Justin Logan and Ted Galen Carpenter have a provocative piece up at the Fox News site advocating a "grand bargain" with Iran, in which we offer normalized relations in exchange for their abandoning any effort to acquire nuclear weapons. Justin elaborates and replies to critics over on his own blog. I'm sympathetic to the idea, not least because one thing that seems clear on the basis of our experience in both Latin America and the Middle East is that terrible regimes love having the U.S. as a bogeyman to distract from their own failures.
I do have two reservations—though my default position here is that Justin and Ted know what they're talking about and will set me straight next time I run into one of them. First, a grand deal of that sort seems like it might make launching a nuke program look like an awesome idea to bad regimes that had previously lacked such plans. Bonus: You don't even have to fund the thing all the way through, just be in a position to credibly threaten to. Second, I wonder (and I mean really wonder; this isn't a rhetorical question) how long it's actually going to be, as technology and scientific expertise become cheaper and more widespread, before building a nuke isn't fairly easy for any country that's not a total backwater. Two decades? Three? Are we spending a lot of energy corking a genie that's getting out sooner or later anyway?