Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Attacking Iran - Continued

I am becoming convinced that the noise about an attack on Iran - whether by Israel or the US - is primarily about Israel's concerns about the balance of power in the Middle East. Israel's nuclear arsenal of 100-200 bombs is now an open secret, despite Israel's policy of strategic ambiguity.

That policy once served stability in the Middle East, but hanging onto it and other features of a mythical past are serving Israel ill. Israel's past, in fact, was not so good; it has always been at war with its neighbors or in a state of tension, owing to the manner of its beginning in 1948. That can be attributed to the colonial state of mind of the British, but it is Israel that must figure out a way to live in that geography.

The idea of a land of milk and honey, and the myth (and, to some degree, reality) of the heroic kibbutniks who began the development of that land must be part of the inability or unwillingness to face the present and likely future of Israel. But turning to war will hardly fulfill these myths.

Continuing the response to Jeffrey Goldberg's beating of the war drums, Yossi Alpher points out that it's hardly plausible that the Israeli government officials Goldberg interviewed didn't have some publicity in mind, as Goldberg claims, along with a number of other good observations.

Sam Sasan Shoamenesh suggests that Iran's joining the International Criminal Court could be a game-changer. I tend to doubt this; the United States has stayed out of the ICC, and resurrecting this issue will not play well within US politics, particularly when the right is doing all it can to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment. Overlaying another of their bugaboos might occasion a break in the very fabric of reality, as Tom Tomorrow portrayed this week.

But I do agree that the negotiations with Iran need to be moved to a different issue. There is genuinely a problem in knowing which Iran is speaking on any given day, and there needs to be some way to stabilize this. On the other side, there has been too much focus too narrowly on the nuclear program, with little clarity as to what actions on Iran's part are unacceptable. Joshua Pollack makes an attempt at definitions, but it will have to be the parties to the negotiation who decide and let each other know.

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