Global Ethics Corner: Iran and the United States: Is Military Conflict Inevitable?

October 21, 2011

Recent allegations of an Iranian assassination plot in the United States have once again raised doubts about the effectiveness of sanctions. As confidence in a diplomatic solution wanes, calls for military action against Iran are once again sounding across the United States.

But as analysts debate the human and financial costs of war, peaceful alternatives to military intervention may get lost in the mix. Are there solutions to the current crisis that don't involve violence? Can U.S. officials avoid military intervention without looking soft on Iran?

Until recently, such questions seemed to be all but answered. The UN implemented a series of hard-hitting economic, trade, science, and military sanctions. Combined with the emergence of the Arab Spring and the pacification of Iran's Green Movement, this strategy briefly succeeded in quelling calls for military strikes.

But allegations that segments of the Iranian government planned to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. have reignited demands for military action. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is calling for U.S. aircraft carriers to be stationed near Iran. He believes a show of military might is the only way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear arsenal.

The Obama administration takes a more nuanced approach. Shortly after releasing allegations of the Iranian plot, U.S. officials took their case to the UN. Many expect the U.S. will call for the tightening of sanctions, this time targeting Iran's Central Bank. Yet America's recent actions also hint at a new array of nonviolent strategies to combat Iran's authoritarian inclinations. Alleged cyberweapons like Stuxnet and even democracy assistance like that supported by the National Democratic Institute can be seen as nonviolent tools to avert armed conflict.

As US officials look to find a solution to Iran, what nonviolent methods might you suggest?

By Marlene Spoerri

For more information see:

For more on creative forms of nonviolent intervention, please see this piece on Carne Ross's blog

Michael Crowley, "What the Alleged Iran Assassination Plot Means for 2012," Time Swampland: Political Insight from the Beltway and Beyond, October 17, 2011

Thom Shanker, "U.S. Weighs Its Strategy on Warfare in Cyberspace," The New York Times, October 18, 2011

The National Democratic Institute

Photo Credits in Order of Appearance:

Staff Sgt. Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., 25th CAB Public Affairs/U.S. Army
Pete Souza
Marco Castro/UN
Gigi Ibrahim
Daniella Zalcman
Gage Skidmore
Eskinder Debebe/UN
CODEPINK Women for Peace
Foundation of Holy Defence Values, Archives and Publications

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