How do we know this? An exile group of so-called “freedom-fighters” has made this “intelligence” available to a reporter for a widely-read US newspaper, which splashes this scoop all over its front pages.
I could be talking about the year 2002 — or 2012, with only difference being the names of the target countries. We have been down this road before
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now saying it is only a matter of a year or so before Iran is ready to join the nuclear club — of course, he said the same thing last year, and the year before, and the year before that.
Adding to our sense of deja-vu, we have an Iranian version of the Iraqi National Congress exile group providing the same quality of “intelligence”: the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), or Peoples’ Warriors, a weird Marxist-Islamic cult which once served Saddam Hussein and was given a base in Iraq to conduct terrorist activities in Iran. When the southern Shi’ites rose against Saddam in the 1990s, Saddam called in these mercenaries to slaughter the ill-armed rebels. The War Party won a big victory the other day when Hillary Clinton announced the MEK had been taken off the official list of designated terrorist groups. They have been a constant source of phony “evidence” that Iran is secretly working on nuclear weapons
Hardly a day goes by without some supposedly sensational revelation or claim about Iran’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction.” It seems like only yesterday, however, that we were seeing exactly the same headlines, and the same articles, only this time it is Iran instead of Iraq that stands accused. Back in 2002, it was a series of pieces bylined by a New York Times reporter, Judith Miller — whose name has become virtually synonymous with deception. Ms. Miller was being fed her information by Chalabi’s group, via her close connections to the administration, and in particular to a group of political operatives deemed the neoconservatives.
This was — is — a small but highly influential coterie of what used to be called cold war liberals, whose views were shaped by migratory ex-Trotskyites with a bone to pick with Stalin. Not your run of the mill European-style Social Democrats, mind you, but militant interventionists with a vision of a world reshaped by American military power. Or, as one neocon writing in a prominent foreign policy journal put it: the goal of US foreign policy ought to be “benevolent global hegemony” — as opposed, one must assume, to the malevolent global hegemony dreamed of by Communists, national socialists, and other villains throughout history.
The fabled journey of the neocons from far left to far right has been celebrated in story and song, and there is no need to go into all the gory details here: we’ve heard it all before — in a PBS documentary, “Arguing the World,” and in numerous memoirs by the participants. Yet this famous hegira didn’t take them anywhere: it was a journey standing still. For they had simply transferred their allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States without changing the basic underlying assumptions of their radical universalism: instead of a world communist revolution as advocated by Leon Trotsky and his followers, these disillusioned Marxists now dreamed of a “global democratic revolution,” as one of George W. Bush’s speechwriters put it in a presidential oration celebrating the anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy.
Having walked out of the Democratic party, disgusted with the alleged “pacifism” of George McGovern, these Scoop Jackson Democrats wound up in the Republican party just as the Reagan Revolution, so-called, was picking up steam. When Reagan went to Washington, the neocons followed in his wake, and wound up ensconced in the National Endowment for Democracy, which was founded with them in mind. There Reagan’s advisers could keep an eye on them, while they stayed largely out of sight of the general public.
From a small coterie of social democratic intellectuals, the neocons soon branched out and established a Washington network that tied them into the right-wing cold war coalition of social conservatives, free market types, and professional anti-communists. The neocons fit neatly into the latter category, but were never quite comfortable with the other members of the coalition. Some of them remained socialists, or at least social democrats of one sort or another, and as far as capitalism was concerned, they could only give it two cheers, at the most — as Irving Kristol put it in the title of one of his books. When it came to domestic issues, the neocons were all over the map, from Sidney Hook — the quintessential New York intellectual — who remained a socialist until his dying day, to Irving Kristol, a former Trotksyist who wound up founding a veritable dynasty based on the ideological assumptions to be found in the Republican party platform.
What unified them, and defined them as a cohesive group, was a fanatical hatred of Stalinism and their dedication to the idea of spreading democracy — at gunpoint, if necessary — throughout the world. During the cold war, the CIA made use of them as the US sought to counter Soviet influence on the international left. Having displaced the older generation of conservatives, who were derided as “isolationists,” these New Conservatives — or neoconservatives, as they came to be known — came to dominate the American right-wing and soon seized control of the philanthropic foundations that poured money into right-wing causes.
As the cold war ended, however, they saw their influence waning. When Reagan met with Gorbachev and signed a treaty limiting long-range missiles based in Europe, they accused the man who had coined the phrase “evil empire” with selling out to the commies and leaving the US defenseless against the Kremlin. They failed to understand what was happening when the Soviet colossus began to crack because they never “got it” that communism’s biggest enemies were its own internal contradictions.
With the fall of Communism, and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the professional anti-communists were out of work. Suddenly there was a big hole in their worldview: the rationalization for our interventionist foreign policy had disappeared almost overnight. Worse, from their point of view, the Republicans were drifting back to their “isolationist” roots. When, during the Clinton administration, the Republicans in Congress threatened to pull the funding from our military adventure in Kosovo, Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, threatened to walk out of the Republican party.
Ah, but all was not lost. When George W. Bush went to Washington, a gaggle of neocons followed him. Showing up for work that fateful winter were all the familiar faces who had worked for Sen. Scoop Jackson (D-Boeing), organized the Committee on the Present Danger (and other neocon front groups), and served as the de facto command center of the War Party in previous administrations: Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Eliot Cohen, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith — and, sitting in the peanut gallery, the neocon publicists like Bill Kristol, son of Irving, editor of the Weekly Standard: Max Boot, former CIA analyst, the gang over at Commentary magazine, the staff of the American Enterprise Institute — the most prominent and certainly the wealthiest conservative think tank — and various and sundry Republican politicians, as well as ostensible Democrats like Sen. Joe Lieberman. The policy office of the Pentagon and the National Security Council were packed with neocons, and they had their agenda all set to go when George W. Bush entered the Oval Office.
They went to Washington with a plan: invade and subjugate Iraq. They had found a new enemy to take the place of the Kremlin, and it wasn’t just the Iraq dictator — although Saddam was their initial target — but the entire Muslim world, which they determined had to be transformed. The “swamp,” they averred, had to be “drained.” In their view, the entire Arab world had been deformed and kept back from achieving “modernity” due to certain characteristics of what they called the “Arab mind” — deformations that could be traced back to the all-pervasive influence of Islam on the development of Arab civilization.
The stage was set for the disaster that was about to unfold….
It’s All About Israel - Part II of “Roots of the Iranian ‘Crisis’”
It was and is a matter of high principle for the neoconservatives that the US unconditionally support Israel in its struggle against the Arab world. Disputing the neocons’ claim to the mantle of Wilsonianism, Michael Lind described this odd nexus of radical universalism and ethno-nationalism as “Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism,” adding: “Genuine American Wilsonians believe in self-determination for people such as the Palestinians.”
Saddam Hussein, you’ll recall, had been offering bounties for suicide bombers, at least according to the propaganda we heard, and — alongside the contention that he was also developing nuclear weapons — this was the pitch the neocons, and the Israel lobby, gave in public to justify the invasion. Yet there was another layer of rationalization which went largely undetected in America, and the argument was contained in a paper prepared for then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in 1996, under the auspices of the Israeli Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, which had organized a “Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000.” The paper was shaped by a series of seminars in which several figures who would figure prominently in the administration of George W. Bush participated, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser. Entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the proposal proffered by these future American policymakers urged Netanyahu to undertake a long-term project to break Israel out of its geographic and demographic boundaries and engage in a campaign of “regime change” in the Middle East. To the incoming Prime Minister, who had upended the long rule of the Israeli Labor Party, they gave the following advice: ditch the peace process, and make a “clean break” with the policy of appeasing both the Palestinians and the United States. Stand up to Uncle Sam, insist on mutuality, build up support for Israeli objectives in the US Congress, and go on the offensive against the enemies of the Jewish state:
“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”
The entire regime change operation we are seeing unfold in the Middle East is a veritable laundry list of neoconservative goals as outlined in the “Clean Break” document, as well as in the agenda of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), Bill Kristol’s vehicle for injecting a strong dose of interventionism into the incoming Bush administration. Aside from calling for regime change in practically every Middle Eastern state — all this prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks — PNAC’s proposal for tripling the military budget was prefaced by a yearning for “a new Pearl Harbor,” which would wake the American people up to the imperative of American military supremacy at any cost.
The neocons got their Pearl Harbor on September 11, 2001, and they were more than ready to take full advantage of the opportunity to implement their agenda of permanent war. While the administration made a half-hearted attempt to capture Osama bin Laden they failed to corner him in Afghanistan, and the top leadership slipped through the American dragnet with the help of its Taliban allies. This, however, didn’t really concern the neocons all that much: Paul Wolfowitz and others were arguing inside the administration that the real enemy was in Baghdad. After the preliminaries in Afghanistan, they turned their sights on the real object of their war-lust: Iraq.
The “Clean Break” scenario envisioned the overthrow of Iraq’s Ba’athist regime as a prerequisite for Israel’s success, and the Israel lobby, in concert with the neoconservatives, played a key role in dragging us into that disastrous war of aggression. Yet that was just the beginning of the road they wanted to take us on, and we are halfway down it already. As Ariel Sharon told a delegation of American congressmen in 2003, after Iraq must come Iran, Libya, and Syria:
“These are irresponsible states, which must be disarmed of weapons mass destruction, and a successful American move in Iraq as a model will make that easier to achieve," said the Prime Minister to his guests, rather like a commander issuing orders to his foot-soldiers. While noting that Israel was not itself at war with Iraq, he went on to say that “the American action is of vital importance.”
Of course it was, but as far as the Israelis and their American amen corner were concerned, it was to be just the beginning.
The Israelization of American foreign policy under George W. Bush was a policy consciously promoted by the neoconservatives from their well-situated perch at the heights of the national security apparatus. The progenitors of the “Clean Break” scenario saw the Israeli state facing a terminal crisis: the Jewish state, in their view, was suffering from an “exhaustion” that could lead to extinction. The idea was to break with the idea of “containment” and go for a policy of preemption. As the “Clean Break” document put it:
“Notable Arab intellectuals have written extensively on their perception of Israel’s floundering and loss of national identity. This perception has invited attack, blocked Israel from achieving true peace, and offered hope for those who would destroy Israel. The previous strategy, therefore, was leading the Middle East toward another Arab-Israeli war. Israel’s new agenda can signal a clean break by abandoning a policy which assumed exhaustion and allowed strategic retreat by reestablishing the principle of preemption, rather than retaliation alone and by ceasing to absorb blows to the nation without response.”
This doctrine of preemption came to be known as the Bush Doctrine, but it really ought to be called the Sharon-Bush Doctrine, given its true origins. When George W. Bush declared that the United States has the “right,” and even the obligation, to attack any nation on earth, on the grounds that the target poses a potential threat to US interests, he was merely echoing what had by that time already become official Israeli policy. This policy was given free rein in a whole series of wars, aside from the permanent state of war prevailing in the occupied territories of Palestine: two invasions of Lebanon, and, today, terrorist attacks inside Iran carried out by Israeli intelligence agencies in cooperation with their proxies, such as the Mujahideen Khalq. The ultimate example of preemption would be an attack on Iran — and here we see a real conflict developing between the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s government.
The Israeli position on Iran is an application of the Bush Doctrine taken to its logical extreme. While the American intelligence community is clear that the Iranians abandoned their embryonic nuclear weapons program in 2003, and all subsequent “evidence” of a viable Iranian nuke in the making has turned out to be either forgeries or pre-2003 materials, Netanyahu gets around this by upping the ante. The danger, he says, is that the Iranians will achieve the capacity to put together a nuclear weapon on very short notice. The Romney campaign, taking its cues from Tel Aviv, has echoed this escalation of Israeli demands, with the formulation that they don’t want Tehran “one turn of the screwdriver away” from acquiring nuclear weapons.
This is a technical impossibility, a crude bit of war propaganda that has no basis in reality: but then again, that’s what war propaganda usually is — blind assertions meant to evoke an emotional response rather than one based on reason, or, in this case, on science. As the Wilson Center study on the costs and benefits of an attack on Iran put it, it would take at least two years or more for Iran to develop a deliverable nuclear warhead — and the effort would be detected long before that.
In short, the ticking time bomb scenario described by Netanyahu and his American co-thinkers is pure nonsense: in no sense could the Iranians ever be “one turn of the screwdriver away” from nuking Israel. Even given the doctrine of preemption, in light of these facts the justification for war simply does not exist. Netanyahu and his defense minister claim Israel faces an “existential” crisis, nothing less than the prospect of a second Holocaust. Yet there are no facts to back up this assertion: it is simply an emotional appeal. Something else is at work here other than fear of a genuine threat, and it is quite simply politics — that is, the internal politics of Israel, and also of the United States.
Objectively, there is no threat to Israel, or to the West, emanating from Iran: armed with nuclear weapons, and so far advanced militarily over its neighbors that the distance between them can only be measured in light years, Israel has no real reason to fear an attack that is not forthcoming in any event. The whole thing is manufactured by politicians who have but one goal in mind: to stay in power.
Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad, says the idea of a preemptive attack on Iran is “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,” and inside Israel support for Netanyahu’s gambit is far from solid. Shimon Peres, one of the last of the old-style (i.e. rational) Israeli leaders, recently went on television to expressly dissent from Netanyahu’s apocalyptic rhetoric and to give support to President Obama as a reliable ally.
What’s interesting is that the rhetoric coming from Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, has a distinctly anti-American strain. As Barak put it, in arguing for a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran:
“Ronald Reagan did not want to see a nuclear Pakistan, but Pakistan did go nuclear. Bill Clinton did not want to see a nuclear North Korea, but North Korea went nuclear.”
“If Israel forgoes the chance to act and it becomes clear that it no longer has the power to act, the likelihood of an American action will decrease… We cannot wait to discover one morning that we relied on the Americans but were fooled because the Americans didn’t act in the end…. Israel will do what it has to do.”
Barak’s message is all too clear: the Americans are mercurial, and weak-willed — they can’t be counted on, and besides we have to do what we have to do. This is the spirit and letter of the “Clean Break” document, which decried US “intervention” in Israel’s internal affairs, and it is the language of the extreme nationalists, such as Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, who once advocated bombing the Aswan dam and is a former bouncer in a bar. His extremist right-wing party advocates a “Greater Israel,” and is supported by the “settler” movement — violent fanatics who want to create a Greater Israel based on their interpretation of the Bible.
In the context of growing extremism infecting the Israeli body politic, a politician like Netanyahu is considered a centrist. To his right are even more anti-American ultra-nationalists, and this movement is growing. In order to accommodate it, and contain it within the confines of his own party, Netanyahu has had to move in an even more extreme direction, even going so far as to threaten that Israel will strike Iran on its own, without US support.
This, of course, is a policy of de facto blackmail, since any war between Israel and Iran will almost inevitably see the Americans dragged in. This has been the whole Israeli strategy, so far — except that it hasn’t worked. The President has steadfastly refused to give in, at least up until this point. He has even gone so far as to inform the Iranians in advance that any such attack by Israeli forces will not have the sanction or support of the US — and, in such an event, to please refrain from attacking American targets in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
In view of the lack of American support for war, both in Washington and among the American electorate, the persistence of the debate within Israel over whether they should attack all on their own is disturbing. Such a scenario could only be disastrous for the region, and for Israel in particular, as Gen. Dempsey, head of the US joint chiefs of staff, has recently made plain. The Israeli defense and intelligence establishment has been saying the same thing, and still Netanyahu and Barak continue to talk about it as if it were a real option.
While Netanyahu is bound to be deterred by the cold reception this idea has received in Washington, in this context we have to ask ourselves a sobering question: will Avigdor Lieberman’s finger some day be on Israel’s nuclear trigger? This is a question the Iranians, and others in the region, have no doubt asked themselves. That it is even a possibility is profoundly unsettling — and this, not the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, is the source of the real danger looming over the Middle East.
Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the region is the real issue at hand, and it is one the Israelis have not had to face. It is known the Israelis possess at least two-hundred warheads. Their policy is one of “nuclear ambiguity,” neither confirming nor denying the existence of their deadly arsenal. Unlike Iran, they have refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and inspections of their nuclear facilities are therefore out of the question.
Iran, on the other hand, regularly submits to a tight schedule of inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which would soon discover any weaponization procedures in progress. Israel’s contemptuous attitude toward the international community is given a free pass by the US and its allies, while the Iranians are subjected to crippling sanctions and an international campaign of vilification on the mere suspicion that they might one day have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. To call this a double standard is to understate the case.
The destabilizing effects of Israel’s nuclear monopoly are a major cause of regional tensions — and the entire basis for assuming Iran has nuclear ambitions above and beyond its stated intention of harnessing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. One of the arguments against containing Iran, as opposed to taking the military option, is that the acquisition of a nuclear arsenal by Tehran will spark a dangerous arms race throughout the region. Yet this is disproved by the existence of Israel’s own arsenal, which has sparked no such race — even though the Jewish state’s Muslim neighbors have ample reason to believe the Israelis could conceivably launch a first strike on them. This, after all, is the essence of the doctrine of preemption, which the Israelis have embraced.
While there is zero evidence the Iranians have restarted their nuclear weapons program, could one blame them if they did? How else could they possibly hope to deter an Israeli first strike? In a 2008 op-ed piece in the New York Times, the noted Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote:
“Iran’s leaders would do well to rethink their gamble and suspend their nuclear program. Bar this, the best they could hope for is that Israel’s conventional air assault will destroy their nuclear facilities. To be sure, this would mean thousands of Iranian casualties and international humiliation. But the alternative is an Iran turned into a nuclear wasteland.”
An Israeli nuclear strike at Iran is not inconceivable: indeed, it is all too conceivable. So who are the real aggressors in the Middle East?
The Israel Lobby and the Road to War - Part III of "Roots of the Iranian ‘crisis’"
Israel is like a spoiled child who has grown stronger, more willful, and outright dangerous under the nurturing care of its US parent – a parent who has lost all authority and can no longer restrain its juvenile delinquent progeny. The US-Israeli "special relationship" has destabilized the Middle East and made war much more likely than it would be otherwise. Israel can act in the knowledge that there will be no consequences for its actions, that it will not be held accountable or blamed – in public – in any way for what follows.
This, in turn, has energized extremist movements inside Israel, who demand more and yet more of the United States – and come to resent Uncle Sam for supposedly restraining the Israelis from achieving what they believe is their just due. The response is very far from gratitude, if we take Netanyahu’s recent behavior as indicative. We pour billions every year into Israel, with economic and military aid, and with Congress in their back pocket no American president dares threaten them with an aid cutoff. The result is that we have created – and empowered – a monster, one that may one day turn on us.
Indeed, Israel has already turned on us if we define that as brazen interference in American politics. The Israel lobby, which wields plenty of money and political clout, has so distorted the national discourse on foreign policy issues that it is no longer possible for any politician to challenge the course we have taken.
Defenders of the Israel lobby say this is because the American people support Israel, but the truth is far more prosaic. In reality, most Americans have no opinion about who is right and who is wrong in the Middle East: they are neutral when it comes to siding with the Israelis or the Palestinians, and would prefer that the US government refrain from taking sides. But they don’t feel very passionately about it. On the other hand, Israel’s supporters do feel passionately, and the lopsided congressional support for Israel – even when it’s against the interests of the United States – is the result of a passionate minority’s efforts. If there was a national plebiscite on US aid to Israel, you can bet there would be no more goodies forthcoming from Washington – not just to Israel, but to anyone.
No matter what the "Clean Break" document aspires to, Israel’s whole survival strategy has always been to rely on aid from the outside: without the billions that flow from the US Treasury into Israeli coffers, the entire Zionist project would have failed long ago. It has been kept on life support all these years by money from abroad, and by the hopes of the Israeli leadership that more Jews will emigrate to the Promised Land. The main problem, however, is that American Jews are so thoroughly assimilated that the idea of taking up residence in Israel never occurs to them: for American Jews, America is the Promised Land. Aside from that, the appeal of moving to a country that sees itself as besieged – and whose leaders every day assert that they are sitting on the edge of a second Holocaust – is necessarily quite limited.
To make matters worse, the younger generation of American Jews increasingly does not identify with Israel, at least not to the degree their mothers and fathers did. Netanyahu’s barely disguised support for Mitt Romney in the US presidential election is not helping the Republicans much with that particular constituency: instead, it is garnering support from born again Christians of the dispensationalist school, who believe a war in the Middle East involving Israel, the United States, and Iran, will be the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and hasten the Second Coming. These are the people who write and call Congress whenever the administration defies one of Netanyahu’s whims.
The irony here is that these far right-wing crazies also believe the Jews will convert to Christianity when Armageddon comes – and that those who don’t will burn in Hell. Yet the Israel lobby doesn’t hesitate to use these folks in order to generate support for Israeli government policies: their leader, the Rev. John Hagee, has been a featured speaker at the national conference of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), where he fulminated against the "forces of Satan" who are supposedly conspiring to bring Israel down.
Yes, Israel has enemies, but these days it is it’s own worst enemy. The other day I saw a video of an Israeli army soldier bashing a Palestinian teenager’s head against the stone pavement of the Al-Aqsa mosque. I saw Muslim worshippers driven out in response to a demonstration by Israeli extremists affiliated with the "settler" movement. And it isn’t just Palestinians, although they bear the great brunt of this treatment – it’s Christians in Jerusalem and elsewhere who are being pushed out by an increasingly aggressive and xenophobic spirit within Israel, a toxic mix of religious fundamentalism and racism. There is a movement afoot in Israel that campaigns for expelling all Arabs from the land of Israel. In every society, of course, there is a fringe element, but in the Israel of today they are in the government.
There is, in short, an incipient fascist movement that is gaining ground by the day in the one country on earth where one would least expect such a phenomenon to arise. Yet history is replete with these tragic ironies, and if we have to witness the rise of the Jewish equivalent of Hitler then apparently we are to be spared nothing.
When talking about why we are targeting Iran, and why we’re seeing such a relentless wave of war propaganda calling for an attack, we have to talk about Israel, because in the end that’s what it’s all about. We are being asked, in a rather peremptory tone, to go to war for Israel’s sake. I have already demonstrated that Israel’s alleged "existential crisis" is nothing but hysterics on the part of Israel’s leaders, but let’s leave that aside for the moment and ask a more fundamental question: where do Israel’s interests end and America’s begin, or is there no daylight between the two?
During the cold war, Israel was a mixed case: a reliable ally whose friendship cost us support in the Arab world and gave the Soviets a wedge to extend their influence. Now that we are fighting an apparently eternal "war on terrorism," Israel has become an unmitigated liability. If we must fight a war against over a billion Muslims, then we will surely lose: the only hope is to somehow split the Muslim world, and rally the moderates against the radical Islamists of bin Laden’s sort.
Now, I’m not saying this is what I’m advocating: I am merely describing the objective circumstances that drive US policy, and this goes for both the present and the previous administration.
The Obama administration has taken this Muslim-centric strategy one step further, however, and is openly allying with what can only be described as radical Islamists one step removed from al-Qaeda. The idea is to co-opt and defuse Islamist movements which Washington sees as the inevitable inheritors of the decaying Sunni monarchies that are bound to fall sooner rather than later.
The Bush administration and its neoconservative cheerleaders thrilled to the idea that the "liberation" of Iraq would spark democratic revolutions throughout the region. What happened, instead, is that it sparked revolutions against US-supported dictators like Hosni Mubarak that have little to do with liberal democracy as we know it in the West. Instead, what we see is the rise of a most illiberal democracy, and not only in Egypt. Our policymakers envision the Turkification of the Middle East – the creation of moderate Islamist governments with military and economic ties to the West. But of course central planning from Washington doesn’t work any better when it comes to foreign policy than it does in domestic policy. We saw the real world results of this policy in Benghazi.
On the other hand, the Israelis have a far different vision, exemplified by Netanyahu’s recent speech to the United Nations in which he held up Israel as the great defender of "modernity" against the savage hordes. It’s the new public face of Israel: subway posters that urge us to "support the civilized man" against the "savage." Aside from being laughably untrue – Israel is no less threatened by a rising religious fundamentalism than its neighbors, with fanatic "settlers" running wild and even challenging the IDF – this line of argument underscores Israel’s growing isolation on the world stage, and its slide into a frightening extremism. Netanyahu’s Manichean view of Israel fighting virtually alone against an array of enemies – and the broken promises of its less than reliable friends – serves Netanyahu and his party well.
According to my theory of international relations, which I call "libertarian realism," this is the origin of all foreign policy decisions by the leaders of nations: these decisions, like all other political decisions, are made in order to preserve and extend the power, wealth, and prestige of these leaders and their supporters. Therefore such questions as whether or not Iran really is intent on building nuclear weapons and deploying them against Israel are irrelevant. Objective facts don’t enter into the equation: it’s all about creating a narrative suitable for domestic consumption.
The problem for Netanyahu is that his narrative necessarily collides with Washington’s current view of US interests in the region. The resulting din can be heard in the raised voices of both US and Israeli leaders as the debate goes public during a presidential election year. Netanyahu’s clear preference for Romney is a brazen intervention in US politics of the sort that no previous Israeli leader has ever dared attempt. The fuss about meeting Netanyahu at the UN, the demand for a "red line," and Netanyahu’s preexisting personal relationship with Romney aren’t the only evidences of Netanyahu’s sympathies. Both the Israeli leader and the Republican nominee share a major donor in common: Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who had pledged to spend $100 million to defeat President Obama, and has spent more than that to subsidize a free Israeli newspaper that is a veritable Netanyahu campaign organ. As David Andrew Weinberg pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor, Netanyahu has taken to the US airwaves to chastise the White House for its lack of support:
"Netanyahu’s recent sound bites on Iran are already being featured in a million-dollar ad buy attacking Obama in Florida. The group distributing this ad, Secure America Now, is founded by a Republican strategist notorious for having a direct line to the prime minister, so Netanyahu was probably aware of how such remarks would be utilized by American conservatives."
Such interference in American elections by a foreign power is intolerable. Too bad the Obama administration doesn’t have the courage to name what is happening and call out Netanyahu. The American people would welcome it. However, I’m afraid the Israel lobby is just as powerful in the Democratic party as it is among the Republicans, and so we’ll see none of that.
This is why Iran has been chosen as the latest target: because the powerful lobby of a foreign government is pulling out all the stops in a bid to drag us into a ruinous war. That such a conflict would benefit Israel in the long run, or even in the short term, is a highly dubious proposition. While the largely mythical threat of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel might dissipate, for a while at least, the benefits of dispelling a potential danger are far outweighed by the near certain danger of worldwide economic collapse. With the price of oil skyrocketing to unprecedented heights, world markets already reeling from the global recession would be knocked for a loop by the oil shock. The effects would be felt not only here in the US but also in Israel, where protests over rising prices and austerity budgets are already erupting. If you thought the crash of ’08 was a big deal, just wait until the prospect of war triggers an economic meltdown that makes ’08 look like a blip on the screen.
Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].
This article was originally posted at Antiwar
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