Most damaging legacy of Iraq war
October 11 2010
From Mr Peter van Walsum
Sir, A few weeks ago, Philip Stephens recounted how he was struck by the similarities in the analyses put forward by Henry Kissinger and James Steinberg, the current deputy secretary of state, at the annual strategic review conference hosted by the IISS think-tank (“National interests collide in the new world disorder”, Comment, September 16). Both saw in nuclear proliferation “the really dangerous game-changer”.
In the FT of September 30 (“Obama faces pressure over Iran policy”) we read that Howard Berman, chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, recently said that military action was preferable to accepting an Iran with nuclear weapons capability.
It has consistently been the line of the US government that in the effort to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons, military action remains an option on the table. Without that, there would be no hope of convincing Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons development programme by economic and diplomatic means.
But if there are indeed striking similarities between the views of Mr Steinberg and those of Mr Kissinger, and if Mr Berman has seen the need to highlight the option of military action, this suggests a trend that should be taken seriously.
This goes especially for Europe, where since the 2003 war in Iraq – a war waged to eliminate weapons of mass destruction that did not exist – there is a tendency to be relaxed about nuclear proliferation and to assume that although many countries crave the prestige that comes with the possession of nuclear weapons, none would be suicidal enough to actually use them.
This is by far the most damaging legacy of the Iraq war. It is naive to think that the mutual deterrence that worked between the US and the Soviet Union would also be effective among, say, a dozen much smaller nuclear weapon states.
Peter van Walsum
The Hague, Netherlands
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