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Monday, August 16, 2010

The War Drums Are Beating, Again

Jeffrey Goldberg writes a cover for The Atlantic that probably should have been titled, "Why Israel Will Go to War with Iran, Rather than Sit at a No-preconditions Table with Palestinians".

Continuing settlement in the West Bank is apparently just that important and immediate a principle.

A few observations.

An overall situation is more risky with nuclear bombs than without, because of the potential for escalation. Two follow-ons. One, it's not at all clear that a deterrence regime won't "work". (With the size of today's hydrogen bombs, I don't by the Rafsanjani assertion about damage versus total destruction). Second, it's not at all clear that the struggle to prevent the acquisition of technology isn't going to be as large scale as anything that might happen, otherwise.

It is pretty clear that Israel doesn't want to act alone. But more than that, it is the emergence of a situation of such scale that they really must not act alone, that must be at the heart of the matter, politically. Being unable to act is a sentiment so counter their state founding principles, it is probably most at the source of the current anxiety, rather than the ubiquitous assertions of "existential threat". This general anxiety appears to focus itself on Obama, who is more disciplined a thinker than Bush. Even worse, perhaps, might be a sense of feeling it unwise to act, even as threats seem to gather. Sadly, there is no 100% security, no perfectly pre-emptive world.

Surprisingly, for a piece hailed as an 'intellectual coup', no mention of the cost that the world will pay, through spiked oil prices, for ... well, either an unwise Israeli pre-emption or the world's collective failure to persuade Iran to abide by international nuclear standards. No mention of a lot of other things, as well. Jordanian airspace. The fact that the Iranians might understand many of these "strategic" calculations and seek non-ballistic weapons, as the first wave of bombs developed. No historical precedent for Lebanese Hizballah to attack out of sympathy for Iran.

Last, the politics of telegraphing a "we're-going-to-bomb-if-you-don't" stance is precisely calibrated to put pressure on the American President and no one else.