Iran, Israel, And Wannabe Masters Of War


Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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111 Responses

  1. Avatar Erik Kain says:

    Elias, I fixed your image formatting. Read this for more information on new formatting guidelines.Report

  2. Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

    This is going to be fun…Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Israel has made its bed hard and must now live in it.   Where once it might have come to terms with the Palestinians, it never did.   Didn’t Israel realize the Palestinians were just as despised as the Jews themselves?   They might have found common cause, for many of the Palestinians were themselves immigrants.

    Ah well, all this has been said before and better.   It is a tiresome exercise.   Israel has reduced its raison d’etre to a war without end.

    The Book of Esther would have happened long after Cyrus the Great allowed the enslaved Jews to return to Israel.  The Persians positively reveled in allowing their subject people to practice their own religions, Cyrus the Great is unique in Jewish history as being called the Lord’s Anointed, to whom was given all the kingdoms of the earth, essentially a Messiah figure.    It is therefore highly unlikely the Persians of Ahasuerus/Xerxes’ time would have any particular animosity to Jews.   Xerxes called himself Shahanshah, king of kings, and built a great gate, the Door of Nations.   In short, the Book of Esther is an interesting little story with absolutely no basis in fact.Report

    • Avatar Gruntled in reply to BlaiseP says:

      First of all, the Book of Esther is the book to give someone if you’re meeting them on Purim. And it need have no other meaning than that.

      Second of all, the idea of the “Palestinians”, or should we just say the Muslim Arabs in general, ever being partners in peace is rather naive. In the 1910s and 1920s, the Arabs were holding pogroms to drive Jews out of villages in the area. In the 1930s, they complained so much about Jewish immigration that the Britons actually partitioned off the entire Mandate, crafting the nation of Transjordan (now known simply as Jordan since the ascension of the al-Hussein dynasty in 1946); from 1922 on, Jews were not allowed to emigrate to Transjordan, but instead ONLY allowed to emigrate to mandatory “Palestine.”

      Then we come round to the partition plan in which Israel was created, and immediately the pan-arabist states declared war, started broadcasting radio messages to the “Palestinian Arabs.” As stated in the memoirs of Syrian PM Khalid Al-Azm, “Fifth: the Arab governments’ invitation to the people of Palestine to flee from it and seek refuge in adjacent Arab countries, after terror had spread among their ranks in the wake of the Deir Yassin event. This mass flight has benefited the Jews and the situation stablized in their favor without effort. … Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homeland, while it is we who constrained them to leave it. Between the invitation extended to the refugees and the request to the United Nations to decide upon their return, there elapsed only a few months.

      The continuance of violence since is because there has never been a partner for peace on the Arab side. As such, nothing that was ever offered was genuine, as long as the Phased Plan is in action:'s_Ten_Point_Program

      Now that you’ve had your education, please do some reading and come back with something intelligent to say. I am really very disgusted by your prior racist rambling.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gruntled says:

        Gruntled. Lighten up. Your comment was perfectly fine without that last paragraph. You don’t need to include stuff like that here.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Gruntled says:

        Are you connected with Israel on some personal level Gruntled or just a dilettante like myself (I have Israeli friends but that doesn’t count)? Either way, well done because that’s a solid B+ imitation of the standard Likud tract (well except for that little turd cherry of a final paragraph, tsk on that).

        It’s particularly apt in that it pretty much covers all of Israels history up to the present day, well if by present day you mean the mid-70’s which is again, an excellent enactment of the Likud and Israeli right in generals mindset.


        What this ignores, of course, is that contrary to your assertions the Palestinians have made considerable efforts towards peace with Israel. Arafat, the old crook, of course never believed in it and played the whole affair like one giant con but many of his technocratic successors have definitely played it straight. Salam Fayyad, for instance has done yeoman’s work on developing an accountable administration and security cooperation with Israel and internal stomping has pretty much put an end to the horrific terror attacks that Israel suffered in the 90’s and early aught’s. I’d note again you get points in your Likud impersonation for pretending that military belligerence and that fence they threw up is entirely responsible for the ending of the attacks as if there aren’t a slew of Israeli targets on the other side of the fence.


        Of course this leaves out that we know pretty much out how far the Palestinian administators were willing to go to try and resolve the conflict thanks to wikileaks. This also leaves out that the Israeli right continues to have no answer as to what they propose to do about Israel’s mounting demographic crisis or what they’re going to do when the Palestinians abandon the two state program entirely and begin demanding annexation and a vote in Israel itself. But that’s the Israeli right for you, always talking about the seventies (or earlier).Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to North says:

          Israel may win the next war, but she will not win the last war. The only way to win is peace.

          My relatives in Israel know this. Then again, most Palestinians have never had much problem with the Sephardi.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Gruntled says:

        Hmm I wrote a reply to this but it vanished.. wonder if it got caught in the spam filter for some reason?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Gruntled says:

        My apologies if your fur has been rubbed the wrong way.   Such was never my intention.   I have spent quite a bit of time at the Ein el Hilweh camp in Lebanon, where the Lebanese have been treating the Palestinians like dirt time out of mind now.

        I do not take sides in the I/P fight and find people who do take sides are credulous idiots, on both sides.  The first casualty of war is the truth.  Enough lies have been told to justify this opinion.

        This I will say in defense of Israel, Jews have been under assault in that area since the end of the Ottoman Empire and many of their enemies were Nazis, plain and simple.   The British should have hanged the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for a war criminal.   The Ba’ath Party was full of unpunished Nazis.   Hitler still has his admirers thereabouts.   Nobody has ever called the State of Iraq to account for the legacy of its expulsion of the ancient Jewish community of Baghdad, or the Egyptians for what happened in Cairo and Alexandria.

        The original Zionists warned the State of Israel to buy the land, predicting trouble if they didn’t.   Their predictions have all come true.   I am darkly amused by the enemies of Israel using the term “Zionist”:  had anyone listened to Herzl, the current dreadful situation would never have arisen.

        In defense of the Palestinians, nobody hates them more than the other Arab states:  as badly as they are treated by the State of Israel, it’s far better than they are treated in Syria and Lebanon.   There, they are forbidden to work and remain in horrible concentration camps.   That is what they are, though the UN will deny it.

        The fact remains, the Book of Esther is an interesting little bit of fiction.   It couldn’t have happened.  The history is all wrong.  Xerxes had enough problems with the Greeks.   It’s hardly surprising that Bibi would bring that paranoid fairy tale to Obama.Report

        • Avatar Gruntled in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Blaming the Jews for “failing to come to terms” with a group who never, ever showed the slightest interest in coming to terms from the other side is barely a step above blaming Jews for “provoking the holocaust”, and you’ll find not the tiniest shred of sympathy from me for either bit of sophistry.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Blaise, Bibi used Esther because Masada was too obvious.  But make no mistake, that’s what’s going on here.  Never again, at least for the Jews in Israel.

      For American Jews and the rest of the diaspora, well, it’s not as though the Jewish people are strangers to genocide.  There is nowhere on earth they haven’t already been murdered en masse, including their own home country and Holy Land.

      Modern Israel is not necessarily Judaism’s—or the Jewish people’s—last stand. [At least this is my understanding of the view of American Reformed Judaism on Israel.]

      Even if Iran nuked Israel tomorrow, well, there are almost as many Jews in the USA as there are in Israel.  [~5-6 million.]

      Or as Walker Percy put it—Why are there no Hittites in New York City?  [See also Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption.]Report

  4. Avatar Jeff says:

    There are times when I’m ashamed of being Jewish (in heritage, if not religion).  I have no great love for the Palestinians (which I will not get into) but this whole mess is just plain dumb.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    The only thing that I despair over more than Netanyahu is the state of the Israeli polity which currently has no inclination to replace him. Ugh, how I worry and fret over it. The frustration of speaking with Israeli friends and hearing about how that fine little state’s settler movement is lashing it ever more firmly to the settlements that may well ultimately destroy leaves me nigh on livid. Then there’s the irony; the comparative reasonableness of the current Palestinian administrators (in a relative sense, mind, not an absolute one) and the madness of Netenyahu and his entire cabinet of right wing clowns.

    For goodness sake, if we could do a little time twisting… if these Palestinians could be made available to negotiate with Sharon or Olmert or even Barack’s old aministrations we’d have seperation and be within sight of long term resolution. Instead those previous admins got that canny crook Arafat and now the current Palestinian technocrats get Bibi. It is to laugh (or else I’d cry).Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to North says:

      We’ve got stones, here. Throw enough of them, and eventually he’ll twist an ankle.

      Until then, Israel marches in the streets. Don’t think for a moment that most of Israel doesn’t love peace. Israel hasn’t known a moment’s peace in ages — talk to anyone there, and someone’s brother/sister/aunt has died.

      I have confidence, even beneath the despair. Times they are a changing.

      Iran will change first, I’m sure, the situation is far more dire there. But the winds will blow through Israel too.

      Will they bring Israel’s destruction, or her rebirth? Only time will tell.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kimmi says:

        Well it’s very dicey at the moment of course because our own administration is facing election. A great deal of the fooferaw boils down to Netanyahu essentially rolling up to the Whitehouse and saying to Obama “nice little recovery and tailwind for re-election you’ve got here, shame if anything’d happen to it.” If Obama and his people can thread this needle and get reelected things will be pretty decent. But if Bibi somehow strongarms him into a strike or (heavens forfend) launches a strike himself. Still, my own feel is that both sides are bluffing.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to North says:

          I’d have to ask to know more than you do.

          but we managed to talk cheney out of going to war with iran…

          Thank goodness for small miracles.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Kimmi says:

            I’m of the opinion that we did not talk Cheney out of anything but rather Cheney and his flock of hawks failed to talk their compatriots into an invasion before they got booted out of office.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to North says:

              Meh. I know one of the organizers. It was a concerted effort (and give full credit to the military — if there’s one group that can put a stop to most anything, it’s them).Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to North says:

      A mentsch tracht, un Got lacht.  And I sometimes find myself wondering whether the Jews were just chosen to be God’s eternal straight-man.Report

  6. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Let’s say Iran gets a nuclear weapon.  Tomorrow.

    Its yield will be somewhere on the order of a couple hundred kilotons at most, if every other nuclear program on earth is any guide.  It is much more likely that it will be in the tens of kilotons, effectively around the same yield as the Fat Man bomb.

    They have one.  Israel has, by varying reports, perhaps as many as a 400, and certainly many more than there are major metropolitan areas in Iran.  They also are very, very likely to possess thermonuclear devices in the megaton range.

    If anyone in Iran was so foolish as to detonate this device, it would kill probably around 100,000-200,000 people.  This would be a great human tragedy, do not mistake me.  Israel is in a saddle, meteorlogically speaking, so it’s impossible to predict precisely which direction the fallout (if any) would go, but it would be pretty hard to drop a bomb on Israel without dusting Palestine with a decent chunk of the fallout.

    67% of Iran’s 73 million people live in urban areas.  About half of the total population lives in Tehran, Mashad, Isfahan, Tabriz, Karaj, Shiraz, and a couple of other of their largest cities.

    Israel can (almost) literally depopulate Iran’s urbanites with the use of less than 10% of its nuclear arsenal, and still have a whole heapin’ load of nukes to use if anyone else wants to take serious issue with their retaliatory strike.  If they choose to be surgical about it, they can even do crippling damage to Iran without endangering any neighbors with a high likelihood of fallout.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have strong sympathy for those people that don’t want any *more* countries to build a nuclear arsenal.  But in any practical sense, adding a nuclear bomb to Iran’s military capability does much more to bolster their political power than any actual military capabilities.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      For political reasons, this is being portrayed as an existential crisis for Israel.   For all the reasons that you’ve capably listed, it’s not.    I completely understand that Israel would prefer that the Persians had no bomb.

      I already hear the drumbeats of a march to war.    All of the Republican candidates are tripping over eachother so be the biggest badass on this topic.    But if Iran gets a bomb, we can live with it.   So will Israel.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      The counter arguements the Israeli’s have come in an assortment of flavors:

      -The Iranians leaders are crazy as catfish. Destruction of Iranian cities would be an acceptable price to pay for the destruction of the “zionist entity” also bringing about the end times plays into their religious beliefs.

      -On a similar note, Iran wouldn’t hesitate to kill Palestinians and Arabs in droves if it whiped out Israel.

      -A nuclear Iran would provide an unacceptable umbrella to Syria and also Iranian proxies like Hezbollah. (Or they could have their proxies deliver the bomb to Israel)

      -A nuclear Iran would cause Arab states to seek nuclear arms of their own.

      -The threat of a nuclear Iran would reverse Israeli immigration (their citizens are quite mobile) leaving a weakened and impoverished Jewish state.

      I don’t necessarily agree with these reasons but the Israeli righties peddle in them.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to North says:

        Crazy as catfish?   Never heard that one.    Are you some kind of raving anti-catfish bigot?

        That aside, all these are good reasons that an Iranian nuclear capability would be bad things for Israel.   I’m not sure that any of them argue that it’s an intolerable outcome…Report

        • To the Israeli left and center (judging by how poor an Israeli strike polls in Israel) they’re not, but to the Israeli right and (especially) to the Israeli Xionist Greater Israel Right they’re utterly intolerable.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to North says:

        also bringing about the end times plays into their religious beliefs.

        Somehow that statement conjured up a mental image of President Bachmann sitting opposite President Ahmadenijad.


      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

        There is a problem involving the 2nd Intifada, though. Specifically, the fact that we can look at all of those arguments listed there and see that they’re really, really silly… but the Intifada happened in very, very recent memory.

        Remember the beltway sniper thing?

        Well, imagine if there were celebrations with every shooting. And also imagine if the celebrations went on for a year or so. And instead of debates over whether the profile of the shooter pointed to a white male loner who hated women or a white male loner who hated everybody, there was a group of people who praised the shooter and said that they hoped their kids would grow up to be a shooter.

        Now, of course, Iran is not the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip… but the 2nd Intifada did a very good job of poisoning the well.

        As for Iran, I think we’d do the most damage to the government over there by sending blue jeans, ipods, women’s makeup, and youtube videos of Dee Snider recreating the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video with mullahs playing Niedermeyer.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

          Intifada #2 was bad Jaybird but what really really screwed the left wingers over was the goddamn idiocy that happened after Sharon pulled Israel and her settler crazies kicking and screaming out of Gaza. The Israeli’s still haven’t entirely settled and resolved their angry hissy fit throwing settlers from that area today and all they got for that withdrawal was Hamas in control of Gaza and an initially relentless but now intermittent shower of makeshift rockets into Israel proper. That killed the land for peace constituency in Israel stone dead; at least so far.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

          As for Iran, I think we’d do the most damage to the government over there by sending blue jeans, ipods, women’s makeup, and youtube videos of Dee Snider recreating the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video with mullahs playing Niedermeyer.

          I expect this would be particularly effective, as well.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Now that’s some wicked cultural diplomacy.Report

          • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            I think that perhaps we’re overestimating the power of American Pop culture.

            In the Middle East, they are very ambivalent about our pop culture.   When they speak of “The Great Satan,” they are not really talking about us as a source of evil, but of temptation.   Of the lure of the worldly and materialistic over the eternal and the spiritual.

            However, I have found that there is a pretty deep underlying respect for America, and our political system, even if they think it’s dominated by hedonists and anti-Muslim feeling.   I have an Persian friend who says that you could pick any person out of those anti-American demonstrations, offer him a US Visa, and he’d be on an airplane before the day is out.

            What they want is respect (that’s mostly about what the bombs are about).   What they hear, instead, is  a good portion of the legislature and policy establishment willing to give them anything but respect.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

              Oh certainly.

              It would be loads cheaper, though, than any sort of military action or embargo.  So on a “bang for your buck” measure, it’s probably still particularly effective.Report

            • “However, I have found that there is a pretty deep underlying respect for America, and our political system, even if they think it’s dominated by hedonists and anti-Muslim feeling. I have an Persian friend who says that you could pick any person out of those anti-American demonstrations, offer him a US Visa, and he’d be on an airplane before the day is out.”

              I’ve got a feeling that many Iranians who seriously hate America and our culture would be just a little offended at this liberalized, patronizing view of their political activism. It’s a crazy idea, but there might be Iranians who love their country, want to take it from the tyrants who control them and don’t necessarily want much to do with America — they’d rather build their own idea of nation and identity.Report

            • Snarky, you have an excellent point but we actually have an answer which can be summed up in one word; Bollywood. The Indian sub-continent has a sprawling, developed and sophisticated entertainment industry which is made by Muslims for Muslims and is fully capable of transmitting cultural mores that, while not exactly American or Western, are quite compatible with them.

              If I were President and causing culture to progress in the Middle East was my big foreign goal then a massive focus on defusing the Indian/Pakistani affair would be one of my top priorities. If Kashmir and the fraternal hostility between those two nations could be cooled and put to bed I suspect that Bollywood would mainline cultural development into the middle east at an even faster rate than it does now.


    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      I second what Pat said.  Almost nobody in the U.S. is willing to look at this from Iran’s perspective, which is the perspective of a country that has no real friends, not because of its actions but because of its ethnic distinctiveness. It has no other Persian countries; no other countries with which it really shares language and culture.  Sure, it shares Islam with its Arab neighbors, but if you want to get in a fight, go to the Middle East and start asking whether it’s the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Gulf.  Sure, Iran is allies with Russia and Syria, but they’re mere allies of convenience with minimal joint interests.

      Iran wants nuclear weapons because it’s noticed that countries with nuclear weapons don’t get treated like annoying step-children the way non-nuclear countries do.  Nuclear weapons are their ticket to something approaching global political equality. They are one of the most populous countries in the Middle East, and by god they want to be a major player in the region–in that sense, they’re not desiring anything the U.S. itself doesn’t desire.

      They’re not cat-fishing crazy, although they understand the political advantages of making us wonder if they are.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to James Hanley says:

        Just to reiterate James I don’t agree with much of any of the reasons for war with Iran that I listed. So I generally agree with you here.

        That said their political figures have said some really crazy unfortunate things about Israel specifically and governing in general. I agree they probably not crazy but they’re not exactly the somber staid Russian politbuero either.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to North says:


          Oh, I got that you weren’t advocating those claims.

          As to crazy, well, religious fanaticism can lead to that.  But the responsiblities of actually running a country can counteract that.  And strategically speaking, there can be good reason for putting on a good act of being crazy.  Say you and I are at a party, head to the kitchen at the same time for another beer, and there’s only one left, so I threaten to defenestrate you if you take it. That would be a crazy thing to do, but am I really that crazy? No, I’m not, but the relevant question is whether you can tell that or not.  If you can see that I’m play-acting, my crazy-schtick won’t work.  If you can’t see that I’m play-acting, it will.

          The trick is to act just crazy enough to get the beer, but not so crazy that you preemptively club me with an empty whiskey bottle.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to James Hanley says:

            This is why the UN General Assembly just uses pony kegs and a few Costco packs of Red Solo Cups.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to James Hanley says:

            I’m with ya on all that James, and certainly any political realist would say that the powers that be in Iran would really prefer to keep the party going about the way it is now while the religious powers gorge themselves on the gravy train and watch as their IRG underlings steadily take over the reins of power in the country. Neither of those constituencies have any interest in vaporizing in a wave of Israeli retaliatory nuclear strikes. But of course American neo-cons and Israeli right wingers don’t really care if that is likely enough, they just want it to be plausible enough so they can start a war with Iran.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North says:

              Yes, if Iranian leaders wanted martyrdom they could have accomplished it long ago. The leaders of Iran want power and control the same as any decent tyrants — they certainly don’t want all out war with the US. If, though, they think they can advance their influence in the region through a limited military interaction with Israel, they might gamble on that.

              We should announce an end to the US/Mideast game that’s been going on since our country’s beginning — let Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran work it out without any assistance at all from us. We can let the region know we will peacefully trade with them, but no longer will we intervene, nation build, prop up dictators, arm one side against the other, etc, only economic activity based on free trade.

              We can say that both sides, or all sides involved, have made many mistakes, and sometimes there have been terrible misjudgements made on our side — so, in order to stop the deadly game going forward, we are withdrawing militarily and will not return unless some mideast nation attacks us, then we will respond with awful force then quickly leave the damage behind us.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

                That’s certainly a consistant Libertarian solution Mike, as politically impossible as it is compliant with Libertarian principals.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North says:

                Oh, it’s politically possible. BTW, the principles, not principals.

                It will take more failure and the American people getting sick of the political wars which aren’t connected to national security — we’ll get there, and it will sooner rather than later.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                Sometimes when I read a comment such as North’s — it’s politically impossible — I think about the history I’ve read, and it makes me a little sad that so many have become so settled in their worldviews — many people are going to be out of sorts when reality as we know it  takes one of those big-ass turns hardly anyone expects. I suspect we’re building up to one of those historical turns.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

                Mike, it’s not exactly a criticism per say, just an observation of fact, Libertarians just have a lot further to go on this issue. The right and the Left both would hate this proposal so of course politically speaking it’s a non-starter.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

                I stand corrected on the principles.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to James Hanley says:

        Also of note is that countries with nukes tend not to get invaded by the US (Iraq vs. North Korea, e.g.).  If I ran Iran, I would sure as hell want nukes.  To that extent, bellicose rhetoric from the US is probably counterproductive.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

        It has no other Persian countries; no other countries with which it really shares language and culture

        Parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.  But I’m just quibbling.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Yeah, the problem for Iran is that those parts don’t have boatloads of political influence in their own countries.  It might be a better world if some of them did–not necessarily enough to dominate the rest of the folks in their countries, but enough to make their countries more Iran-friendly.  Being friendless is a good way to become paranoid (and, of course, vice versa).Report

    • Avatar Gruntled in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      The risk of Iran developing nuclear weaponry isn’t just “missiles.” Sure, they have missiles right now that can make it to Israel. And they’re probably within 5 years or so of one that could reach Britain.

      But when you add up the places Iran considers valid targets anyways, you have a list a mile long, and a fair number of them are PORT cities. Who needs a missile when you can load up your warhead into a shipping crate, sail it into the harbor, and boom it goes? Nobody inspects this shit unless you manifest-list it for unloading anyways, and they don’t do it for hours after you dock if you’re even on the random inspection list.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      But in any practical sense, adding a nuclear bomb to Iran’s military capability does much more to bolster their political power than any actual military capabilities.

      We should be clear that when people talk about an Iranian bomb being an existential threat to Israel, Israel’s having to deal politically and strategically with this power is what they actually have in mind.  Even though Israel’s counter-deterrence dwarfs the threat Iran would then pose, the threat of an Iranian first-strike lethality threat on the order of a hundred thousand is a very real constraining factor that Iran would be able to impose on Israel, something that would to some extent bind Israel’s hands in the region compared to the free reign they now enjoy tactically in partnership with us.  We shouldn’t be surprised how strongly Israel wants to forestall this development.  We also should understand that when they talk about an existential threat, this is what they are talking about – limitations on their military options in what they view as a region over which they intend to maintain a military free hand.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Michael Drew says:

        The bottom line is that Iran has no incentive to bomb Israel with a nuclear bomb, because Iran would no longer exist. If the leaders of Iran were serious about martyrdom, their martrydom, they could have gone to meet Allah a long time ago. The existential threat is against Iran. Any use of nuclear weapons by Iran would mean the complete end of Iran. So, to build a policy based on Crazy Theocracies is crazy in itself. The leaders of Iran are not suicidal madmen — they are grasping to survive and hopefully thrive in the region after they’ve worn us down to financial collapse. Some country in the Mideast has been running this con against the US since America began.Report

  7. Avatar MFarmer says:

    For the sake of clarity, Ron Paul is not a neo-isolationist. There’s a significant difference between isolationism and non-interventionism.Report

  8. Jeesh — look at these comments! You’re all a bunch of America-hating, anti-Semitic, Kenyan anti-colonialist, Marxist, commie-dems!Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Elias Isquith says:

      You left out self-hating Jews.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Elias Isquith says:

      You run Bob off, then ridicule him? Classy.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

        Bob ran himself off Mike. I’m still feeling quite sad about it myself but it’s important to keep the distinction in mind.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North says:

          So, you don’t have a problem with Front Pagers ridiculing him now? I guess when someone is properly demonized, being civil to them is no longer important.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to MFarmer says:

            Bob’s tag line of “Kenyan anti-colonialist, Marxist, commie-dems!” was itself ridiculing other people.  Adopting it as a joke is hardly itself “demonizing” anybody.

            I think you’re stretching more than a mite.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

            Bob’s schtick was an open invitation to ridicule Mike. The alternative to mocking it was to be angered by it or ignore it. The former was something he always derived great glee from and the latter cast the whole commentariate in a bad light so ridicule was by far the preferable response.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to MFarmer says:

        On a personal note, America’s unfortunate reduction of Likud-Labour to our own Republican-Democrat partisanship—and all the ugliness that follows—clouds Israel’s issues bigtime.

        It doesn’t work that way.  Indeed, out of desperation and fear for its continued existence, Israel elected “mega-hawk” Ariel Sharon and his new 3rd party Kadima in 2005.  Kadima is now the major opposition party*, not Labour.

        As best I can suss out here in 2012, the Israeli public is in favor of neither course of action or inaction, no doubt hoping somebody will “do something”

        Some 34 percent of those surveyed said they were against an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities; another 42 percent favored an attack that had U.S. backing. Another 19 percent favor an attack even without backing from the United States.

        I don’t blame them, some hope in a deus ex machina.  But that has not worked for the Jewish people in over 2500 years, and not very well for them if you count the Babylonian Captivity.

        On the other hand, another poll sez

        Israeli perceptions change, however, if the US comes on board: 65 percent of Israelis support an attack coordinated with America and 72 percent believe such a strike is likely to be effective.

        So, I’m just not ready to apply America’s 50-50 Rep/Dem split to the conservative Likud Party of Bibi Netanyahu vs. his partisan opponents.

        BTW, from the first poll:  Illustrating the difference between Israeli Jews and American Jews—I don’t recall a Republican ever having near-parity with a Democrat for the US Jewish vote, or even being on the same planet.

        Meanwhile, Israeli Jews favor President Obama compared to any of his potential Republican rivals, according to the survey. Israeli Jews preferred Obama to Mitt Romney by 32 percent to 29 percent; to Newt Gingrich, 31 percent to 27 percent; and to Rick Santorum, 34 percent to 21 percent.

        The poll conducted Feb. 22-26 by the University of Maryland and the Dahaf Institute surveyed 500 Israelis.


        *Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni [Kadima] commented on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in front of the AIPAC annual conference, saying: “Instead of recruiting the world against Iran, Netanyahu’s policies lead world leaders to warn Israel to stop.
        “The Iranian threat is a strategic threat that must be addressed – there is no disagreement on that – but these discussions must be held with the Americans in utmost discretion,” she added.
        TVD: This sounds OK to me.  Too much talk on Netanyahu’s part, perhaps.  But respectfully, Elias, per your analysis, Livni seems quite mindful—and not dismissive—of the Iranian threat to Israel.  She disagrees with the <strike>Republicans</strike> Netanyahu/Likud only on the best diplomatic and rhetorical tactics and techniques.
        Which is where I demur from your analysis and very good post here.  Even Netanyahu’s political “left” is more in agreement with the gravity of the Iranian threat than it’s dismissive of it, as is the European/American left.


        • Avatar North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Different people can read different things into the same polls obviously. What my own take on it is that the Israeli’s (very sensibly) think Iran getting the bomb would be a highly undesirable thing but they part company with Likud and the right on whether Iran would use the bomb on Israel if they got it. To wit, the Israeli’s haven’t been convinced by Bibi et all that the Iranian regime is mad enough to commit suicide (a sentiment I agree with).

          As for left/right dem/gop Labor/Likud comparisons I agree it’s a facile comparison. Kadima is a centrist party and the peace wing in Israel is currently moribund from despair (courtesy of Palestinian idiocy after the Gazan withdrawal).Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          That seems pretty interesting, Tom.  You’re paying more attention to Israeli politics than I am, that’s for certain.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            PatC, I read Jerusalem Post and Haaretz both.  “Peace” is only a relative term in Israel, measured in days or weeks, an occasional year or two.  Could end tomorrow.

            It’s their ass on the line, not ours.  I agree: Iran probably won’t nuke them even if they become nuclear-capable.




        • You’re right about Livni, Tom. I think it’s understandable and not even deserving of criticism that the overall tenor of the convo in Israel — on the left and right, both — is more anxious and fevered than it is on the L in America or Western Europe.  As I’m sure you know,  the entire Israeli political sphere has shifted markedly to the right in the past 30ish years, for a bunch of reasons that have to do with internal and external developments…Report

  9. Avatar Gruntled says:

    Mark Steyn, in 2005. Posting the text as I can: Chicago Boring-Times has it behind a paywall now. Relevant today just as much as it was then.

    Title of article: “But seriously folks, this clown is dangerous.”

    So let’s see: We have a Holocaust denier who wants to relocate an entire nation to another continent, and he happens to be head of the world’s newest nuclear state. (They’re not 100 percent fully-fledged operational, but happily for them they can drag out the pseudo-negotiations with the European Union until they are. And Washington certainly won’t do anything, because after all if we’re not 100 percent certain they’ve got WMD — which we won’t be until there’s a big smoking crater live on CNN one afternoon — it would be just another Bushitlerburton lie to get us into another war for oil, right?)

    So how does the United States react? Well, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that the comments of Ahmadinejad “further underscore our concerns about the regime.”

    Really? But wait, the world’s superpower wasn’t done yet. The State Department moved to a two-adjective alert and described Ahmadinejad’s remarks as “appalling” and “reprehensible.” “They certainly don’t inspire hope among any of us in the international community that the government of Iran is prepared to engage as a responsible member of that community,” said spokesman Adam Ereli.

    You don’t say. Ahmadinejad was speaking in the holy city of Mecca, head office of the “religion of peace,” during a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. There were fiftysomething other heads of government in town. How many do you think took their Iranian colleague to task?

    Well, what’s new? But, that being so, it would be heartening if the rest of the world could muster a serious response to the guy. How one pines for a plain-spoken tell-it-like-it-is fellow like, say, former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali? As he memorably said of Iran, “It’s a totalitarian regime.” Oh, no, wait. He said that about the United States. On Iran, he’s as impeccably circumspect and discreet as the State Department.

    “Diplomatic” language is one of the last holdovers of the pre-democratic age. It belongs to a time when international relations were conducted exclusively between a handful of eminent representatives of European dynasties. Today it’s all out in the open — President Ahmaddasanatta proposed his not-quite-final solution for Israel on TV. McLellan and Ereli likewise gave their response on TV. So the language of international relations is no longer merely the private code of diplomats but part of the public discourse — and, if the government of the United States learns anything from the last four years, it surely ought to be that there’s a price to be paid for not waging the war as effectively in the psychological arenas as in the military one. What does it mean when one party can talk repeatedly about the liquidation of an entire nation and the other party responds that this further “underscores our concerns,” as if he’d been listening to an EU trade representative propose increasing some tariff by half a percent?Report

    • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Gruntled says:

      Ah, yes, Mark Steyn sure had it right when he told us that Iran’s securing of a nuclear weapon that it would immediately use to ensure its own destruction was imminent…in 2005.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gruntled says:

      The problem with words is that you can’t always be sure when they’re intended to lead to action and when they’re not.  Economists and political scientists talk a lot about signaling and cheap talk…but sometimes threats are real.  But assuming that all words–just because they’re really ugly–can’t be signaling and cheap talk and must be real threats, that’s neither wise nor insightful.Report

  10. Avatar Kolohe says:

    You want a contrary opinion?  Here’s (a mild) one.  (based on something in the Atlantic (I think) a few weeks ago)

    When Israel went after the sites in both Iraq and Syria, they just did it.   No talk.  Just bolt from the blue.

    All the bellicose talk is just bluster.  However, it’s been highly effective bluster, because, as you point out, the Iranians are allowing inspectors in.  The good cop (Obama) /bad cop (Bibi, Klein, etc) thing seems to be working out quite well, even if it’s scaring the snot out of everyone. (including the commodities markets).   So yeah, guys like Klein are serving a very useful purpose.  Because, as Mr. Hanley says above, you can’t quite be sure they’re not serious.


    • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe says:

      From your lips to God(ess?)’s ears Kolohe, and I typed that so hard my keyboard creaked.

      I only pray to that distant vague agnostic whatever that your optimistic take is the correct one.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kolohe says:

      An U.S. resident but Israeli-born friend of mine told me the other day that he thinks Bibi has no intention of going after Iran.  His take was, “Israel has 7 million people, Iran has 70 million people–Israel doesn’t want to take them on.”  So his perspective is that Israel’s saber-rattling is a strategic game, too–hoping the U.S. will take it seriously and feel it necessary to get involved to pressure Iran, and hoping Iran will feel the need to respond positively.

      He also suggested that Obama’s using the issue to his own advantage, to turn the electoral focus away from the economy, and to an area where he can look better, very presidential, and more calm adult-like than the “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” Republicans.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Kolohe says:

      Oh, so their master plan is working?Report

  11. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    The choice facing Israelis is grim. Soon — some say within months or even weeks — the Iranian nuclear program will advance to the stage where Israel will no longer have the military capacity to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

    As the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick put it, at that point, “Obama will effectively hold the key to Israel’s survival. Israel will be completely at his mercy.” ….

    An even handed analysis, Mr. Isquith, props.  But if the above is true, that’s the clincher, despite the pooh-poohing from The Economist, et al., that you cite.

    Israel bombed Saddam’s nascent nuclear program in 1981.  The new Reagan Administration, along with the rest of the civilized world, formally condemned the action.

    What the civilized world thought informally is of course another question—and indeed a completely different answer. A nice big cup of STFU.

    There was also the kerblooey @ a Syrian program in 2007

    Before.  After.

    The lesson of 1981 and 2007?  Act first, ask permission later.


  12. Avatar James Hanley says:

    if the above is true, that’s the clincher

    Do you mean the clincher as in “so therefore Israel will act,” or as in “so therefore Israel must act”?

    (Or have I excluded the real meaning?)Report

  13. Erik, would you like us to do 300, wrap-around text for photos on the front? I notice you reformatted it from the 600 up top.Report

  14. Avatar Robert Greer says:

    Peter Beinart’s new piece on the Obama/Netanyahu maneuvering is well worth reading — it dovetails nicely with the arguments in this post and comment thread.Report