Israel leads America on a march to war. A march to folly.

Summary:  After five years of laughing at the rumors of war with Iran, I’ve changed my tune.  We can only guess at such things, but there’s considerable evidence that Israel plans to attack Iran this year unless Iran abandon’s it development of atomic power (legitimate under IAEA treaties).  Israel cannot inflict much damage, but hopes Iran’s response will start a war with the US — and US firepower will destroy Iran’s military infrastructure.  Leaving Israel as dominant military power in the Middle East.  Welcome to July 1914, another example of America’s inability to learn from history leading us to folly.  We can stop this war, but only by making our views known!

Telegram from artist Frederic Remington in January 1897: “Everything is quiet {in Cuba}. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return.”
Reply by William Randolph Hearst: “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
— Apocryphal account of the actual propaganda campaign leading to the Spanish-American War.  Will we ever learn?


These are only a few of the articles flooding the news media, an ominous beating of the war drums.  Like that before the Iraq War.  Only our credulity and passivity makes it possible to take a great nation to war with so little thought.  Links to posts giving more information appear at the end.

  1. Source of much pro-war reasoning: “Time to Attack Iran – Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option“, Matthew Kroenig, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2012
  2. From a well-wired observer: “The Ticking Clock”, Robert Haddick (Editor of the Small Wars Journal), Foreign Policy, 10 February 2012
  3. From a very well-wired reporter:  “Why Israel Might Believe Attacking Iran Is Worthwhile”, Michael Hirsh (chief correspondent of the National Journal), The Atlantic, 12 February 2012
  4. The view from Israel:  “Israelis prepare for war with Iran”, Larry Derfner (Israeli journalist), Salon, 16 February 2012

(1)  Source of much of the pro-war reasoning

Time to Attack Iran – Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option“, Matthew Kroenig, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2012 — Much of the analysis saturating the news just repeats Kroenig’s thinking, another demonstration of how easily ideas become established wisdom in US geopolitical circles. But that does not mean that Kroenig’s views are not shared by Israel’s leaders.  Opening:

In early October, U.S. officials accused Iranian operatives of planning to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States on American soil. Iran denied the charges, but the episode has already managed to increase tensions between Washington and Tehran. Although the Obama administration has not publicly threatened to retaliate with military force, the allegations have underscored the real and growing risk that the two sides could go to war sometime soon — particularly over Iran’s advancing nuclear program.

For several years now, starting long before this episode, American pundits and policymakers have been debating whether the United States should attack Iran and attempt to eliminate its nuclear facilities. Proponents of a strike have argued that the only thing worse than military action against Iran would be an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Critics, meanwhile, have warned that such a raid would likely fail and, even if it succeeded, would spark a full-fledged war and a global economic crisis. They have urged the United States to rely on nonmilitary options, such as diplomacy, sanctions, and covert operations, to prevent Iran from acquiring a bomb. Fearing the costs of a bombing campaign, most critics maintain that if these other tactics fail to impede Tehran’s progress, the United States should simply learn to live with a nuclear Iran.

But skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease — that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.

(2)  A report from a well-wired observer

The Ticking Clock“, Robert Haddick (Editor of the Small Wars Journal), Foreign Policy, 10 February 2012 — “Four reasons why — this time — you should believe the hype about Israel attacking Iran.” Excerpt:

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius created a tempest last week when he reported U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s prediction that Israel will attack Iran and its nuclear complex “in April, May or June.” Ignatius’s column was as startling as it was exasperating. When the sitting U.S. defense secretary — presumably privy to facts not generally available to the public — makes such a prediction, observers have good reasons to pay attention. On the other hand, the international community has been openly dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue for nearly a decade, with similar crescendos of anticipation having occurred before, all to no effect. Why would this time be different?

Further, an Israeli air campaign against Iran would seem like an amazingly reckless act. And an unnecessary one, too, since international sanctions against Iran’s banks and oil market are just now tightening dramatically.

Yet from Israel’s point of view, time really has run out. The sanctions have come too late. And when Israeli policymakers consider their advantages and all of the alternatives available, an air campaign, while both regrettable and risky, is not reckless.

Here’s why: …

(3)  Report from a very well-wired reporter

Why Israel Might Believe Attacking Iran Is Worthwhile“, Michael Hirsh (chief correspondent of the National Journal), The Atlantic, 12 February 2012 — “Do the potential costs of an air strike really outweigh the benefits?” — Opening:

A barely perceptible but hugely important shift has occurred in recent months. Israel now appears to believe that the benefits of attacking Tehran’s nuclear sites outweigh the costs. As Iran builds an enrichment complex underground near the city of Qom, the timing has also become critical. All of which may mean that, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly told a Washington Post columnist, Israel will probably strike Iran in April, May, or June. (Panetta wasn’t quoted directly, and a Pentagon spokesman tells National Journal that the secretary has “refused to comment” on the story.)

Western powers had thought that a preemptive strike on oil-rich Iran could have devastating implications for the region and the world. It could undermine the global economy (especially at a time of high oil prices) and peace in the Middle East. It could rain rocket fire on Israeli towns and possibly shift global power balances. But now, some American and Israeli experts–both inside and outside their governments–argue that Iran is less likely to retaliate in a serious way. An attack, in other words, may have fewer drawbacks than the skeptics first thought.

Partly, this has to do with Iran’s internal problems. Its government is mired in chaos and infighting, its military is weak and disorganized, and its economy is crippled. Iran’s main proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, are not eager to attack Israel, and the United States is less vulnerable in Iraq now that its military has withdrawn. Tehran’s lone ally in the region, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, is fighting a civil war.

(4)  The view from Israel

Israelis prepare for war with Iran“, Larry Derfner (Israeli journalist), Salon, 16 February 2012 — “Even ex-Mossad chief who opposes an attack on Iran seems to have given up” Conclusion:

Only one person has made a real effort to reverse the country’s course, and lately he’s given up, too. At the start of last year, upon finishing his legendary tenure as Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, then the country’s unchallenged supreme warrior, did the unprecedented. He began speaking out openly against an attack on Iran, calling it “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,” and warning that afterward, “the regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.” He was going public, he explained, because “there is no one to stop Bibi and Barak” from undertaking such a “dangerous adventure” now that he and the other military and intelligence chiefs, who had the clout to rein in the political leadership, were retiring.

Last week, after months of silence, Dagan resurfaced to announce he’s heading a new NGO to change Israel’s parliamentary system – an old chestnut of the good government movement that seems conspicuously irrelevant now. For nearly a year, Dagan raised a flag, and when he saw hardly anyone behind him, he lowered it. A few high-level ex-warriors, including two former army chiefs of staff, warned against the consequences of attacking Iran. But these were isolated remarks that got very little attention; in the public’s mind, the antiwar movement began and ended with one man.

I asked a retired army general who agrees with Dagan’s views why he and the many others like him didn’t get together and sign a letter in a major newspaper, or hold a press conference, or do something that might start a public debate over this fairly fateful matter; after all, Israelis listen to generals. He replied that he and his fellows didn’t have the information that those around the cabinet table had, they didn’t know if the government really intended to order an attack, and they didn’t want to take the chance that this was all “psychological warfare,” which they would be undercutting if they spoke out.

“You have to understand,” he said, “Israel is a small community, everybody knows everybody else’s opinion, so you have to be responsible. That’s the way I was educated.”

No opposition – that’s what Netanyahu and Barak want, and at home, that’s what they’re getting.

As for opposition from the Obama administration, it has been awfully muted. The Republican presidential candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul) have  been gung-ho, which has much to do with the administration’s wariness toward Israel in this election year. But then how strong an argument for restraint can the administration make to the Israelis, after repeating for years that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable” and that “all options are on the table”?

For more information: other posts about our looming war with Iran

(a) Past predictions of an atomic Iran

  1. Is the War on Terror over (because there are no longer two sides)?, 3 September 2008 — Rumors of covert ops by us against Iran, including aid to terrorists
  2. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 January 2009
  3. Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again), 2 January 2010 — Forecasts of an Iranian bomb really soon, going back to 1984

(b) About Iran

  1. Have Iran’s leaders vowed to destroy Israel?, 5 January 2012 — No, but it’s established as fact by repetition
  2. What do we know about Iran’s nuclear ambitions?, 6 January 2012 — US intelligence officials are clear:  not as much as the news media implies
  3. What does the IAEA know about Iran’s nuclear program?, 9 January 2012 — Their reports bear little resemblance to reports in the news media

(c) What happens if Iran gets nukes?

  1. What happens when a nation gets nukes?  Sixty years of history suggests an answer., 10 January 2012
  2. What happens if Iran gets nukes? Not what we’ve been told., 11 January 2012

(d) About our conflict with Iran

  1. About the escalating conflict with Iran (not *yet* open war), 4 January 2012
  2. Status report on the already-hot conflict with Iran – and the looming war, 12 January 2012
  3. Has Iran won a round vs. the US-Israel?, 17 January 2012
  4. Is Killing Iranian Nuclear Scientists Terrorism?, 19 January 2012 — By Kevin Jon Heller (Senior Lecturer at Melbourne Law School)
  5. Iran: War Drums Beating, 9 February 2012 — By retired GOP operative Mike Lofgren

15 thoughts on “Israel leads America on a march to war. A march to folly.”

    1. Thank you for posting the link to this interesting article.

      Question: on what basis do you say that Obama is a “scholar”? He taught constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago Law School: as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004. Did he publish anything, other than his two books (neither scholarly in nature)?

  1. Good question/point…

    He has not published cited scholarly work on the US Constitution that I know of….He is no Edward O. Wilson (Social Conquest of Planet Earth) of course, but he is a product of, arguably, America’s most scholarly institution…

    Obama rates scholar by: getting through Harvard Law School, receiving a teaching gig at the University of Chicago, mixing it up during a trial with Judge Richard Posner of UOC during an oral argument, passing Lawrence Tribe’s course at HLS, writing legal briefs/analysis while an associate at small law firm in Chicago, etc.

    You make a good point though…Perhaps I should have used a better word/meaning to make the comparison between him and Khamenei…

    1. Perhaps so. But Obama’s actions as President suggest that he may know what the Constitution says, but doesn’t believe a word of it. I’d rather have a less scholarly President, perhaps one with a grade-school civics knowledge of the Constitution — but who feels its spirit and believes in the system built upon it.

  2. Why and how did we become a nation of Likudniks? Attacks or war with Iran would have so many unintended consequences i.e. unknown unknowns. Are these calls for attacks just the opening salvo of attempted regime change? If only Americans read about Operation Ajax.

    1. Oh, believe me, SLM – some of us are very much aware of the likelihood that all the saber-rattling against Iran over the past few years is really about oil. This is especially true given the fact that the War In Iraq was also most likely about oil, since our own government has stated that Iraq is one of five nations with the world’s largest proven oil reserves (and Iran is the only remaining country of the five which we have not either befriended or invaded). After all, how else can someone persuasively explain the fact that we invaded Iraq (which was not developing WMDs but which had oil) while deliberately ignoring North Korea (which was developing WMDs but had no oil)?

      For that matter, Operation Ajax in 1953 — the coup instigated by the US which subverted democracy in Iran and overthrew the newly-elected prime minister to reinstate the Shah — was also about oil, so why should it be any surprise to find out that we’re doing the same thing again (especially since so many Americans continue to remain abysmally ignorant about the real nature of our history with Iran)?

      1. Our intent was probably to get cheap access to oil. Neither intent nor willpower guarantees success, as we have repeatedly discovered (but not learned) since WWII.

        The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics does not work well.

    2. I could agree better with “one of our intentions was to get cheap access to oil.” The Bush administration probably really believed some of that crap they were shoveling.

      I’m apparently in a nitpicking mood today, sorry.

  3. The Atlantic: "AIPAC and the Push Toward War"

    AIPAC and the Push Toward“, Robert Wright (senior editor), The Atlantic, 21 February 2012 — Opening (does not include links)

    Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran.

    The good news is that the resolution hasn’t been universally embraced in the Senate. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has “provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war.” The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, “AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an ‘ask’ in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying.”

    In standard media accounts, the resolution is being described as an attempt to move the “red line”–the line that, if crossed by Iran, could trigger a US military strike. The Obama administration has said that what’s unacceptable is for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This resolution speaks instead of a “nuclear weapons capability.” In other words, Iran shouldn’t be allowed to get to a point where, should it decide to produce a nuclear weapon, it would have the wherewithal to do so.

    By itself this language is meaninglessly vague. Does “capability” mean the ability to produce a bomb within two months? Two years? If two years is the standard, Iran has probably crossed the red line already. (So should we start bombing now?) Indeed, by the two-year standard, Iran might well be over the red line even after a bombing campaign–which would at most be a temporary setback, and would remove any doubt among Iran’s leaders as to whether to build nuclear weapons, and whether to make its nuclear program impervious to future American and Israeli bombs. What do we do then? Invade?

    In other words, if interpreted expansively, the “nuclear weapons capability” threshold is a recipe not just for war, but for ongoing war–war that wouldn’t ultimately prevent the building of a nuclear weapon without putting boots on the ground. And it turns out that the authors of this resolution want “nuclear weapons capability” interpreted very expansively.

    The key is in the way the resolution deals with the question of whether Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium, as it’s been doing for some time now. The resolution defines as an American goal “the full and sustained suspension” of uranium enrichment by Iran. In case you’re wondering what the resolution’s prime movers mean by that: In a letter sent to the White House on the same day the resolution was introduced, Lieberman, Graham and ten other senators wrote, “We would strongly oppose any proposal that recognizes a ‘right to enrichment’ by the current regime or for [sic] a diplomatic endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue enrichment on its territory in any form.”

    This notwithstanding the fact that
    1) enrichment is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty;
    (2) a sufficiently intrusive monitoring system can verify that enrichment is for peaceful purposes;
    (3) Iran’s right to enrich its own uranium is an issue of strong national pride.
    In a poll published in 2010, after sanctions had already started to bite, 86 percent of Iranians said Iran should not “give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances.” And this wasn’t about building a bomb; most Iranians said Iran’s nuclear activities shouldn’t include producing weapons. …

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