Obama Is "Pushing Israel To War," Ctd


Larison agrees with much of this post. He adds:

The most significant assumption Stephens makes in his op-ed is that Israel has a perfect right to do whatever it thinks necessary to guard against any possible threat, no matter how chimerical or far-fetched, and that it is the task of the United States government to change Iranian behavior to prevent an unprovoked Israeli attack. No other state is granted this sort of exceptional treatment in its dealings with regional rivals as Israel is, and Washington exempts no other state so completely from the requirements of international law as it does for Israel. At no point does Andrew challenge Stephens’ baseless claim that Iran is just a year or two away from possessing a nuclear weapon. ElBaradei has made it clear that this is fiction. Why does Andrew take seriously that Stephens is interested in the “disarmament” of Iran when Iran has no nuclear weapons of which it can be disarmed?

Because I take the geopolitical challenge of a nuclear-capable Iran headed by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad seriously. Of course we have to take it seriously. We've seen how monstrous and clumsy and impetuous these torturing goons can be. And yet we also saw enough of the Green Revolution to understand that even more extreme polarization of the Middle East with an Israel-Iran war would be tragic. I should add that I do not think anyone has a monopoly of insight into how to deal with what is now an excruciatingly difficult - and inherently unpredictable and emotional - moment in history.

We have a Jewish state, still struggling for acceptance, facing a regime that has vowed to end the Zionist project for good. We have the Iranian people, loathing their government, while retaining pride in Persian nuclear progress. We have the knowledge that Iran has not attacked another country first since the 1979 revolution; and that Israel is constantly policing its borders and beyond them with the impunity of lockstep American support. We also know that Israel has a massive nuclear monopoly in the Middle East which has, in my view, only exacerbated its tendencies toward national exceptionalism - and the risks such dreamers take.

I understand why many Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, fear for the fate of Israel with a nuclear Iran. I share that fear and Lord knows the Dish has no love for the regime in Tehran. But there are other profound risks to Israel of attacking Iran, of sticking with the status quo, of intransigence on settlements, etc. And the situation in Iran remains fluid enough to keep the coup-leaders guessing a little. Above all, we need to create a space for a civil and sane discourse on America's national interests: not Israel's but America's.

(Photo: Ahmadinejad by Behrouz Mehri/Getty.)