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IN THEORY:Ongoing nuclear debate

July 28, 2007

Over the past half century, weapons of mass destruction have presented mankind with a challenge never before witnessed in our history. One nation can now obliterate another within minutes, courtesy of a technology that sets a new threshold for wide-scale devastation.

During the Cold War, the United States was able to point nuclear missiles toward Soviet Russia, the heart of the evil empire, and the U.S.S.R. targeted us in return. Because there was an explicit understanding on both sides that the use of such weapons would result in our mutual destruction, both sides were provided with a deterrent — and with some degree of security.

It is obviously the moral obligation of a nation to protect itself from its adversaries.

Therefore, according to the religious obligation of self-preservation, it was (and is) acceptable to employ nuclear weapons as a defensive tactic. Unfortunately, the "good old days" of the Cold War are over — now we are challenged by the far more reckless and sinister enemy of Islamic extremism, to which the notion of mutual assured destruction means nothing.

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This is an opponent who not only fails to value the spiritual significance of life, but actually glorifies death. The United States is faced with a dreadful scenario of seeing a terrorist group or nation, such as Hezbollah or Iran, come into possession of a nuclear weapon, with nothing to deter them from launching a strike.

America's solemn obligation today is not to stockpile weapons of mass destruction, but to prevent terrorist entities from ever getting their hands on such weapons.

To support this effort, we must be ready to keep every option viable.

Of course, we should start with diplomatic talks and try to reach an amicable solution through dialogue.

But if that dialogue does not produce results, as has been the case up until now, then we must be ready to protect ourselves — even if that means going to war.

As awful as that prospect might be, allowing such an enemy to obtain nuclear weapons could be far worse.

RABBI SIMCHA BACKMAN

Chabad Jewish Center

I hate war, but I fear that much of the peace movement is but a limp-wristed attempt at claiming peaceful accord where none exists. Forgive me for repeating one particular redneck adage that proclaims, "Peace Through Superior Firepower," but even Jesus instructed, "if you don't have a sword … buy one" (Luke 22:36).

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