News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Force, not rights, governs U.S. relationship with Iran

We are so conditioned to the concept of individual rights in America that, at first blush, Iran's declaration that it has a right to perform nuclear research resonates.

What gives the United States and other nuclear powers the authority to intrude on activities within Iran's borders?

The answer may not be palatable to people spoon-fed the Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment all their lives, but it is a simple one. We have that authority because we have more and bigger guns.

Maybe one day the world, under the umbrella of the United Nations or some future organization, will decide maintenance of the status quo is so important that rights are dealt to every nation. That day, however, has not arrived.

There is in America a social contract that requires our government to protect its citizens' pre-determined civil liberties. No such device exists in the forum of international relations. Iran owes nothing to us and we owe nothing to it.

America, by virtue of its current and past citizens, is a strong nation with tremendous capacity for destroying those nations that cross it. If showing restraint fits our goals, as it usually does, then restraint is appropriate.

Sometimes, however, the implicit threat of force must be followed with the real thing. Our leaders owe us honesty and wisdom in determining whether force is appropriate, an obligation they have not always fulfilled. As our representatives, they also owe us morality both in their dealing with us and foreign states.

Similarly, Iran's government owes its citizens wisdom in determining whether provoking a more powerful nation is prudent.

The United States, however, owes nothing to Iran. Iran is not our friend. If Iran becomes our enemy, our relationship with it will be governed not by its imagined rights, but by our superior force.

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