I was just reading the NY Times account of the Philadelphia debate and I read something that piqued my interest regarding Clinton’s response to a question about an Iranian attack on Israel. Then when I read the transcript it blew my mind:
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, would you [extend our deterrent to Israel]?
SENATOR CLINTON: Well, in fact, George, I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.
There you have it. Israel is merely an extension of the U.S. itself, a member of the greater commonwealth if you will. I find such a comment deeply disturbing. Of course, I find the notion of an Iranian attack on Israel disturbing as well. But the idea that we would react to an attack on Israel as if it were an attack on ourselves ties me up in knots.
We are not the same as Israel. We have our interests. Israel has its own. What if Israel attacks Iran first in an attempt to knock out its nuclear program and Iran counterattacks? Is Clinton then bound by this statement to retaliate massively against Iran though Israel was the aggressor? You can see where this is going and it isn’t anyplace good.
Of course, this plays right into the hands of AIPAC. It’s meant as red meant for Pennsylvania’s Jews, who Clinton believes want to hear a battle cry against Iran. This despite the fact that all public opinion polls say that Jews don’t want to rattle sabers with Iran. They want negotiation instead. Of course, what I’ve just forgotten is that Clinton doesn’t care so much what the average Jew thinks. She’s playing to the AIPAC donors & Jewish PAC money crowd who are more hawkish than the Pope, er Ehud Olmert.
Compare Clinton’s over the top response to Obama’s modulated one:
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama…Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States. Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, our first step should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians, and that has to be one of our top priorities. And I will make it one of our top priorities when I’m president of the United States.
I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearly for them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not only development of nuclear weapons but also funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israel rhetoric and threats towards Israel. I believe that we can offer them carrots and sticks, but we’ve got to directly engage and make absolutely clear to them what our posture is.
Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?
SENATOR OBAMA: As I’ve said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we — one whose security we consider paramount, and that — that would be an act of aggression that we — that I would — that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.
Who would you want answering that telephone at 3AM? Trigger Finger Clinton? Or Deliberate Obama? A president who promises “massive retaliation” or one who promises the U.S. “would take appropriate action?” And let’s not make the mistake of thinking this is merely parsing words. Lately, we’ve had an Administration willing to go to war at the drop of a hat. Lest you think that Clinton might not initiate a regional war if Israel is attacked, think again.
And if you read her response further you’ll see she advocates a regional security umbrella of nations opposed to Iran. An attack on ANY OF THEM would be the same as an attack on the U.S. So now you have us becoming the gendarme of the Middle East willing to go to battle at the least flare-up between Iran and any number of neighbors with whom it might have a dispute. That scares me.
One final note: George Stephanopoulos makes a huge assumption in claiming Iranian nuclear weapons “would pose the greatest threat to Israel.” As distinguished an Israeli military analyst as Martin Van Creveld has written that Iran wants nuclear weapons to defend itself from attack by one of its immediate neighbors (remember the Iran-Iraq war of the late 1980s?). Israel is far back on the list of nations Iran is thinking of when it thinks of the reasons it needs such weapons.