There are excellent reasons to prefer that Iran never build a nuclear weapon. The regime might collapse at some point in the future, leaving the weapons up for grabs between contending factions. New nuclear states run a higher risk of dangerous accidents. Substantial non-proliferation efforts are an appropriate response to Iranian efforts, in no small part because sanctions and international isolation help deter other would-be proliferators. Exaggerating the consequences of a successful Iranian weapons program, however, does no one any favors.
Ackerman disagrees, basically because Farley’s op-ed assumes that the other actors (Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc) will react rationally:
I submit that Farley gives up the game here. Once you concede that hysteria over an Iranian bomb is a “well founded” concern, you’re forced to confront one of two alternatives. You can either believe that regional and international decision-makers (governments, security apparatuses, terrorist groups, dissidents, the media, etc.) will react in unpredictable ways, with geostrategic implications. If you do that, then you refute Farley. Or you can believe that regional and international decision-makers will become more rational then they already are in the face of an Iranian nuke.
I respect both of these guys’ opinions. In this case, I think Ackerman makes the stronger argument, although that may be because I read his piece second and because I don’t think particularly highly of Netanyahu and his coalition. Overall, I think a nuclear Iran would not be great, but I feel more strongly that any attempts to stop such a development could make things much, much worse and should be done by somebody else anyway, because it ain’t our “existential” threat.
Update: Interesting thoughts from Daniel Larison, too.