Just between observing the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan (August 6, 1945) and the second dropped on the city of Nagasaki (August 9, 1945), the Republican presidential candidates reiterated in unison their vehement contempt for the Iran deal to prevent it from building nuclear weapons. Instead of framing their outrage in moral terms or global disarmament terms, they merely want Iran not to have nuclear capability.
The fact that the United States is still spending billions annually to develop and build nuclear bombs wasn't even mentioned. The first presidential debate saw the seamless mixture of a commitment to increasing the military budget and confessions of faith, enlisting divine intervention in America's military might and global leadership.
The candidates' misguided outrage against President Obama shouldn't be about his weak negotiation skills with Iran, as some of them claim, but rather about his inconsistent, even hypocritical stance on nuclear weapons. While pledging in 2013 to reduce our nuclear arsenal and bring down nuclear weapon stockpiles around the world (meaning primarily Russia) he keeps authorizing billions of dollars in nuclear weapon spending, as is evident in the booming economy of Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Does this sound like a Democratic capitulation to global nuclear threats? Has this Democratic president veered even slightly from his Republican predecessor's hawkish stance? Would any American president dare challenge the military-industrial-academic complex that spends annually more than the entire world combined on its military might?
All of this reminds me of Jean Paul Sartre's play "Dirty Hands" (1948) where intrigue and treachery are exposed as the way political maneuvers are bound to unfold over time, and where a straight-forward moral judgment is difficult to come by. The context of the play was World War II and the flirting of communist regimes with fascist Nazi Germany. Today's realpolitik is cast similarly in terms of friends and foes, democratic regimes versus "Islamofascists," where the moral high-ground can be asserted in unequivocal political terms.
Does anyone seriously believe that a declaration of war against Iran will bring to an end tensions in the Middle-East? Are those who believe that the only way to handle Middle-East unrest is with another war willing to personally participate in it, and if too old, send their sons and daughters?
Amidst this debate over nuclear threats, we should acknowledge the only nation ever to have actually used a nuclear bomb has been the United States, not once, but twice, killing more than 200,000 people, primarily civilians. Was this the only way to end the Japanese threat?
The debate decades later is still not settled. But it is this nation's Republican candidates for the presidency who, without a historical perspective or any sense of guilt or shame, lecture the rest of the world on the danger of Iran's nuclear program. Whose hands are "dirty" after all?
Raphael Sassower is philosophy chair at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Prof. Sassower's latest books are Compromising the Ideals of Science (2015), The Price of Public Intellectuals (2014), and Sports and Religion in American Culture (2014, with Jeff Scholes). He grew up in Israel and moved to the United States as a young man after serving as an officer in the IDF.
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