Friday, May 01, 2009

Clouds on the horizon?

Norman Podhoretz, "How Obama's America Might Threaten Israel" (Commentary, May 2009):
Is there a threat to Israel from the United States under Barack Obama? The question itself seems perverse. For in spite of the hostility to Israel in certain American quarters, this country has more often than not been the beleaguered Jewish state’s only friend in the face of threats coming from others. Nor has the young Obama administration been any less fervent than its last two predecessors in declaring an undying commitment to the security and survival of Israel.

Nevertheless, during the 2008 presidential campaign, friends of Israel (a category that, speculations to the contrary notwithstanding, still includes a large majority of the American Jewish community) had ample reason for anxiety over Obama. The main reason was his attitude toward Iran.

... The upshot is that, barring military action by Israel (or a miracle), Iran will get the bomb, and sooner rather than later. What then? For some time now, many pundits with the ear of the Obama administration have ... fallen back on the position that we can “live with” a nuclear Iran. In line with the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), they soothingly tell us, the mullahs can be deterred by the fear of retaliation much as the far more heavily armed Soviets and Chinese were deterred during the cold war....

... Ahmadinejad’s predecessor as president and the current Speaker of the Assembly of Experts, the Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, known far and wide as a “moderate,” has declared that his country would not be deterred by the fear of retaliation:
If the day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession . . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.
If this is the position of even a reputed Iranian moderate, how could Israel depend upon MAD to keep the mullahs from launching a first strike? Much anxiety has been voiced over the nuclear arms race that would be triggered throughout the region if Iran were to get the bomb, but in all truth we would be lucky if there were enough time for such a race to develop.For consider: if the Iranians were to get the bomb, the Israelis would be presented with an almost irresistible incentive to beat them to the punch with a preemptive strike—and so, understanding this, would Tehran. Either way, a nuclear exchange would become, if not inevitable, terrifyingly likely, and God alone knows how far the destruction would then spread.

Measured against this horrendous possibility, even the worst imaginable consequences of taking military action before the mullahs get the bomb would amount to chump change. But to say it again, with American military action ruled out, the only hope is that such action—which could at the very least head off the otherwise virtually certain prospect of a nuclear war—will be taken by Israel.

... if there is a threat to Israel coming from Obama, it is that, having eschewed the use of force by the United States, he will follow through on his Vice President’s declaration that the Israelis would be “ill-advised” to attack the Iranian nuclear sites and will prevent them from doing the job themselves.
[Hat tip to E.E.]


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