Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg and Bibi Netanyahu Would Like the US to Bomb Iran

That, it seems to me and to Steven Walt, to be the short version of Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic article.

There's not much point in working through Goldberg's article in detail. Most of it has been said before and discussed before. Flynt Leverett and Hilary Mann Leverett give the conventional responses. Iran says it is already digging graves for Americans, but I think that was in response to something from last week.

Steve Clemons has some meat in his response, as does Steve Hynd. I may come back to these two, which deserve more discussion.

More links here.

For me, though, Bernard Avishai provided the definitive reason why neither Israel nore the United States should attack Iran. Before I explain that, some background. Israel is small enough in land area that any retaliation by Iran will wreak severe damage, missile defenses notwithstanding. The attack itself, whether by Israel or the United States, will end any special position Israel still retains in the eyes of the world. Goldberg:
When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel—regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program—they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations.
Avishai gives the reason this must not happen:
What makes Israel unique--the cultural adventure that it was and is--is not simply Jewish military power, but the evolution of a modern national home, the development of a secular Jewish life, the fusing of Jewish civilization with liberal values--the "Jewish and democratic" thing...

And yet the people who made this modern Israeli culture had first learned to draw. They knew the liturgy, they knew Torah--that is, a whole world evoked by the Hebrew language. The poet Yehuda Amichai had to know the prayer for the dead, God full of mercy, El Maleh Rahamim, before he could give us the ironic poem, "God full of mercy / Were God not so full of mercy / Then there would be mercy in the world / And not just in Him." For emancipation to be poignant, there has to be an ancien regime. Otherwise, there is nothing but abstraction.
An attack on Iran would completely alter the meaning of this ancien regime, for Israel and the world. And Israel and the world would be poorer for it.

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