Delaney: Ethics Lessons

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Commentator Dennis Delaney tells why he disagrees with a recent
scholarly view that a nuclear armed Iran provides stability.

Every so often a moment comes along – a seminal moment – when a seed is
planted, thrives and influences our purposes and actions for a long
while, occasionally even a lifetime.

Here are some examples:

I was a teenager, probably on the self-absorbed side,  I wanted a
summer job.  I needed spending money and I had to earn it. My dad had a
friend, a truck farmer, who offered me a job in his fields. I took it
and it was sweat-dripping hard work. But I also had my oar in the water
for another job, one that paid better and went a little easier in terms
of sweat equity. It was mowing lawns in a cemetery – and when I was
offered that job, I jumped at it.

So, one day I simply went to
the other job and didn’t show up at the farm. When my dad heard about
this, he had just a few calm but unforgettable words for me. "Always say
thank you."

Several years later another event taught me a much more searing ethical lesson, one still as jarring to me now as it was then.

had just earned my doctorate. I had landed a job in a Muslim university
in Nigeria, a very troubled country then as now. One day, while
chatting with a young student, we happened on to the subject of atomic
bombs and who needs them. This was back before we started calling them
nuclear bombs.

I can’t remember the student’s name but he was
bright, smiling and had a cocky tilt of his head. I liked him and said
something to him like: "Nigeria certainly doesn’t need atomic bombs."

smile disappeared from his face and he stared at me seriously. "Oh
yes," he countered. "We must have them to defeat our enemies." And this
was in spite of the fact that the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were
still fresh in both our minds.

Fast forward to several weeks
ago and an interview on the PBS News Hour with a Professor Waltz from
Columbia University, simultaneous with his essay in the important
bi-monthly publication Foreign Affairs. The professor calmly laid out
his logic on why Iran should have nuclear weapons. He said that an Iran
with a nuclear capability would offer "the best possible results to
restore stability to the Middle East."

And that stopped me cold.
While my student friend in Nigeria was sane, I’m not so sure about
Iran’s president, who has called for the annihilation of Israel – and
the U.S. too. And I’d have the same reservations about many other
tyrants around the world.

Whether it’s the cleverest
professorial syllogism or a multi-syllabic intellectual argument, I
simply don’t see how we can justify the spread of nuclear weapons.
Stability in the Middle East is an important and crucial goal, but it
must be achieved by less drastic means. We created nuclear fire 67 years
ago. Our task now is not to spread the risk, but to contain it.

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