You may be on summer vacation, your thoughts may be sliding towards the beach and what movies to go to, and grandchildren and “how about that Greg Norman?” and whatnot. But rest assured, someone is thinking about war. In the Times today it’s Benny Morris, an Israeli version of a neocon– one of the few who has transitioned from dove to hawk. Morris argues that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would bring peace–in the unlikely event it succeeded. The alternative would be nuclear war, he claims. The unexamined premise of Morris’s argument is that the only country in the Middle East that can be allowed to have nuclear weapons is Israel; anything short of an Israeli nuclear monopoly leads to a potential holocaust.
Of course it’s nice to have nuclear weapons when your potential enemies don’t: that’s the situation the US enjoyed for four years or so at the end of World War II, until first Russia, then China, developed nukes. And there were quite a few Americans who argued for pre-emptive strikes against Russia and China so we could maintain our monopoly. Their counsel was, in the end, wisely rejected by Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.
But it’s a given that Israel can’t possibly behave as prudently as the United States and deter its enemies. No, Morris assures us “Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months”–probably during the lame duck period after the US presidential election. The reason is that “Israel believes its very existence is at stake.” (So was America’s, and Russia’s and China’s during the worst years of the Cold War but if Israel’s existence is at stake, that’s a different story.) Morris also claims Israel’s destruction is “threatened almost daily by Iran’s leaders.” Neither the Times nor any of the other papers I read report these threats, so perhaps they aren’t newsworthy, or perhaps Morris is making them up. (Yes I know, Iran’s president said something like Israel will vanish from the page of history or something like that years ago –depending on the Farsi translation– and this phrase gets repeated almost daily. Perhaps that’s what Morris is talking about.)
Israel’s attack would be a disaster for the US, threatening whatever stability might have been gained in Iraq and making the situation Afghanistan much worse. This is why top US military commanders are jawboning against it, and hoping George W. Bush will do the same. It’s also worth remembering that Iran was an ally, yes an ally, when we went after the Taliban on 9-11; that Iran was the one place in the Middle East where there substantial public displays of mourning and outrage at the 9-11 attacks. Never mind that. Some Israelis perceive it in their interest to ignite a bigger war in the Middle East right now. Morris is one of their spokesman, and the Times is giving him major access to the US media. We should be grateful for the warning.