Cato Scholars Warn against Iran War on Speaking Tour

September/​October 2007 • Policy Report

Iran sits at the nexus of several U.S. foreign policy threats. The Islamic Republic is undermining U.S. operations in Iraq, actively supporting terrorist activity throughout the Middle East, and ignoring numerous United Nations mandates on its nuclear program.

A grant from the Ploughshares Fund has allowed Cato foreign policy scholars to travel the country, address these important issues, and explain to a variety of audiences why war with Iran is not in America’s interests. The speaking series, “A Grand Bargain with Iran,” lasted from April through September. Events took place in 13 states, including cities such as Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Seattle. Several of the events were sponsored in conjunction with the World Affairs Council.

On the tour, scholars Ted Galen Carpenter, Christopher Preble, Justin Logan, Stanley Kober, and Leon Hadar advocated a diplomatic solution for the Iranian problem. They argued that the disasters the United States has faced in Iraq should illustrate the risks of preemptive action against Iran. Figures such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman have said that the United States “must be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians” because Iran cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith.

Cato foreign policy scholars have responded on the tour and in the media that while diplomacy may not be a perfect option, it is certainly the best available. In a Policy Analysis published earlier this year, “The Bottom Line on Iran: The Costs and Benefits of Preventive War Versus Deterrence,” Cato foreign policy analyst Justin Logan argued that a study of the history of Iran’s foreign policy shows it to be much more rational than many portray it to be. He and the other speakers explained on the tour that if the Bush administration believes the Iranians are not negotiating in good faith, there is a straightforward way to find out: offer them a grand bargain that gives them what they say they want in exchange for giving up a capability to build nuclear weapons. The bargain would include offering Iran’s leaders full diplomatic recognition, normalization of economic relations, and a comprehensive security guarantee in exchange for Tehran to open its nuclear program to international inspections with the assurance that the program will not be used to build nuclear weapons.

Download the Policy Report Article