Let’s Not Start Wars With Nuclear-Armed Countries

This Pew survey on the difference in opinions between the mass public and the elite (defined as members of the Council on Foreign Relations) is interesting, and on many questions I see myself as closer to the masses. But here’s one where we should listen tot he elites:

Among the public, 63% approve of the use of U.S. military force against Iran if it were certain that Iran had produced a nuclear weapon; just 33% of CFR members agree.

As terrible an idea as I think it would be to try to attack Iran in order to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon, it seems like a much worse idea until we’re certain they’ve got a nuclear weapon and then attack them. See the problem?

Meanwhile, the foreign policy elites seems to be entranced by the notion that if a really thorny problem arises, adequate application of bombs will solve it:


But a greater percentage of CFR members (63%) than the public (51%) favors using U.S. military force if extremists were poised to take over Pakistan.

How would that work? And how would it help? Anyways, about two years ago Michael O’Hanlon and Fred Kagan proposed that if things get really hairy in Pakistan we can always initiate “a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads . . . establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan, with the nuclear technology guarded by elite Pakistani forces backed up (and watched over) by crack international troops.” That sounds like a decent plot for a popcorn blockbuster, not-so-hot as a foreign policy concept.