Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Nuclear Threat of Iran

A current issue in the news is the concern over the nuclear program in Iran. There are fears that if Iran obtains (or seriously attempts to obtain) nuclear weapons the situation would become a new Iraq or that the nuclear technology would be given to terrorists by the Iranians or that Iran would use the nuclear weapons on the US or Israel.

This issue of course has relevance to economics through the application of game theory. This first article is a post by Tyler Cowen that discusses his relative optimism that nuclear weapons would not be used if obtained by Iran. This article is by Thomas Schelling, who as you remember, won this past year's Nobel prize in part for his work on the application of game theory to nuclear deterrence. Each article remains optimistic about the situation using past evidence of nuclear weapons not being used, particularly with Israel, India, and Pakistan.

Both articles are very interesting and give a further example of the application of economic thinking to current important problems.


Anonymous said...

The dominant strategy in this case would be that Iran would not produce nuclear weapons. Although it continues to enrich uranium, it would not be in Iran's best interest to produce nuclear weapons. It currently faces diplomatic repercussions, as the U.S., China, and Europe oppose the enrichment of uranium in Iran. If Iran were to detonate a nuclear device in israel or give the weapon to a terrorist cell to bring over to the United States, then they would face a nuclear arsenal powerful enough to destroy the world ten times over. Their citizens would not be very pleased with the government if they built nuclear weapons. Building nuclear weapons is not the dominant strategy because there would be too many ways in which the mullahs would loose their power. However, an investment in nuclear weapons does allow Iran to a greater say in middle eastern politics, considering they would be the first middle eastern country to build nuclear weapons.

David Wyant

Anonymous said...

Both articles give convincing evidence that there is little to no threat from the use of nuclear weapons by Iran. The first article says that Iranian struggle is usually local in nature, and the US is more a symbolic threat rather than a serious one. The second article by Schelling points out that in the past decades when nuclear weapons were a threat, even more serious then than now, they were not used. Also, we should not fear a country where its President insists that the Holocaust never happened and is simply a myth.

Brian Zabell said...

The Israelis have a lot more to fear from Iran than we do, be assured of that. The new government in Iran is a bit scary, but I couldn't imagine it's scary enough to the point that Iran could ever make a strike to anywhere though and be able to get away with it.

Rest assured though any Americans afraid of Iran nuking the US are misinformed. That's just unfathomable.

I personally doubt Iran would attack Israel either. Iran's government doesn't have incredible support.

Arthur said...

Economics, unlike sociology or psychology, actually quantifies and 'explains' so many aspects of life. However, there are great problems when people do not do what is in their best interest. Imagine paying a higher price out of principle - contradictory to our laws of supply and demand. so to it is when religion becomes the facade behind which to hide.
Iran will develop nuclear weapons in order to have bragging rights and to save face. By using the hatred of the US and the abolition of Israel as rallying cries they can get people to ignore the high prices, high unemployment, lack of future, oppressive government intrusion into one's personal life and general lack of hope.
Once the bomb has been created they can't give it back. They will then have to deal with their home unrest and questions such as why we have no life but we have a damn bomb. Who knows what will happen then. It may be prudent for the regime of that day to use the bomb against another Arab country. What would the world do then? Sanctions?