• 19 March 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, US-Iran War

Pew’s False Choice Survey on Iran War

A recent national survey by the Pew Research Center included a question about the use of military action against Iran that distorts rather than reveals what people are thinking when it comes to the potential for war.

The question was posed as what the respondent deems more important: to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons even if means taking military action; to avoid military conflict even if Iran may develop nuclear weapons; or other/don’t know.

Within this framework, 64% of respondents said it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons even if this means taking military action against the country. Only 25% of respondents responded to this question by saying that it is more important to avoid a military conflict even if Iran may develop nuclear weapons.

The framing of this question–with respondents given a choice between two extremes of taking military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons to not taking military action even if Iran develops a nuclear weapon–is a false choice.

First, the fact is that according to the IAEA and U.S. intelligence, Iran is not currently developing nuclear weapons. If they stay on this course, they will never have a nuclear weapon because building a weapon requires they make a political decision to actually do so. There are of course concerns they will make that decision, and this–rather then whether or not we decide to bomb–is what the entire debate is hinged on. And the way to convince Iran to not make that decision, and to take verifiable steps to prove it, we need to be engaging diplomatically.

When presented with the diplomatic option, Americans overwhelmingly support it. An October 2012 poll asked respondents if they supported the UN Security Council continuing diplomatic efforts to get Iran to stop enriching uranium. The vast majority of those surveyed responded in the affirmative, with 79% of Republicans, 84% of Democrats, and 77% of Independents all saying “Yes”.

Furthermore, this question provides an inaccurate or incomplete representation of the two choices it does provide. Many former government and military officials actually believe that, while Iran is not developing nuclear weapons now, a military strike would actually push them to do so. According to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “An attack would make a nuclear armed Iran inevitable. They would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert.” Former Director of the CIA Michael Hayden has echoed Gates, “[Bombing Iran] will actually push them to getting nuclear weapons.” So the notion that military action means Iran doesn’t get the bomb is actually contrary to what the military crowd is actually saying.

It is clear that ten years after the Iraq war, there is still a lot of misinformation about certain Middle Eastern countries and their supposed pursuit of “weapons of mass destruction.” The false choices and inaccurate representation embodied in the recent Pew Research Survey reflects this culture of misinformation, and can easily be used to nefarious ends such as pushing for war based on public support for it.

Posted By Sina Toossi

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