Noah Rayman reports on Sheldon Adelson’s recent suggestion that the U.S. should launch a nuclear attack on an uninhabited part of Iran:

The biggest donor to Republican Party political groups said Tuesday that the United States should drop a nuclear bomb on Iran to spur the country to end its own nuclear program.

Now it’s not especially interesting that a hawkish fanatic supports doing something insane and immoral, but what struck me about the video of Adelson’s remarks at Yeshiva University was the applause that greeted what he said. One would expect Adelson to hold ridiculous and obnoxious views about attacking Iran, but it is far more troubling that any of the people listening to his remarks thought that the idea of launching an unprovoked nuclear first-strike and threatening further nuclear attacks was a good one worth considering. Adelson’s fellow panelists and the panel moderator don’t object to anything he says, and the follow-up question from the moderator (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach) treated the suggestion as if it were a normal proposal for demonstrating American “strength.” No one appears to have been the least bit put off by the idea of gratuitously using nuclear weapons to force Iran into compliance with U.S. demands.

The episode is instructive in a few ways. First, this is the sort of deranged statement that receives a respectful hearing on the right and among Iran hawks more generally, and it is one to which our hawkish politicians feel obliged to pander. No one would care what Adelson has to say about this or any other issue if he weren’t a substantial donor to Republican candidates and organizations, but he is. It also conveys the egregious double standard in the Iran debate on the possession and use of nuclear weapons: not only are some states not permitted to develop even the capability to build such weapons, but those states that possess nuclear weapons presume to have the right to launch illegal attacks on those that don’t. Adelson is expressing in a more appalling way the belief that the U.S. has the right to inflict destruction on Iran to “prevent” it from acquiring weapons that it is not yet actively seeking.