Saturday, June 19, 2010

While the World Weighs in on Israel's 'Imperfection,' Iran Inches Closer to Attaining the Bomb

One of the dire consequences of the world's obsession with Israeli behavior (see the Goldstone Report, Peter Beinart's disappointments with the Zionist state, the Flotilla, etc.) is that while Israel is held up to an impossible standard of perfection, real rogue states like Iran get a pass. Behind the smoke screen of supposed Israeli transgressions of international law (and decency, according the ubermoralists), Iran edges ever closer to nuclear capability.
Conventional wisdom now holds that we may have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran, and that it may not be such a bad thing. Even moderates like Fareed Zakaria are arguing that "deterrence worked with madmen like Mao, and with thugs like Stalin, and it will work with the calculating autocrats of Tehran."
The new mantra is 'Containment' or 'Deterrence.' Below, two cogent arguments against that proposition and why the cost of being wrong will prove so deadly. Of course, the risks to Israel are gargantuan and existential, which is why it is all the more maddening that not only the "international community" but also so much of American Jewry are giving this issue such short shrift. In the very year that Iran may go nuclear if unchecked, the real failure of the American Jewish establishment, with notable exceptions like the American Jewish Committee (AJC), is its unwillingness to stand solidly with Israel. Instead, we see hand-wringing and hair-splitting over Israel's less-than-perfect comportment. In Jews and Power, Ruth Wisse describes this self-destructive tendency as "moral solipsism," an obsessive regard for our own moral performance with a stunning indifference to the performance of those who wish us ill. It's time we understand the implications of such narcissistic behavior. The stakes couldn't be higher.

Can a Nuclear Armed Iran be Deterred? - Amitai Etzioni (Military Review)
Increasing evidence that Iran has embarked on a course that will lead it to develop nuclear arms in the near future has reintensified the debate about the ways the world should react to such a danger. Engagement has been tried, sanctions are deemed an unreliable tool, and military strikes are said to be likely to fail. Hence the growing interest in deterrence.
But for deterrence to work, the leaders of the nations that command nuclear arms must be rational. However, leading sociologists point to a major category of human behavior where people act in response to deeply held beliefs. People have long shown that they are willing to kill for their beliefs, even if they will die as a result.
Objections to the efficacy of bombing nuclear sites points to a different military option that seeks not to degrade Iran's nuclear capacities but to compel the regime to change its behavior, by causing ever-higher levels of "pain." This would entail bombing of Iran's nonnuclear military assets (such as the headquarters and encampments of the Revolutionary Guard, air defense installations and radar sites, missile sites, and naval vessels that might be used against oil shipments).
The location of these assets is known, it matters not if one misses some, they are not well hidden nor well protected, and bombing them will not unleash radioactive materials. Above all, we cannot delay action much longer if we are to prevent Iran from crossing a threshold after which a military option will become much more dangerous to implement.
The writer is professor of international relations at George Washington University.

Iran Cannot Be Contained - Bret Stephens (Commentary)
Quietly within the foreign-policy machinery of the Obama administration - and quite openly in foreign-policy circles outside it - the idea is taking root that a nuclear Iran is probably inevitable and that the U.S. must begin to shift its attention from forestalling the outcome to preparing for its aftermath with a policy of long-term containment and deterrence.
Many of containment's current advocates are former supporters of engagement with Iran. Having invested their hopes in President Obama's "outstretched hand," they now understand that Iran's hostility to the U.S. was not merely a reaction to the policies of the Bush administration but rather is fundamental to the regime's identity. The Islamic republic, it turns out, really means what it says when it chants "Death to America."
The Marxist-Leninist regimes of the Cold War era were never great believers in the virtues of martyrdom. That is not the case with Shiism, which has been decisively shaped by a cult of suffering and martyrdom dating to the seventh century. During its war with Iraq, Iran sent waves of child soldiers, some as young as 10, to clear out Iraqi minefields. Tens of thousands of children died this way.
To suggest that there is some universal standard of "pragmatism" or "rationality" where Iran and the rest of the world can find common ground is a basic intellectual error. The Iranian regime has stood out since its earliest days for its willingness to pick fights with powerful enemies, to undertake terrorist strikes at great range, to court international opprobrium and moral outrage, to test international diplomatic patience, and to raise the stakes every time the world seemed ready to come to terms. The Iranian regime has consistently been willing to take apparently reckless risks for the sake of its objectives - and would most likely take many more such risks if it had a nuclear arsenal at its disposal.
A nuclear Iran would be unlike any nuclear power the world has known. It would be dangerous and unpredictable in moments of strength as well as in those of weakness. While it could well be that the regime would not consider using its arsenal if it believed it could get its way through other means, the calculus could change if it felt threatened from within. Indeed, the closer the regime got to its deathbed, the more tempted it would be to bring its enemies along with it.

Comic Relief--Iranian style
and The One About Hamas


George Jochnowitz said...

On the one hand, there is no such thing as a Jew or an Israeli who is not critical of some aspect of Israel's policy. The criticism may come from different directions, but arguing has always been a strength of the Jewish tradition, starting with Jacob, who wrestled with God and was therefore renamed Israel (meaning "wrestled God").
On the other hand, it is simply amazing that Iran is going ahead with its nuclear ambitions in light of the fact that moderate President Rafsanjani said way back in 2001 that if the world of Islam possessed nuclear weapons, Israel would be destroyed, but no matter how severe the retaliation, the world of Islam would merely be damaged (see MEMRI Special Report 325). Ahmadinejad has openly talked about eradicating Israel. Nobody takes him seriously, just as nobody took Rafsanjani seriously.
And of course, nobody took Hitler's statements about Jews seriously either. Hitler had no quarrel with the Jews. He didn't know it. Iran has no quarrel with Israel. Ahmadinejad doesn't know it.

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