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The Nuclear Domino Myth

Dismantling Worst-Case Proliferation Scenarios

Courtesy Reuters

When considering the dangers of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, those who differ on political ideology find rare common ground. According to nearly everyone, if Iran develops nuclear weapons, its neighbors will inevitably do so, too. Former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), for example, said earlier this year, "The governments of the world must understand what a threat it is if the Iranians get nuclear weapons, because there are probably 10 other countries in the Middle East over the next 10 to 20 years that would follow down that road." U.S. policymakers from John Bolton, the conservative former U.S. ambassador to the UN, to Vice President Joe Biden all seem to agree with this dark prediction.

But there's one problem with this "nuclear domino" scenario: the historical record does not support it. Since the dawn of the nuclear age, many have feared rapid and widespread nuclear proliferation; 65 years later, only

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