Nuclear Iran?

This is a very strange op-ed. Benny Morris, an Israeli historian, essentially argues that unless the Iranian nuclear program is taken out now, the only alternatives will be 1) Israel mounting a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran, or 2) a full-scale nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran.

Deterrence will not work, Morris argues, because, unlike the Cold War, Iran is not led by rational men:

The mullahs who run Iran…are likely to use any bomb they build, both because of ideology and because of fear of Israeli nuclear pre-emption. Thus an Israeli nuclear strike to prevent the Iranians from taking the final steps toward getting the bomb is probable. The alternative is letting Tehran have its bomb. In either case, a Middle Eastern nuclear holocaust would be in the cards.

This is silly on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin. The leaders of the Soviet Union during the Cold War were NOT perceived as rational (witness Krushchev banging on the lectern at the United Nations with his shoe), yet deterrence worked. Neither the leadership of India or Pakistan were seen as particularly rational before they acquired nuclear weapons, yet deterrence has calmed the situation between those two countries substantially. Finally, the Iranians have surely not *acted* irrationally, whatever their words. They’ve funded terrorism against Israel but never attacked them directly, wary of Israel’s superior military strength. That’s the calculation of eminently rational leaders, not the mad mullahs of stereotype. Finally, the Iranians (and Israelis, for that matter) know that the use of nuclear weapons would bring down the sustained retribution of the other nuclear powers of the world.

In the 63 years since their debut, nuclear weapons have proven useful *only* for deterrence. Benny Morris should know that; in fact, Benny Morris likely does know that. So who is he aiming the op-ed at, and what message is he sending?