The World has been rightly focused on economics for much of the past two years, so much so that geopolitical issues, though raised often enough, have a tendency to be pushed back into the mists as we confront what we perceive to be the immediate threat.
Well, Walter Russell Mead has come along with a good post that reminds us that Iran, nuclear weapons and war are very real things that will most likely intrude on our singular focus.
Make no mistake about it. If Iran gets nuclear weapons on his watch, the dream of non-proliferation comes to an end and Barack Obama will go down in history as the president who lost the fight to stop nukes.
It won’t just be Iran: if Iran defies western pressure to get nukes, every self-respecting country in the Middle East will want and need nukes. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and even some of the smaller fry will have to make their moves. They won’t all get the bomb but enough of them will. This will have a disastrous impact on America’s ability to carry out one of its principle global tasks and ensure the steady and uninterrupted flow of oil to the great industrial and commercial centers of the world — but that isn’t all. The decisive failure of the nonproliferation agenda in the Middle East undermine nonproliferation everywhere, not only because the Bomb will become even more of a coveted symbol of first class international status than it already is, but because with all those proliferating states buying and selling the technology, it will be harder to stop countries from moving ahead. The global black market in nuclear tech will spread like kudzu; there will be so many sources and so many destinations that the traffic will be harder than ever to stop.
Mead makes a thorough and reasonable case for the philosophies as well as realities that would drive Obama towards the war alternative. Nevertheless, personally at least, I have a hard time looking at the President and concluding that he would opt for that solution. I guess I just see an individual of great caution, to be charitable, when I look at Obama. Events, of course, have a way of trumping natural tendencies, so how he might react to the imminent nuclear arming of Iran is always going to be guess work to some extent.
Perhaps the more immediate implication is that the acquisition of the bomb by Iran is looking more and more like an event that will not only transpire but do so in the relatively near term. Even if it occurs without America or other countries resorting to military intervention, the reality when it occurs is going to have repercussions of seismic proportions.
Leaving aside the implications that Mead lists, the mere fact that the world balance of power, and particularly the balance that exists in the Middle East right now, will radically shift is going to land like a meteor in the middle of the global economy. Oil supplies which are stretched now are going to be subject to new laws of availability or at least perceived to be so constrained, probably resulting in a spasm of reaction which will rock the developed economies.
So worry away about double dips, austerity versus stimulus and sovereign defaults. Hopefully, all of that will be old news by the time we have to deal with a nuclear Iran or measures to prevent that from happening. Rest assured, however, that what we have seen for the past few years may be fondly remembered as the good old days if things go badly because of nukes.