For the past several years, Benny Morris’ views of the Israeli-Arab conflict have grown increasingly bellicose and extremist. But in his recent NY Times op-ed, he’s taken them to their apotheosis, advocating an Israeli nuclear strike against Iran. Upon the likely failure of a conventional attack against Iran, he urges Israel:
to escalate and use the only means available that will actually destroy the Iranian nuclear project: Israel’s own nuclear arsenal.
I’m not even sure someone as nuts as Michael Ledeen has done so. John Hagee came within a hair’s breath of doing so. These two are certifiable right-wing lunatics. What’s Morris’ excuse?
If you read Morris’ best work, it is deeply-infused with references to archival sources used to document his overarching arguments. Not so here. Everything is opinion and not based on any sources:
ISRAEL will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven month…
“Almost surely?” Says who? A general? A prime minister? A defense minister? Sy Hersh? Benny, if you want to make outrageous statements at least give us some reason to believe you’re not pulling this out of your a…denoids.
And listen to the presumption of this statement:
Israel’s leaders, from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert down, have all explicitly stated that an Iranian bomb means Israel’s destruction…
I have read the Israeli press regularly on this subject for the last year or more and while I have heard all manner of bellicosity toward Iran, I have never quite heard Olmert or any centrist Israeli politician say what Morris claims they’ve ALL said.
Benny Morris KNOWS to the core of his being that Iran only wants a bomb so it can use it against Israel. What is the basis for such knowledge? Has Iran ever said it would do so? Has Iran ever implied it would do so? No one denies that the Iranian regime hates Israel, just as no one denies that Israel hates Iran. But there is a big difference between hating a nation’s government and being willing to use a nuclear weapon to eradicate it. It seems to me Morris has made an awfully big jump without a parachute on this one.
In the following passage, Morris seems to have morphed into Gen. Curtis LeMay, a man who was willing to sacrifice millions of American lives to destroy the Soviet menace:
The Iranians will also likely retaliate by attacking Israel’s cities with ballistic missiles (possibly topped with chemical or biological warheads); by prodding its local clients, Hezbollah and Hamas, to unleash their own armories against Israel; and by activating international Muslim terrorist networks against Israeli and Jewish — and possibly American — targets worldwide…
To me, it borders on insanity for someone like Morris to be willing to accept the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of Israelis for the sake of destroying Iran’s nuclear weapons capability. Especially when there is neither a guarantee that Iran will succeed in its effort, nor any certainty that Iran would ever use such a weapon against Israel if it did succeed. In effect, Morris countenances the death of millions of Iranians and Israelis on the off chance that Iran might someday use its bomb against Israel.
Note below the typically racist and unsupported view that Muslim extremists do not value life and are willing to sacrifice their own citizens on the altar of Jew-hatred:
Given the fundamentalist, self-sacrificial mindset of the mullahs who run Iran…
And the equally racist and unsupported notion that we westerners are the only ones who truly value life and can be dealt with “rationally:”
Israel knows that deterrence may not work as well as it did with the comparatively rational men who ran the Kremlin and White House during the cold war.
To me, the idea Morris proposes here–that Iran is NOT a nation with a set of rational national interests–is the height of folly and betrays Morris’ utter ignorance of anything to do with Iran. In fact, what particular expertise does he have in the field? None that I can see.
Gershom Gorenberg has also written a terrific critique of Morris’s essay and notes a few of the security threats that concern Iran and might lead it to want a nuclear weapon:
To its east, Iran has a Sunni-led country, Pakistan, that has nuclear arms. On its north is Russia; on its west is Israel. Besides nuclear powers, there is the old conventional threat of Turkey and the possibility that Iraq may someday be reconstituted as a functioning country and a military power. Any Iranian nationalist, whether Shi’ite, Pahlavian, or Marxist, would consider seeking the bomb – unless offered other reassurances about his country’s security, in the form of regional and international agreements.
We do a tremendous disservice to our own cause and to our enemy when we presume their motives to be base and presume ourselves and our motives to be pure as the driven snow. I am sorry to say that Benny Morris has become a warmonger. Just because he, like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, is willing to ride the big one to its target in Teheran, doesn’t mean the rest of Israel has to join him in his folly. I can only hope that cooler, more rational, and more cautious heads prevail in Tel Aviv and Washington.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.