There are quite a few interesting questions attached to the possible acquisition by Iran of nuclear weapons. I find them so anyway. How far along, whether technically or in terms of the time remaining to have functional weapons and a delivery capability, is the Iranian regime? What should be done, if anything, once its acquisition of nukes becomes imminent, if it does? Should Israel be contemplating a strike against Iran, to set back its nuclear programme, or not? Should the US? What would be the consequences of such a strike by either country? These questions are not only interesting, they are also worrying. And there are doubtless others of as much interest that I haven't mentioned.
One angle on this issue, however, which merely makes me chuckle is the one I'll call, adapting the title of a famous article by John Rawls, 'Nuclear proliferation as fairness'. It's the concern of those who find it morally troubling that anyone should worry about Iran's acquisition of nukes when Israel - don't you know? - already has them. For the latest round of this lament, you can look at a recent tweet by Katrina vandenHeuvel, John Cassidy's concern about 'the charge of double standards', and Mehdi Hasan's reference to the latter in saying on his own behalf that 'no Israeli official or spokesman should be allowed to come on the BBC or ITV or Sky News and fear-monger about Iran's nuclear programme unless he is first questioned about Israel's own nuclear weapons programme'. Chuckle, and chuckle again.
John Rentoul has already said some of the necessary in replying on this score (though don't expect Hasan to be moved, construing the threat of the eradication of Israel as relatively benign since it would only be via the one-state solution - which, unless the Israeli Jews agree to it, means via withdrawing from them the right to national self-determination, and no big deal, eh?)
But I would like to develop John's response to the Israel-has-nukes view slightly differently. Those who worry, including those national governments which worry, about Iran's possible acquisition of nukes may not be wholly swayed by a nuke-possession-as-fairness perspective. They may think it more worrying for some countries to have nukes than for others to have them. Consider - if one more country is to get nuclear weapons, which do you prefer: New Zealand or Assad's Syria? Tough one. Fairness to Iran in light of Israel's nuclear armoury isn't uppermost in the minds of those who fear the prospects of a theocratic tyranny with such weapons. They just worry in a non-comparative way about what might happen. My advice to those who are upset by this is to get over it and join the real world. Possession of nuclear weapons is not a sphere of justice and isn't likely to become one any time soon.
In a tweet yesterday Peter Beinart asked, 'for war supporters: why is Iran/Hitler analogy better than analogy w/ Stalin getting nuke in 1949 or Mao getting it in 1964?' One could turn that around. Why isn't it a better analogy? And what a choice anyway. In any event, it is not only war supporters who think the world a better and less dangerous place if Iran as presently ruled remains without nukes; whatever might be the desiderata of impartiality and fairness.