Time magazine’s often well informed Joe Klein has a significant piece on their website today, tellingly titled An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table.
He argues there that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other high-ups in the Obama administration are now more optimistic than they were a year ago about the chances of “succeeding” in using military force to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
This looks like part of a concerted campaign to make the launching of a military attack against Iran– by the U.S. or by Israel– seem more “feasible”, and less disastrous all round for the American people’s true interests.
The money quote in Klein’s piece is, however, this one:
- Israel has been brought into the [U.S.] planning process, I’m told, because U.S. officials are frightened by the possibility that the right-wing Netanyahu government might go rogue and try to whack the Iranians on its own.
How’s that again?
U.S. officials are frightened that the Netanyahu government might “go rogue and try to whack the Iranians on its own”? But, um, the U.S. has for many decades been the main backer of Israel and continues to be so; and if Israel should “go rogue” and take acts that harm the American people’s interests then the U.S. could just stop that aid cold. Right?
Why on earth would we have to accede to the blackmail threat wielded by the government of a very small country on this or any other point?
If a person or entity is subjected to blackmail, the very best policy is always to go to the authorities. In this case, the U.S. government can simply go to the U.N. and invite the other members of the Security Council to join it in fashioning a response to the blackmailer.
… I have to note that the argument of Klein’s (presumably American?) source on this point is absolutely analogous to the kinds of arguments that the dreadful Mr. Blair made to his public in late 2002 about “having to go along with” George W. Bush’s increasingly escalatory policies towards Iraq because sticking close to Bush was, Blair argued to some people then, the best way to prevent Bush from jumping off the cliff and actually attacking Iraq.
Which Bush did anyway. The fact that his “good friend” Blair had indulged his warmongering up until then in fact made it far, far easier for him to launch the war than it would have been otherwise.
Now, from these unidentified informants of Klein’s we are getting the same sick argument. That Washington “has to go along with” Netanyahu in his policies towards Iran because that’s “the only way” to prevent him from jumping off the cliff and actually launching an attack against Iran.
It isn’t “the only way”. Indeed, it’s not a way to restrain Netanyahu, at all. The only way to restrain a blackmailer is by calling his bluff. Take the whole tangled case to the proper authorities and don’t think that by appeasing the blackmailer you’re going to get off the hook…
As for the broader argument Klein is trying to make there, that an Israel or U.S. (or U.S.-Israeli) attack against Iran need not necessarily be as downright damaging and disastrous all round as all the experts have thought until now… Well, actually, nothing has changed to make it seem more “do-able”.
And among the so-called “western” nations, remember that it is still us Americans who have by far the most to lose in the region… including many thousands of U.S. service-members strung out along very vulnerable supply lines all around Iran.
The Israelis? They barely have any skin in this game. They need, quite simply, to butt out, and let the U.S. and the other adult nations of the world negotiate a resolution to the multiple, overlapping security challenges in the Gulf region.
By the way, the always intelligent and estimable Paul Rogers has a very good analysis of this whole question on Open Democracy today.
He argues that,
- An Israeli security perspective, for example, is concerned almost as much with Iran’s development of medium-range solid-fuel missiles as with its nuclear projects; so missile-research, development and production sites would be key targets. Moreover, the people who design, develop and build the nuclear and missile programmes – and the facilities that train these specialists – are as significant as the physical infrastructure; so housing-complexes around nuclear and missile plants, key research-centres, factories, and even university departments training scientists and engineers would also be in the line of fire.
In practice, then, military action will be much more generic than specific; it will certainly involve raids in and around greater Tehran; and it will be seen as more an act of war against the country as a whole than a limited dropping of bombs in remote locations.
Rogers quotes from a longer study he has undertaken (PDF linked to here), noting that it concludes that
- a war to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions will “lead to sustained conflict and regional instability”, and that it is “unlikely to prevent the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and might even encourage it.” Thus, “military action against Iran should be ruled out as a means of responding to its possible nuclear ambitions.”
The crisis sparked by an Israeli assault on Iran could indeed become at least as destructive as have been the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. The fact that the United States and Israel itself are using an undefined threat of military action to reinforce diplomatic pressure on Tehran actually makes other approaches more difficult. This predicament has to be faced, and innovative thinking needed soon, if the region and the world are to avoid catastrophe.
Rogers was one of that stalwart band of informed observers (myself included) who correctly predicted that the U.S. invasion of Iraq would turn out very badly for all concerned– including, very rapidly, the U.S.
So will members of the policy elite in the U.S. be more inclined to listen to us this time– or to the war-mongering enablers of escalation whom Joe Klein has evidently been talking to?