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Tenderizing the opposition to war with Iran

Barak/Netanyahu – they are “one hand” – are presenting an Israeli attack as an inevitability.

It seems the die has been cast – Netanyahu and Barak have decided to bomb Iran in a matter of months, as Ronen Bergman concluded in the New York Times Magazine – and now it’s time to close ranks around the decision. This is my impression from the continual news stories about Israel’s plans for Iran over the last couple of days.

The clearest sign came from former IDF chief Gabi Ashekenazi, who apparently defected from Meir Dagan’s antiwar camp. “When the moment comes, I don’t know if we won’t be alone, and for this reason Israel must also rely on itself,” said Ashkenazi, the heavyweight champ of retired Israeli military leaders.

Another strong indication is the erasure of any fears or counter-arguments to war that might still be floating around the security establishment. The New York Times reports that new Israeli intelligence estimates and academic studies “cast doubt on the widespread assumption that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set off a catastrophic set of events…” And guess what? These estimates and studies have been “largely adopted by the country’s most senior officials.” One study comes from Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center, the country’s most hawkish security think tank. The other one was co-authored by Amos Yadlin, retired chief  of military intelligence – and another former member of Dagan’s camp.

In Davos today, Barak reinforced the message he gave Bergman, telling reporters it was “urgent” to stop the Iranians because they are “deliberately drifing into what we call an immunity zone where practically no surgical operation could block them.” Bergman wrote that Israel’s security establishment says Iran’s advancing nuclear project will become immune from Israeli military attack in nine months, and from U.S. attack in 15 months – and that because the Israelis are convinced the Obama administration won’t strike, they intend to.

There has also been news in the last couple of days that offers some hope that it isn’t a done deal. America’s top military man, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, said it was “premature” to strike Iran, that it would be militarily and economically “destabilizing.” However, he also reiterated that the U.S. is “determined to prevent [Iran] from acquiring that weapon.” Israelis read such statements as weakness, equivocation; they’re not enought to stop Netanyahu and Barak, especially not in an election year when the Republicans all sound like Avigdor Lieberman.

Also, Time magazine reported that a military commander – from the context, it sounds like the Israel Air Force commander – told Netanyahu, Barak and the cabinet in the fall that “we have no ability to hit the Iranian nuclear program in a meaningful way.” Time’s Karl Vick leans toward the conclusion that Israel will not hit Iran because “everyone agrees…it simply lacks the capacity to mount the kind of sustained, weeks-long aerial bombardment required to knock down Iran’s nuclear program.”

Well, if everyone agreed on that, Barak, Netanyahu, Ashkenazi and all these anonymous top security officials wouldn’t be talking like they are. Based on what we’re hearing, on- and off-the-record, and especially from Barak/Netanyahu – they are “one hand” – the only realistic working assumption anymore is that Israel will bomb Iran in the coming months. What’s happening now looks like the tenderizing of opposition in the security establishment and the West by presenting the attack as an inevitability.

But though these two menaces to society are trying to sell the war as an inevitability, that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. Here I would like to quote two namesakes of mine. Lawrence “Yogi” Berra: “It ain’t over til the fat lady sings.” Lawrence of Arabia: “Nothing is written.”

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    COMMENTS

    1. Richard Witty

      If I were you, I would not give up.

      Saying that its already a done deal, nothing more to object to, is part of the tenderizing process.

      Argue against it. Articulate the dangers to Israel, to Palestinians, to the Arab world, to Iran, to the United States, to the world.

      And there are many.

      Both Iran and Israel are escalating, so words of caution and coolheadedness are best delivered to all.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Richard, I thought it was clear from my last pgh that I/we are not giving up.

      Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      Preparations should be underway now to make sure that this attack is laid at the right door – warmongering Israel – not somehow blamed on Iran, as the warmongers will surely try to do.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Zohar Eitan

      Larry, what about Barry Rubin’s strong arguments, suggesting that an attack on Iran does not make any sense, and hence would not happen?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Zohar, that was an incredible essay – about the best demolition job on the case for attacking Iran I’ve seen. But Rubin makes the mistake of thinking that what’s so obvious to him is also obvious to the Israeli leadership, and it’s just not. Rubin thinks Israel can live with a nuclear Iran, so do I, so do most people in the world, probably – but Israelis don’t, and nobody of stature has asked them to think about it, so the bottom line of Israeli policy is that Iran cannot be allowed to go nuclear, and everything follows from that. Rubin gives these people’s judgment far, far too much credit.

      Reply to Comment
    6. John Yorke

      “Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve
      to settle disputes. It can no longer be of concern to great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by winds and waters and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”
      – John F. Kennedy

      Even now, half a century later, mankind appears no nearer to achieving that ambition. Indeed, war seems to have lost none of its fascination for us. Not only has it reinvented itself in the guise of new roles and more modern techniques, the same old pressures still motivate the calls upon its service. However, after so long an apprenticeship and with today’s ever-expanding horizons, isn’t it just possible than we can radically alter the manner in which future wars may have to be conducted?

      In doing so, we may, finally, be able to consign each one of them to the pages of history or, at the very least, come to regard warfare as an anachronism, something of a dying art, the end of which can fast be seen approaching.

      War is such that only the ultimate sacrifice of human body and soul can satisfy its hunger for further continuance.
      In many cases, even that has proved insufficient to the task.
      Perhaps, in our often futile endeavours to prevent the outbreak of war, it is possible that the sacrifice of something far less valuable has been overlooked, a means whereby we banish all the worst excesses of this tendency for martial dispute between ourselves.

      To make war on others has, for some, been an over-riding compulsion and, for those others, it then comes as a necessary duty.
      To make war on war itself never seems to enter the consciousness of human thought.

      Perhaps we can put an end to all future wars if we only think matters through to their logical conclusion.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

      Lawrence of Arabia: “Nothing is written.”
      Then, maybe, it’s about time that something was.

      Reply to Comment
    7. John Yorke

      “Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve
      to settle disputes. It can no longer be of concern to great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by winds and waters and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”
      – John F. Kennedy

      Even now, half a century later, mankind appears no nearer to achieving that ambition. Indeed, war seems to have lost none of its fascination for us. Not only has it reinvented itself in the guise of new roles and more modern techniques, the same old pressures still motivate the calls upon its service. However, after so long an apprenticeship and with today’s ever-expanding horizons, isn’t it just possible than we can radically alter the manner in which future wars may have to be conducted?

      In doing so, we may, finally, be able to consign each one of them to the pages of history or, at the very least, come to regard warfare as an anachronism, something of a dying art, the end of which can fast be seen approaching.

      War is such that only the ultimate sacrifice of human body and soul can satisfy its hunger for further continuance.
      In many cases, even that has proved insufficient to the task.
      Perhaps, in our often futile endeavours to prevent the outbreak of war, it is possible that the sacrifice of something far less valuable has been overlooked, a means whereby we banish all the worst excesses of this tendency for martial dispute between ourselves.

      To make war on others has, for some, been an over-riding compulsion and, for those others, it then comes as a necessary duty.
      To make war on war itself never seems to enter the consciousness of human thought.

      Perhaps we can put an end to all future wars if we only think matters through to their logical conclusion.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

      Lawrence of Arabia: “Nothing is written.”
      Then, maybe, it’s about time that something was.

      Reply to Comment
    8. The problem is the Israeli “autism zone” is almost always in effect, and probably moreso in the last couple years of Obama than in his first. Older Israelis (for 100 psychohistorical reasons, the Holocaust being the biggest) believe they can depend on no one. Most believe that force is the only way to solve problems, negotiation with “enemies” is like negotiating with Hitler.

      (The other day I parked my car in the usually chaotic Israeli parking lot – where there’s usually only inches left between parked cars. There was only one space left, and when I squeezed in, there was only room for a pretty thin driver to get back in the car to the right of me. Just my luck, he returned to his car just as I was getting out of mine. The guy freaked out, no dialogue was possible – he got red in the face, yelled and bared fangs. My suggestion that he might get in his passenger side – which had a lot more free space than on his driver’s side – was met with more anger and indignation……)

      While occasionally am American president has found a leverage point with Israel, Obama has unfortunately lost any leverage he may have had (and the clincher is the Nov. election). Unless somehow the U.S. steps up and deftly catalyzes some kind of negotiation with Iran, Israel will solve its own intolerable angst by its usual method. I rate chances now about 65-35 for it. Of course all major Israeli government officials will survive, deep in their state-of-the-art bunkers (my family’s is in the parking lot next to our house, it’s been converted into a boxing club for teens, and until a big Iranian missile might hit it, we’ll be smelling teen sweat……)

      Reply to Comment
    9. aristeides

      Israel needs therapy, not bombs. Most people who lash out at others from their “intolerable angst” are charged with assault or murder.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Richard Witty

      I oppose attacking Iran for a couple reasons.

      1. It will not accomplish anything.

      2. War hurts civilians even if limited attack, the response hurts more civilians even if limited. The response to that hurts more and so on.

      But, the puritan left approach of “don’t worry, be happy”, and “shut up you racist” if you do worry, is the wrong one.

      Iran is worse than just “no angel”. Iran maintains near-proxy militias on Israel’s border, one armed to the teeth (Hezbollah), the other less armed (Hamas, Islamic Jihad).

      And, it does articulate the desire for the demise of Israel as Israel, whether understood in litaral genocidal language or merely the hastened “dissolution into the river of time”.

      And, in its home turf, it does regard regional supremacy as its right.

      Its enrichment program is beyond the level required for nuclear power, and there is a legal 6-month exemption for disclosure to the AIEA for new facilities, which is from what I’ve read just slightly less than the period of time it would take to enrich from 20% to 90% (rough bomb grade).

      The question of whether a nuclear Iran is liveable is an important question. It certainly is, as everything is liveable, however uncomfortable.

      Its unlikely that Iran can establish an empire under current administration. Its just too grand a task for them. They cannot do so by consent, and they can not do so by military suppression.

      A nuclear Iran does represent a veto power. The theocracy has the veto.

      Pakistan has had coups and less than civil changes of government since it has been in possession of nuclear weapons, and no disaster has occurred there, thankfully.

      Pakistan though orients its nuclear capacity towards a single adversary, India. Iran has triangular enemies.

      And, the whole mess is constructed on our addiction to oil, which we do nothing to address.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Piotr Berman

      A story says that when Napoleon was greeted by a town mayor he expressed a surprise that the welcoming celebration does not include gun salute. The mayor started to answer “Sire, we have 20 reasons: first, we have no guns” “Enough”, imperiously replied the emperor and changed the topic.

      On the list of Witty’s reason number 1 is:
      “it would not accomplish anything”. I think we can change the topic.

      Proponents promise that there are good chances that the attack on Iran will not be a major debacle. But they do not promise any accomplishments.

      Reply to Comment
    12. John Yorke

      The case for a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would seem to be building in certain Israeli circles; just how extensive those circles are is still unclear. With a US election year well under way, a degree of uncertainty must exist regarding the ability of America to intervene positively in so doom-laden a matter. To date, both democrat and republican parties have gone on record to pledge undying support for the Middle East’s most favoured non-Arab state. This may be just a play for the American-Jewish vote with all bets off after November but there’s still a long way to go before then.
      I mean, where will it all end? It’s like taking a roller-coaster ride without brakes, no buffers at the end of the line and nothing to stop the whole shooting-match turning into a nightmare far too terrible to contemplate.

      And yet there seems to be a fair old queue forming up to book a seat on this mad adventure with very little thought as to its consequences and even less concern for what follows afterwards.

      It has long been considered a given that nuclear material is not to be messed with. In the wrong hands – or even the ‘right’ ones – its potential for full-scale disaster is unlimited, irreparable within any normal time-span. As witnessed last year, its peaceful uses can also carry a magnitude of this danger.

      What is urgently needed in such a situation is not force of arms, economic pressures, political intrigue nor religious edict. These have not proved very effective in so many other instances throughout history. The one and only requirement here is to provide a good enough excuse for everyone to draw back from the brink and find some other way to move forward. Unless such an item is made available to those concerned, the edge of the abyss moves ever closer. And it’s really much too deep for any hope of return to the surface.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

      This is that excuse. It will work for Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Europeans, Asians. Africans and whoever else there is. That includes the Iranians.
      But why should this be so?

      Because mankind has tried all other possibilities. Only this remains and, judging by recent events, it has to be put in place pretty damn soon if it’s to have the best chance of success.

      OK, it is a stop-gap solution, not intended to last forever. But then, what does? We ourselves certainly don’t. However, it would be nice to know that, when it’s our turn to leave this plane of existence, we leave it in marginally better condition than when we entered it.

      Reply to Comment
    13. If Iran actually wanted a nuclear bomb, they’d A) Leave the NPT B) Get a bomb .

      The propagandistas ply their accusations, none of which is evidence. Oblivious to their own stupidity.

      Reply to Comment