In considering the problem of
Despite increasingly unconvincing denials, Iran seems determined to proceed with the construction of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them far and wide in the Middle East and western Europe. In a way, its decision is understandable. Almost all of the major powers have them. So do
Only (if at all) on the basis of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which insists that nuclear weapons simply cannot be allowed to proliferate unchecked for the safety of the entire world. If further proliferation is not forbidden, nuclear weapons will soon be in the hands of medium-sized powers all over the globe, very definitely including the
The only conceivable way to prevent
We are, therefore, damned if we do, and also damned if we don’t. There seems no escape from truly awful consequences, whatever we do.
However, with luck, there may be a solution. I have no secret information on how far along the Iranians may be, in the long and highly technical process of building nuclear weapons. According to a lot of professional pessimists, whom seem to derive actual pleasure from making problems seem insoluble, it’s just a matter of months — after which it will supposedly be too late to stop the process. But in a highly persuasive article in the May issue of Commentary, Edward N. Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, argues that Iran "is still years away from producing a bomb."
There is no space here to quote Luttwak’s numerous technical arguments. But suffice it to say that, according to him, a key chemical plant could "readily be incapacitated with fewer than 12 1,000-pound bombs." Moreover, in the critical matter of the core technology involving centrifuges ("(I)t would take at least 1,000 centrifuges working around the clock for at least a year to produce enough U-235 for a single cannon-type uranium bomb"), it is by no means sure "that the Iranian nuclear organization can manufacture centrifuge cascades of sufficient magnitude, efficiency and reliability." Luttwak concludes that
If that is so, we need not choose now between launching air strikes against