Matthew Duss on Iran and the Martyr State Myth

In “The martyr state myth” Matthew Duss of the Center for American Progress deconstructs alarmist and unsubstantiated arguments about the Iranian government’s alleged suicidal tendencies:

In the Republican presidential primary debate in Ames, Iowa two weeks ago, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) caused a bit of an uproar with his suggestion that an Iranian nuclear weapon would not mean the end of the world. “Why would that be so strange,” Paul asked, “if the Soviets and the Chinese had nuclear weapons? We tolerated the Soviets. We didn’t attack them. And they were a much greater danger. They were the greatest danger to us in our whole history. But you [didn’t] go to war with them.”

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) quickly declared Paul’s remarks to be evidence that Paul was “not the kind of guy you need to have sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” West insisted that the sort of deterrence that obtained between the U.S. and the USSR during the Cold War was “out the window with Iran. If they get a [nuclear] device, they’ve already told us what their intentions are.”

Hailing West’s comments, conservative Hot Air blogger Ed Morrissey helpfully explained that deterrence wouldn’t work against Iran, because “The mullahs’ strategic goals are metaphysical; they want their Messiah to arrive and establish a global Islamic rule. According to their view of Islam, that will come at the end of a great conflagration, and there isn’t a much better way to start one of those than by lobbing nukes at Israel, the US, or both.”

It’s tempting to dismiss this as simply the raving of Congress’s leading anti-Muslim hysteric, accompanied by the usual noise from the right-wing blogosphere. But similar assertions about Iran’s supposedly suicidal tendencies have been made by other conservative leaders. Indeed, the belief that Iran is some sort of “martyr state,” and therefore uniquely immune to the cost-benefit calculations that underpin a conventional theory of deterrence, seems to have become something of an article of faith for many Iran hawks.

Read his entire article here.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.


One Comment

  1. FACT: during the Iran-Iraq war, when Iran was at the receiving end of US-backed chemical weapons warfare by Saddam, the very same “mullahs” refused to respond in kind by manufacturing and launching their own chemical weapons against Iraq. This, even though Iran was legally entitled to respond in kind, under then-existing international law. How would the US have reacted under similar circumstances? Who are the real nut jobs?

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