against Iran. Last week, he stated, “I have voted for Iranian sanctions in the hope of preventing war and allowing for diplomacy.” Unfortunately, what Paul is missing is that it is in US interest for Iran to have the bomb.

Before exploring why, let’s examine the three alternative options that the US is currently pursuing:

We, the Western community, sanction them to hell.

If you look at a history of states looking to acquire nuclear weapons, sanctions have not ever deterred them. If nothing else, sanctions will make Iran feel more threatened and thus more hostile. It will also increase the poverty level within Iran. Statistically, poor, desperate people make pretty awesome terrorist recruits. Nobody wants that.

We allow Iran to build nuclear facilities but not an actual nuke.

Unfortunately, the nuclear weapons that Iran is interested in can be made very, very quickly, so if avoiding a physical bomb will satiate the US and Western Europe, Israel will still feel threatened by the inevitability of a bomb being made. This will lead to escalation of tension in the Middle East vis-à-vis Stuxnet’s progeny and perhaps even physical violence. Nobody wants that either.

We bomb Iran because we can.

Hell, why don’t we just nuke them? If you look at the physical outlay of Iran and where they have their centrifuges, our best bet is to just nuke the whole country (seriously, it’ll cost a lot less and we’ll be out of there much faster). Here’s why: if you took all of Iran’s enriched uranium—all of it—you could fit it into a 3’x3′ box no bigger than a yard by a yard. That is so easy to hide (and the United States doesn’t exactly have a strong history of finding small things, like a specific terrorist, quickly).

Not only that, but most of Iranian facilities are underground. That means that aerial strikes could take out a facility for an estimated maximum of three weeks because these centers are so easy to rebuild. Intervening in Iran without nukes would take a full ground force. Think about the cost of the War on Terror and then think about how long we would have to be in Iran until they give up their nuclear program due to a war of attrition. No, thank you.

Currently, the policy choices that have been pursued don’t look so great. I would like to present a fourth option: rebuild relations with Iran and allow them to have the bomb. 

One major reason that Americans are so fearful of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is because we have this misperception that Iranian leadership is irrational. This is based on a misunderstanding of how states work in the international system; while we might not understand their domestic politics (gays don’t exist there… right?), their foreign policy is likely very predictable. They have shown no sign of self-destruction, so it would be a real error for policymakers to assume otherwise (I’m looking at you, Rand Paul and neo-conservatives).

Given that Iran wants to continue existing as a country, policymakers can safely assume that Iran plans to use this weaponry for defensive purposes given nuclear second-strike capabilities; if Iran uses their nukes, the United States and Israel will flatten them. Iranian leadership undoubtedly knows this. So what motivates Iran for developing its nuclear programs, especially given its high costs? They want second-strike capabilities too. They want to deter any kind of hostile invasion with the threat of nuclear war. It’s for defense.

Continued here.

  • Kevin Bjornson

    Surely you jest. Iran has already exhibited irrational impulses, their economy is suffering from the sanctions yet they continue with their nuclear bomb program.
    Their religious ideology tells them to welcome chaos, as this will bring back their “hidden immam”.

    I notice that you are in graduate school. You may have gone to college as a libertarian, but you appear to have “gone native” and accepted academia’s worldview.

    • Can you be more specific with their “irrational impulses” in foreign policy? And look to history: economic sanctions have NEVER deterred a regime that has already begun constructing nuclear armaments. When it comes to the viability of the economy versus the viability of the state’s defenses, the latter will always win out.

      I actually started college as a democrat, thank you very much, and converted to libertarianism after exposure to free market economics and philosophy. That does not always make me the most popular student, so to speak. Many academics are conflicted about what to do with Iran. In fact, one of the most prominent scholars, Michael Kroenig, recently offered that we should bomb them now (link at the end of the comment). There is no “academic” or “liberal” consensus on what to do about this country. If academia teaches me nothing else, it’s to think outside the box. If you look at the follow-up article, I ask libertarians to think outside of the “hate Iran” paradigm. If that’s what furthering my education does for me, then so be it.


      • Kevin Bjornson

        I had thought Iran regime’s “irrational impulses” are there out in the open, dirty laundry for the world to see. But those with eyes who choose not to see, do not see.

        Let us start with their vast subsidies to terrorism by their provision of military assistance to proxies who target Israeli civilians. Then we could go on to note their provision of advanced IEDs to US troops (before US withdrawal, which allowed an Iran domination of Iraq). Not to mention the US Marine barracks in Lebanon, the attempted assassination on US soil, the apartment complex in Saudi Arabia, etc. Do you seriously doubt these facts, or must I document the obvious?

        All of these actions have cost them money. Now the sanctions have seriously hurt their economy. So clearly, they are willing to suffer losses for no tangible gain. That is irrational.

        I don’t propose economic embargoes such as the current sanctions.
        I never said that, so you are responding to an image that exists in your head but not in my writings. I, too, think “outside the box”. I would fund the US gov’t, including military, entirely from user fees, fines, and war booty; not taxation.

        Strictly economic sanctions generally don’t work. Though a few cruise missiles could easily disable Iran’s oil export facilities, preventing them from gaining money through nationalized oil infrastructure. Which is the goal of the sanctions. This would quickly collapse the Iran regime, which is hell-bent on imposing their religious/political views on others.

        Libertarian economics says absolutely nothing about foreign policy,
        or how specifically funds will be used. Such theories inevitably collide with the factual world. We must consider what is wise, not just permitted, under the non-aggression principle. All that libertarian economics says (relevant to foreign policy), is that taxation and nationalization are counterproductive. Beyond economics, the philosophy of liberty is based on non-aggression, and taxes are aggression. I am continually amazed at professors of Austrian economics who seem to feel they have some kind of special insight into war, from criticizing the north’s war that ended slavery to virtually everything the US has done militarily.

        Although there are a few exceptions, academicians are overwhelmingly Democrat and left-leaning; virtually none are hawks (though thank you for the article link, I think he is not entirely clueless, but I prefer the other article, which calls for regime change in Iran).

  • I generally favor voluntary disarmament, but, short of that, it seems to me that whoever wants to develop nuclear programs should be able to do so. It seems bordering on insanity that only a few countries in the world get nukes, and those countries are the ones who get to decide that no one else can have them. :-/

    We tend to assume that states are static, that the United States will be the sole “civilized” country from now until doomsday. However, nuclear weapons tend to stay around a lot longer than stable regimes do.