Conservatives should stand for life, always and without hesitation. The moment the Republican Party ceases to be pro-life is the moment it ceases to be a conservative party.
That is precisely why it’s frustrating to see conservatives discussing the taking of life, en masse, in a nonchalant manner.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr. (R-CA) said on C-Span Wednesday, “I think if you have to hit Iran, you don’t put boots on the ground,” Hunter told C-SPAN. “You do it with tactical nuclear devices, and you set them back a decade or two or three. I think that’s the way to do it — with a massive aerial bombardment campaign.”
No rational person wants to see American boots on the ground in Iran. No one wants to see that country develop nuclear weapons, especially considering the threat it could pose to our ally Israel.
But a primary reason to oppose Iranian nukes is because you fear they might use them.
Nuclear war is the most indiscriminately destructive type of warfare in existence, a specter that so haunted Ronald Reagan he spent his entire presidency trying to prevent it. Said Reagan in his 1984 State of the Union address: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used.”
The Iranian regime are a nasty lot. During the recent negotiations between the U.S. and his country, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly called Israel a “rabid dog” on Twitter. This is not the first time Iranian leaders have made such statements. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is not uncommon in that part of the world, even among some of the U.S.’s closest allies like Saudi Arabia, a regime so oppressive it is often ranked worse than Iran.
But you cannot equate the Iranian people with their leaders. Over half of Iranians are under 35, and some call it the most pro-American population in the Middle East. The social media-driven, youth-led uprisings of 2009 showed a citizenry that wasn’t happy with their regime either. They elected Hassan Rouhani last summer largely because he was seen as less extreme than the last president.
Buzzfeed shows us an Iran that loves rap music, fashion, and internet bickering, where one-third of its young people are anxious to leave the country. These commonalities with America, or Western culture, are nothing new. On the night of September 11, 2001, Iranians took to the streets for a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims of 9/11. They might have been the only Islamic nation to do so.
The way many justify abortion is to pretend the baby isn’t a person. It’s just a blob of tissue that is not yet “viable.” Thankfully, technology is making it more morally difficult to do this.
The same sort of dehumanization must take place in the mind of anyone using rhetoric about obliterating nations, through nuclear weapons or other means. The entire country of Iran is not full of bona fide al-Qaeda terrorists, as some seem to believe. In many ways, the Iranian people are the regime’s worst victims. In many ways, they are just like us.
Most importantly, they are people — mothers, daughters, sisters, sons, babies — nearly 80 million, including millions of innocents. Their lives matter. Life matters.
This is not to say in an extreme “us vs. them” scenario that drastic measures might not be preferable to inaction, for the United States, Israel or any country. But to say that nuclear weapons should be a go-to tool — which Reagan described as “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization” — is irresponsible at best.
It would also be a drastic break from Reagan’s example. In his review of William F. Buckley posthumous biography, “The Reagan I Knew,” The American Conservative’s Daniel McCarthy writes: “The Reagan I Knew could just as fairly have been called The Reagan I Didn’t Know, for after a 40-year friendship, Buckley suddenly realized he had misjudged the man.” Continues McCarthy:
At National Review’s 30th-anniversay gala in 1985, he toasted the then-president as the consummate cold warrior: “What I said in as many words, dressed up for the party, was that Reagan would, if he had to, pull the nuclear trigger,” writes Buckley. “Twenty years after saying that, in the most exalted circumstance, in the presence of the man I was talking about, I changed my mind.” Reagan would not have unleashed a nuclear holocaust, even in retaliation.
Advised Reagan, “Our moral imperative is to work with all our powers for that day when the children of the world grow up without the fear of nuclear war.”
This should still be our goal, regarding Iran or any other country.
To suggest pre-emptive nuclear war as a wise foreign policy for today’s United States would be a tragic degradation of American morals and values.
Our country is better than that. Reagan was certainly better than that. Anyone calling themself pro-life, has to be better than that.