Can a Nuclear Iran Be Deterred?
Editor’s note: Amitai Etzioni is professor of international relations and director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University.
However, there’s another type of decision-making process that sociologists have known about. It’s nonrational behavior, such as when people act in response to deeply held beliefs that cannot be proven or disproven. People have long shown they are willing to kill or be killed for their beliefs, and that God commanded them to act in a particular manner. They may respond to facts and pressures, but only as long as those factors affect the ways they implement their beliefs — but not the beliefs themselves. Thus, a religiously fanatical Iranian leader who believes that God commanded him to wipe out Tel Aviv may calculate whether to use missiles or bombers and in what season to attack, but not whether to heed God’s command to destroy the infidels.
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An example of nonrational thinking is summed up best in these words: “[Iran’s] religious zealotry causes it to exaggerate the significance of issues that are, objectively speaking, only tangentially related to its interests. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance, has no direct bearing on Iran’s security, but much of the regime sees it as fundamental to Iranian interests and even to Iran’s identity as a Muslim nation.”