There’s trouble in the Promised Land when Israel’s prime minister complains (in English) that his generals are pussies afraid to attack Iran for fear of the finger of blame pointing at them when the commission of inquiry seeks to assign blame for failures. In fact, I just learned a new Hebrew colloquialism I hadn’t encountered: kas-tach (“covering the tuchus” or “ass”). As I’ve written here numerous times in the past few weeks, all is not well in Israel’s political and military echelons. There’s dysfunction, recrimination. Frankly, I don’t understand how a country can go to war under such circumstances and prevail. Perhaps I should say that different: I don’t see how going to war in such conditions can end in anything but failure, as have the Lebanon and Gaza wars of the past six years.
In a closed forum, Bibi raged against the behavior of those in the security establishment who are deliberating about an Iran attack. When he was asked if he tought about what might happen the day after Israel attacked, he grew angry, pounded his fist on the table and then on his own chest saying: when the commission of inquiry asks “I’ll come forward and tell them I was responsible.” Which is rich considering that Bibi is the teflon prime minister deflecting virtually all blame for any failure of his government. His motto: never say you’re sorry, it’s the other guy’s fault. The generals know this. That’s why hearing Bibi tell them he’ll take the blame is an empty statement.
Bibi also seems to believe that such commissions of inquiry are mere formalities. He called them “matters of protocol.” Instead, he wanted his generals to get down to business and tell him how they would get the job done. Seems to me his generals are doing their jobs and considering not only their own reputations but their country’s. While Bibi is the commander who’s neck-deep in the Big Muddy.
At any rate, Bibi told the gathering that he had no fear of such a government proceeding. And his generals were just covering their asses. Those in attendance got the impression that Israel’s leader was inclined not to rely on the U.S. to pursue an attack on Iran, but would rather order the IDF to do so in the coming months. Others who heard Bibi’s remarks felt they were part of the psychological campaign to pressure the U.S. into attacking. All I can say is: good luck with that.
The prime minister expressed skepticism that the U.S. would attack. He said there were several conditions that must be met before this could happen. One is that the Iranians would have to exceed the current level of 20% uranium enrichment and proceed toward the 90% that is necessary to create a weapon. Another condition he mentioned was a massive Iranian attack on Israel that involved hundreds of missile striking targets inside the country.
Previous reports have mentioned that Bibi believes that if Israel attacks that the U.S. would feel compelled to intercede on Israel’s behalf. I don’t buy this at all, unless Iran did counterattack and rain down missiles on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. So in effect, Bibi is saying that if I launch an unprovoked attack and the Iranians pummel my cities, then Obama will have no choice but to step in and finish the job.
That’s incredibly cynical strategic thinking. Using the blood of your own citizens as bait. It’s almost trickery. But it just might work since Obama is spineless and has no overarching principles guiding him other than political survival and co-opting the other guy.
Bibi professes to care about the Israeli casualties that would follow any attack on Iran. He says they’re part of a “ricochet.” Despite the fact that there will be such ricochets it would be better to suffer them than the alternative: an Iranian nuclear attack. On a related matter, the defense ministry came up with a miraculous new number of projected Israeli fatalities from Iran’s counterattack: 300. This is even better than the figure Ehud Barak pulled from the air (or his ass) a few months ago. He said there would be less than 500 dead in such an event. To which, Meir Dagan responded with derision, saying after such an attack Israel would no longer be the place we know. It will be a place we remember from before the maelström that destroyed life as we knew it there.
I’m always interested in the thinking of the far right especially when it manifests typically delusional tendencies. Such is the case with Yisrael HaYom’s editor, Amos Regev, who argued that an Israeli attack on Iran was imperative. His pro-war jeremiad is accompanied by a historical image of one of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle’s plane’s taking off from a U.S. aircraft carrier on its way to being the first U.S. air power to attack Japan during WWII.
When you think of it, the analogy is stupifyingly dumb. It indicates that Regev thinks an Israeli attack will be the same sort of wing and a prayer affair as Doolittle’s. It means he accepts that Israel will do as little damage on Iran as we did on Tokyo. It means Israel accepts that most of its pilots may not return from attacking Iran as occurred to Doolittle’s personnel. It means that Israel’s attack will be little more than symbolism meant to buck up the home front as was the Doolittle raid.
Regev reminds the reader of his farthest-right Israeli daily that Israel is already at war with Iran, and that this war is one necessary to ensure Israel’s survival and to ensure no weapon of mass destruction may be used against it. He further argues that because Israel is a small country with limited population it doesn’t have the capacity to absorb a second strike. Therefore, it must launch a first, and crushing blow against the enemy. One that will prevent it from launching that second strike.
Israel, at least in the world according to Bibiton, must never allow any Muslim country in the Middle East to possess a nuclear weapon that could be used against us (Israel). Leave aside the obvious racism of this statement. Even more odd is the fact that while Pakistan may not formally be considered to be in the Middle East, it is certainly a Muslim country, one that certainly could use its nuclear weapon against Israel if it wanted. But it doesn’t want to because it has enemies much closer to home. Just as Iran would find if it ever did develop a nuclear weapon.
Regev takes Israel’s generals to task for worrying about an Iranian counter-attack. He says this is precisely the sort of negativism that discourages the home front and pleases Iran. In effect, he’s accusing Israel’s generals of cowardice and undermining public morale–an astounding charge if you think about it. He concedes that generals may raise such concerns behind closed doors, but that public airing of such views is prohibited. He credits Yehoshafat Harkavy with the seminal work on Israel’s strategic nuclear arsenal and says the author, a senior IDF general at the time he wrote the book in the 1960s, declared that nuclear weapons policy was so complex that it didn’t lend itself to public debate. Rather, discussion and debate on these issues should be left to experts: the scientists, generals and analysts who knew better.
Think how different this attitude is from the one here in the U.S., where generals’ views are considered both behind closed doors and in open Congressional testimony. Further, there has always been a presumption of the public’s right to know concerning matters of great national import especially war and peace. We’re not a nation that cherishes the principle of secrets though we have respected them when especially necessary. Israel, on the other hand is a nation of almost nothing but secrets when it comes to national security.
Regev also advances the hoary notion that if we allow Iran nuclear weapons it will start a Middle East nuclear arms race. But one of the most unintentionally funny parts of his argument is that the Turks will rush for a weapon because they have visions of renewing the greatness of the Ottoman Empire. I suppose the next thing would be for those Turks to take that bomb and bring it to the gates of Vienna as they did in the 16th century. Can a global showdown between Islam and the Christian west be far behind? Anders Breivik, anyone?
Let’s not leave out Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. They’re Sunni and surely won’t allow their Iranian Shiite enemy to outpace them. Egypt too will want to return to its rightful place as the leading nation of the Muslim world. And of course, the most certain way to do this, at least in the world according to Bibiton, is to get its own bomb.
The problem with this claim is that it posits that national greatness is contingent on having the biggest bomb, and not on other factors like economic prowess, or cultural or political values. Regev’s view is as twisted as Mitt Romney’s claim that Israel’s economic success is defined by its superior culture. Guns don’t determine greatness. They don’t ensure national survival. They’re a means but not an end. When they become an end in themselves then you end up being Sparta, rather than Athens.
The newspaper editor argues that allowing a nuclearized Middle East will bring Israel back to the way American’s lived in the 1950s, under fear of the bomb: air raid shelters, Dr. Strangelove, survivalism. What he neglects of course is that Israel has lived in a similar fashion since 1991, when Saddam’s Scuds fell on Tel Aviv. This is what happened in Israel in 2006 and 2009 when a third of the country lived for weeks in air raid shelters. He also neglects Israel’s own arsenal of hundreds of nuclear weapons which pose of theoretical threat to all of the Middle East, at least that part of it hostile to Israel. Yet somehow these scores of millions of Arabs have found a way to conduct their lives under such a threat. Do we doubt that Israel could do the same should one or more other nations in the region get nukes?
Here’s Regev’s conclusion:
We must solve the Iranian nuclear problem and do it quickly. We must decide and quickly. The centrifuges are spinning and the uranium piles up.