Israel preemptively starting a war with Iran would be bad enough, but the assumption that the United States will be part of that war should be very disturbing to Americans -- who are just getting over one misguided, costly war in Iraq and are still involved in another in Afghanistan.
In an election year with such cynicism about government in the air, one might think more Americans would question the propaganda for war that AIPAC represents and that sadly goes so hand-in-hand with the uncritical pandering too many American politicians and mainstream journalists engage in.
Most Americans are sheep when it comes to criticizing Israel. A tax-paying American has to be a particularly willful contrarian -- be willing to be called "unpatriotic," an "antisemite" or a "terrorist" -- just to raise even a reasonable question in the face of this PR juggernaut for Israel.
President Obama is to speak Sunday before the AIPAC meeting, and he has scheduled meetings with both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Peres told a New York Times reporter, while the prime minister rules, his role as president of Israel "is to charm." He then lectured the reporter and Americans that we needed to be tough and establish "red lines" that Israel approves of.
"We need a total and clear commitment that the catastrophe of Iran will not create an impossible situation," he said, ignoring what many see as the catastrophe of Israel's dogged implacability. "If the White House was not resolute, Israel might have to go it alone," Peres said. In his meeting, Netanyahu will also push the red lines on Obama, emphasizing the need for US resoluteness in face of Iran hardening the defenses of its nuclear plants. Then, Netanyahu will go over and report to the AIPAC convention.
But here's the catch: Implied in such Israeli bravado is the sure knowledge that if and when Israel does "go it alone," its military will be inadequate to the task, Iran will respond and the United States will be drawn in.
It all seems such an internalized delusional process dependent on metaphors from World War Two projected on Iran as a society of insane, suicidal monsters intent on initiating a new holocaust. Reality does not bear that out. While they may not be our friends, the leaders of Iran are not fools. For example, can anyone explain why Iran's leaders would do such a suicidal thing as drop a nuke on Israel?
Americans Need to Take a New, Pragmatic Approach
American citizens need to think for themselves and re-evaluate US policy in the Middle East. It's the only sane, pragmatic way to live. The world is changing and our policies need to change with it. To allow the Israeli right to intimidate or shame the United States into a more and more apocalyptic and untenable position in the Middle East is simply nuts. Even sanctions tend to backfire. The US needs to stop letting the tail wag the dog.
Why, for example, is it so very important to slow Iran from designing a nuclear weapon by preemptively bombing the nation, which will only exacerbate the already intense animosity that exists between Israel and Iran? Does Israel think there will be no serious consequences to such an attack?
In the already uncertain and volatile regional climate of the Arab Spring upheavals, does throwing gasoline on a Middle Eastern fire seem like a smart idea? It's narcissistic madness to perceive oneself more secure with an infuriated Iran that feels nationally violated than with an Iran that has nuclear weapons and is willing to talk. But that would take some Israeli humility, which is in short supply these days.
Last week in Geneva at a nuclear disarmament conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi said Iran wants to open talks about nuclear weapons. "We do not see any glory, pride or power in the nuclear weapons -- quite the opposite," he said. He added, "The production, possession, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin."
If the Iranian foreign minister is serious, only one thing stands in the way of talks with Iran on these issues: The nuclear weapons Israel and other nations critical of Iran have in their arsenals. That's the real hurdle.
No one knows whether or not Iran is actually intent on making a bomb. The CIA says they are not, or at least they are only figuring out how to make one. The International Atomic Energy Agency isn't sure; and they're peeved right now because Iran wouldn't let their team snoop around a military facility. (As if Israel would have no problem allowing such a team to search their bases.)
It feels like a nuclear poker game with bluffs like Saddam Hussein played with George Bush. Better to bluff and let The Big Boys looming over you think you're insane and armed with an atomic bomb. It's an updated, asymmetrical version of the old MAD game from the Nixon years: Mutually Assured Destruction.