Jeff Jacoby

If Waltz's breezy nonchalance (a condensed version was published under the headline "Iranian nukes? No worries") strikes you as outlandish, you aren't alone. Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum calls it "the single most preposterous analysis by an allegedly serious strategist of the Iranian quest for a nuclear weapon." To the American Enterprise Institute's Gary Schmitt , a former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it recalls Alfred E. Neuman's mantra: "What, me worry?" The notion that Israel's nuclear capability destabilizes the Middle East is almost self-refuting: Would a non-nuclear Israel be less vulnerable to attack -- or more so?

As for the calming effect of an Iranian bomb, that's hard to square with the Arab world's alarm at the prospect : "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon," Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal has warned, "we will have to follow suit" .

Yet the appeal of Waltz's view should not be underestimated, especially as the West approaches the ultimate red line -- the moment when Iran's nuclear facilities will be too far advanced to be taken out in a pre-emptive strike. Faced with the prospect of military action to stop an evil regime, there will always be those hungry for reassurance that everything will work out as long as we do nothing.

Waltz has been preaching his more-nukes-are-safer-nukes sermon for quite some time. "It's been proven without exception," he insisted in 2007, "that whoever gets nuclear weapons behaves with caution and moderation." As far back as 1981 he was arguing that "the measured spread of nuclear weapons is more to be welcomed than feared."

But Iran is not like Russia, India, China, or the other existing members of the nuclear club. Time and again Iran has called explicitly for the extermination of Israel, while making clear that it sees nuclear weapons as a practical means to that end. "The use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything," Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani baldly explained in 2001. "However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Tehran still contemplates it. Just weeks ago, a news release from Iran's FARS News Agency was headlined: "Top Commander Reiterates Iran's Commitment to Full Annihilation of Israel."

Let a regime that hungers for apocalypse and genocide get the bomb? Welcome it? Even Dr. Strangelove wouldn't go that far.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for