Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

See today’s Spengler column in Asia Times Online. Some extracts:

The fact that Ha’aretz, Israel’s left-leaning daily, found it necessary on February 17 to warn the Benjamin Netanyahu government not to attack Iran [1] strongly suggests that the option is on the table.

It seems clear that the administration of US President Barack Obama never will use force against Iran, despite the Iranian regime’s open contempt for Washington and the international community. US Secretary of State Clinton this week responded with a direct “no” - not “all options are on the table” - when asked if America was planning a military strike.
Israel has a strategic problem broader than the immediate issue of Iran’s possible acquisition of nuclear weapons: it is an American ally at a moment when America has effectively withdrawn from strategic leadership. That leaves Israel at a crossroads. It can act like an American client state, or a regional superpower. Either decision would have substantial costs. To remain in Washington’s pocket is to show weakness and invite the contempt of its adversaries; to ignore Washington’s demands would incur the wrath of its most important financier and arms suppliers and possibly result in a reduction of aid.
The trouble is that Israel’s strategic problem is usually presented in reductive terms: Iran (in the standard view) represents an existential threat to Israel in that it might get nuclear weapons; this would give it the capacity to destroy Israel, and therefore Israel must nip the existential threat in the bud. In this narrow framework, pushing back Iran’s nuclear development by six to 18 months hardly seems worth the cost.

Iran’s perceived attempt to acquire nuclear weapons, though, is not Israel’s problem as such; the problem is that Israel is the ally of a superpower that does not want to be a superpower, headed by a president with a profound emotional attachment to a nostalgic image of the Third World. If America were in fact acting like a superpower, the problem would not have arisen in the first place, for the United States would use its considerably greater resources to destroy Iran’s nuclear program.

Rather than focus on the second-order effect - the consequences of Iran’s possible acquisition of nuclear weapons - Israeli analysts should consider the primary issue, namely the strategic zimzum [2] of the United States. The correct questions are: 1) can Israel act as a regional superpower independently of the United States, and 2) what would Israel do to establish its regional superpower status?



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles