The editors at the Wall Street Journal say the answer to this question is yes.
First they point to the evidence that the Iranians are, contrary to their protestations, in fact intent on building a bomb:
In 2005, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate predicted that Iran would be unable to produce sufficient quantities of weapons-grade uranium until "early to mid-next decade." Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was operating 1,312 centrifuges -- up from 164 just last year -- and could be operating as many as 3,000 within a month. That's enough to produce one bomb's worth of uranium every year. So much for another CIA "slam dunk."They even come up with a list of concrete suggestions on how to thwart such Iranian ambitions:
We've noted that Iran imports nearly half of its refined gasoline, much of it via the United Arab Emirates. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Nicolas Sarkozy could demonstrate their Atlanticist credentials by putting a halt to their combined $8 billion in export guarantees to companies doing business with Iran. Targeted financial penalties against key regime figures (such as the plutocrat Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani) should also be considered, along with financial support for labor unions and dissident groups. The three U.S. aircraft carriers that recently shipped through the Straits of Hormuz in broad daylight are also a reminder to Tehran of our ability to use force against the nuclear threat if all else fails.But as the editors duly note:
All these steps entail risk. But none compare to the risk of a nuclear Iran, reinforced in its power to promote instability in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon with no fear of American reprisals. If you don't like the look of the Middle East today, wait until the region's most fanatical regime gets its hands on the world's worst weapon.The editors' position made me recall a conversation I had with a British couple in India recently. Somehow they introduced the topic of American power.
They said they were so sick of American dominance in the world that as far as they were concerned, if what it took to get out from under American hegemony was a nuclear-armed Tehran, well, they were fine with that.
"You see we're just so sick of America," the wife summed up their position and then shot a warm glance at my Indian mother-in-law hoping she'd find agreement in her corner.
My mother-in-law, who had no idea what this woman was saying, simply smiled back.
Of course the British couple couldn't have known that my mother-in-law has a mortal fear of Islamic totalitarianism. This stems from the fact that she grew up in purdah in Pakistan and was only freed after she had to literally flee for her life when India was partitioned in 1947. All non-Muslims were expected to leave the new Muslim state of Pakistan, no matter that this meant leaving their ancestral homeland too.
In purdah, for those of you who might not know what I'm talking about here, the female half of the population is essentially confined to the house. Back in my mother-in-law's day in Pakistan, girls and women had virtually no educational opportunities or career prospects. The only thing a young girl could look forward to in life was an arranged marriage and a house full of kids. A female couldn't even leave the house if her head was uncovered and she wasn't accompanied by a male guardian.
So when all non-Muslims were expected to leave the new Muslim state of Pakistan, my mother-in-law, who was 20 at the time, left this lifestyle behind. She was given five minutes in which to pack all of her life's belongings and she traveled alone with her infant son. Her husband, a government employee, had to stay behind.
When the train she was traveling on pulled into the station in India, instead of finding their family members among the refugees, they found that almost all of the passengers had been slaughtered. Many of the women and girls had been raped before they were killed, and their breasts sliced off - and then tossed into burlap sacks just to add to the horror effect.
My mother-in-law still shudders as she recalls seeing children being torn apart limb by limb.
For some unknown reason, she and her infant son survived this journey. Though she lost her ability to speak for a few months, so traumatized was she by this experience, she still recalls being happy to be in India.
She knew her sister-in-law never even got to make the journey. This young woman, her husband, and their kids had their throats slit before they could leave Pakistan.
And my mother-in-law still recalls the joy she felt when, for the first time in her life, she saw women walking alone and bareheaded. She says she immediately felt free.
So, some 60 years later, she was hardly the person who would have agreed with this British couple. For her the idea that exchanging freedom for Islamic totalitarianism could ever be considered a fair bargain was simply a preposterous notion.
Nevertheless the British couple were utterly confident that they had read her smile correctly.
"You see," the wife said, unable to contain a sneer in my direction. "Everyone wants an end to American superpower, even if that means having the Iranians take over."
"Well you might just want to do a little more research on this," was all I could think to say at the moment.