Jonah Goldberg

The Nobel Peace Prize has renewed prestige in my book. No, not because Barack Obama won it for accomplishments to be determined later. It's got new luster because Shirin Ebadi has, at great personal risk, effectively come out for regime change in her native Iran.

Going Rogue by Sarah Palin FREE

Ebadi, who won the Peace Prize six years ago (under the old rules whereby recipients were expected to do something to earn the prize before receiving it), is Iran's premier human rights lawyer. In an interview with the editors of the Washington Post, Ebadi "suggested that the nature of Iran's regime is more crucial to U.S. security than any specific deals on nuclear energy."

Her point is precisely the same point made by so-called neoconservatives for years. The problem with Iran is its regime; its nuclear program is merely a symptom of that problem.

Do you lay awake at night worrying about Britain's nuclear weapons? France's? Israel's? Of course not, because stable democracies in general, and stable democratic allies in particular, aren't a threat.

If your neighbor is an upright and responsible citizen, who cares if he has a gun? If your neighbor is a complete whackjob and criminal, you sure as Shinola care if he has a gun. Armed neighbors aren't a problem, dangerous ones are. The same logic applies to nations.

"Imagine if the government actually promised to stop its nuclear program tomorrow," Ebadi told the Post. "Would you trust this government not to start another secret nuclear program somewhere else?"

It's a profound and fundamental point. We've gotten many such promises from the North Koreans. They are worthless. Promises from oppressive regimes cannot be trusted any more than promises from Tony Soprano could be. If a government is willing to betray its own people on a daily basis, what makes anyone think that it won't betray its geopolitical adversaries?

A democratic Iran, Ebadi says, would be unlikely to pursue a nuclear program. The Iranian people fear sanctions more than the country's corrupt, economically insulated rulers do. Moreover, the Iranian regime needs nukes for its own survival. The Iranian people may like the prestige of being a member of the nuclear club, but they aren't eager to pay any price to join. More important, the Iranian people aren't interested in preserving the current regime, as has been demonstrated by the historic protests this summer.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.