A First Strike is the Only Moral Option

Nothing short of all-out war will stop Iran

If we continue sanctions, without a military strike, Iran will eventually make nuclear weapons and use them against the U.S.

If Israel destroys Natanz uranium enrichment plant, but not the underground facility at Fordow, Iran will use Fordow to purify the 100 plus kg of U-235 that they already possess, to make a few nuclear weapons. Then they will use the attack on Natanz as the justification to use those nukes against the U.S.

If the U.S. destroys both Natanz and Fordow (near Qom), Iran can use the thousands of kilograms of uranium ore concentrate and low enriched uranium that they posses to make many dirty bombs. The attack on Fordow will be portrayed as an attack on the holy city of Qom, and therefore as an attack on Islam. Iran will then use the idea of a holy war to attack the U.S.

Iran might have one or more other nuclear facilities, unknown to the West, to complete the enrichment of uranium and the production of nuclear weapons. They have publicly declared that they intend to build more enrichment facilities.

If the West attacks Iran, the Iranian regime might garner some support from North Korea or Pakistan, so as to obtain highly enriched uranium (HEU) from one of those nations. They might be able to obtain HEU from China, which has long supported Iran’s nuclear program.

No matter how each scenario plays out, the end result is a major war between the U.S. with our allies and Iran with its allies. But if we attack Iran first, the war will do much less harm.

A first strike to begin a major war is morally justified, if (1) the war is undertaken with only good intentions, (2) and is ordered toward the defense of the innocent, (3) and with the reasonable anticipation that the war will not do more harm than good. In this case, if we attack Iran with a sudden and severe attack against nuclear facilities, the Iranian military, command and control targets, and other military targets, we may be able to completely eliminate their ability to attack the West with nuclear bombs or dirty bombs. The war would be much shorter, cost many fewer lives on both sides, and nuclear devastation would be prevented.

All other options end with Iran using nuclear bombs or dirty bombs against mass centers of the civilian population in the U.S. and other nations. It is not moral to use sanctions alone, since it is now clear that this approach will not work. It is not moral to use only a very limited military strike, due to the great likelihood that Iran will counter attack with nuclear weapons or dirty bombs.

A first strike is the only moral option.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic moral theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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3 Responses to A First Strike is the Only Moral Option

  1. Jonathan says:

    I disagree that we should strike Iran first based on your reasoning. You neglected a crucial first step. You state that nothing short of an all-our war will stop Iran from using nuclear weapons. After explaining potential scenarios, you justify a first strike as the only moral option. I agree that a pre-emptive war can fulfill the criteria for a just war. Oderberg’s Applied Ethics: A Non-Consequentialist Approach does an excellent job making this clear: “Whatever the facts of this particular case, the general principle holds that a state may launch a pre-emptive strike if it has very good reason for thinking that another state is preparing for war, in order to deter the execution of such plans.” (p. 203). In this case, I believe the real question is just that; whether there is a very good reason for thinking that Iran is preparing for war. Is the threat imminent? The good intention are based on a misunderstanding and the defense of innocents is an illusion if it is not imminent. What evidence is there that they will strike Israel first or even use nuclear weapons? You assume it throughout this blog post, but nothing more. It’s obvious that they will fight back if we strike first, but what evidence exists that they shall use nuclear weapons in retaliation? Have you ever demonstrated the intent before? If Iran truly has no intent to use nuclear weapons or strike any state first, then a pre-emptive war against them shall be unjust since there would be no fault on Iran’s side which justifies military action. I’ve always thought of this as two issues. The first is an empirical issue. Why is Iran behaving the way it does? The second is a moral issue. With the first issue resolved, what should we do now that we know why Iran is behaving the way it does? A first strike may be a moral option if you can demonstrate an intent for Iran to use nuclear weapons or strike first against another. You have failed to do so. You assumed it, and under that assumption came to your solution, which is arguably correct on an assumption that is questionable.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I establish this conclusion, that Iran will use its nuclear weapons, in several previous posts, and in my book: Notes on the Apocalypse: 2012.

      But otherwise, you would be right. There must be a firm and reasonable basis for believing that a first strike averts the great harm that would be done by an imminent attack from the other side.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Ah! Then I will look at those several previous post soon. I have to find them first, but I can see that you’ve dealt with it recently. As for your book, I will read the preview available since I do not own a Kindle. I just found your blog and find it interesting. Thank you for your reply!

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