Sheldon’s glib comments about nuking rattlesnakes seemed to rattle many of the bloggers who were at our event even more than Ahmadinejad’s threats.
Set aside for the moment that launching a nuclear weapon at another country, even at an “empty” part of its territory, is insane and would still have very harmful effects on the country. The description of Adelson’s comments offered here is incomplete. Boteach omits the second part of Adelson’s idea, which was to follow up the first attack by threatening Tehran with annihilation. That is quite an omission. Was Adelson being “serious” when he said this? I doubt that anyone that cavalierly talks about using nuclear weapons on other countries can be considered morally serious, but there is no reason to think that he didn’t mean what he said.
Boteach found the reaction to Adelson’s comments illuminating “as to the double standards that are often employed on matters relating to Israel.” He’s right that the reaction has been illuminating, but not in the way that he thinks. The debate on Iran in the West routinely includes issuing threats of aggressive military action while pretending that the U.S. and its allies would be acting in self-defense by launching attacks on Iran. When an Iran hawk in the West muses about launching nuclear weapons that the U.S. actually has at Iran, it mostly goes unnoticed and receives a shrug or even an understanding nod from the same people that are obsessed with the mere possibility that Iran might one day acquire nuclear weapons. In other words, they are willing to entertain the idea of using nuclear weapons already in our government’s possession for the sake of discouraging the possible future possession of nuclear weapons. The fact that Boteach makes an effort to justify or minimize what Adelson said suggests that he doesn’t see anything inherently wrong with the idea. In addition to all of the other reasons why it is a completely abhorrent idea, Adelson’s idea would magnify all of the flaws of a military strike against Iran, since such an insane act would backfire spectacularly by proving to the Iranian government–and perhaps other governments as well–the absolute necessity of acquiring nuclear weapons.