It’s All About Israel

by , June 14, 2007

I see that Zbigniew Brzezinski is stealing my ideas and not giving me credit, but, what the heck, I’m in a generous mood – and he puts his own gloss on it – so I don’t mind (via Matthew Yglesias):

“Zbigniew Brzezinski at the conference says the U.S. and Israel should try to put their demands for Iranian disarmament in the context of support for a regional nuclear-free zone (i.e., Israeli nuclear disarmament). After all, he says, if we’re supposed to believe that Israel’s nuclear arsenal isn’t a sufficient deterrent to ensure Israeli security in the face of Iran’s nuclear program, then it obviously isn’t a very valuable asset.”

What good is the Israeli “deterrent” if it doesn’t deter? A good question, perhaps answered by challenging the assumption that the nukes in the IDF’s arsenal are at all defensive in nature or intent. The Israelis clearly intend to crouch behind their nuclear shield as they expand their sphere of influence, and this has been especially true since the implementation of the “Clean Break” scenario espoused by the Likudniks and their American co-thinkers. Growing Israeli influence in Kurdistan, recent incursions into Lebanon, and the purported ability of Israeli agents to penetrate Iran’s borders attest to the success of their strategy. While American soldiers in Iraq take bullets from Sunni insurgents – and, increasingly, radical Shi’ite militias – the Israelis have been quietly (and not so quietly) taking the spoils of our Pyrrhic victory.”

I’m kidding when I say that the former national security adviser and renowned foreign policy theoretician is “stealing” the idea that we ought not to support Israel’s Near Eastern nuclear monopoly. It is a perfectly rational, logical argument, one that has long been advanced by the Syrians, the Arab League, and any number of commentators in the Arab-Muslim world(s). It is also radically heretical in the West, where discussion of Israel’s unquestioned hegemony in the region – and in the politics of policy formulation in the U.S. and Western Europe – is prohibited. Which is why I’ve been practically alone, until recently, in challenging the prevailing orthodoxy.

The concept of parity between the Israelis and their Arab-Muslim antagonists may soon be legitimized, in spite of the Western taboo against straight talk on this issue, when the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf expires and gives way to an openly Islamist government that possesses as many as 55 nukes. Then, perhaps, the idea of negotiating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East won’t seem so radical after all.

By then, however, it may be too late. In the meantime, however, Israel’s apologists are doing everything in their power to make sure that such heretical views don’t even get a fair hearing. Surely this impulse to censor was what energized my critics during the recent debate over at Jewcy.com pitting me against Michael Freund – who wants the U.S. to bomb Iran because of the alleged threat its nuclear program poses to Israel. One such critic, Noah Pollak, wrote:

“Far be it from me to take Mr. Raimondo seriously when he says such things – his contributions to last week’s exchange were studded with so many hateful condemnations, bizarre declarations, and quarter-baked ideas that doing so would require me to empty my brain of everything I’ve learned about both the Middle East and foreign policy.”

What were these “hateful condemnations”? Pollak never tells us. What “bizarre declarations” is he talking about? The only sentence of mine he cites says that Iran has no intention of nuking Israel and couldn’t reach the U.S. even if it wanted to – is this really so bizarre? As for those “quarter-baked ideas” – I guess he’s referring to the nuclear-free Middle East concept that such rank amateurs as Brzezinski are now pushing.

I have to say that Pollak’s piece was published only after my “dialogue” with Freund was posted. Since I was clearly the winner of that initial facedown, I guess the editors of Jewcy.com thought they’d give the other side another shot – without informing me or soliciting my response. Aside from the issue of good manners, however, Pollak’s polemic is typical of the War Party’s style of argument in that it consists mostly of epithets.

Once we get past Pollak’s rhetorical flourishes, however, and the almost ritualistic terms of abuse, what we find is a rather weak argument in favor of maintaining what the author refers to as an “American-enforced security architecture” that “shows so much support for Israel that the Arab states would henceforth refuse to challenge it.” Pollak avers:

“Iran is indeed a threat to both the United States and to Israel – but the threat does not come in the cartoonish form of Mr. Raimondo’s fevered imagination, with Iranian bombers nuking Tel Aviv and Iranian ICBM’s rocketing their way toward New York. Those scenarios are red herrings intended to make Raimondo’s task of turning America and Israel into the world’s leading belligerents much easier.”

It’s not very clever of Pollak to attribute to me arguments made by Freund: all the reader has to do is go back and look at the previous “dialogue” to see that it is Freund who makes the far-fetched claim that Iran is developing long-range missiles capable of striking American cities. I merely refuted him. Such “red herrings” are rampant these days, as the Bush administration recently made a similar argument, telling Vladimir Putin that missile-defense systems put in place in Poland and Czechoslovakia are meant to guard against the allegedly imminent threat of an Iranian attack. In any event, insofar as it is useful in this discussion to differentiate American from Israeli interests – and that, in essence, is the issue at hand – the idea that Iranian nukes would or could pose a threat to America cried out for a definitive debunking.

The problem for Pollak is to erase all distinctions between these two nations’ separate interests, which are sometimes complementary and yet increasingly at odds. His solution is to simply ignore diverging strategic imperatives and argue in favor of maintaining the status quo, which amounts to anointing the Israelis as the local satraps of the Empire and giving them unconditional support right down the line. In doing so, he makes some pretty counterintuitive arguments, such as the following:

“The actual threat posed by a nuclear Iran involves the manner in which such a development would upset the balance of power in the Middle East, which no doubt for Mr. Raimondo is a boring subject as it does not provide ready opportunities for Israel Lobby hysteria and mushroom cloud fantasies. To understand the consequences of a nuclear Iran, we have to look to the recent history of Middle East power arrangements.”

What follows, then, is an account of recent Middle Eastern history studded with such stunners as:

“American strategists decided to attempt to impose peace in the region by showing so much support for Israel that the Arab states would henceforth refuse to challenge it. And this strategy has been a resounding success: Since 1973 there have been no more wars between Israel and Arab countries.”

Hmm. I guess those two – countem, two – invasions of Lebanon don’t count as wars, perhaps because Israel was twice beaten back, the second time decisively. In any case, Pollak’s argument is that Iranian nukes will lead the Sunni nations to all want nukes, too, and this would “shatter the balance of power.”

Pollak’s idea of a proper “balance of power” is that Israel alone will have the capacity to wipe out its neighbors with the press of a single button, the barking of a single command. In short, the only acceptable “balance” is Israeli military dominance. He does his bit to dress up this domination in the garb of an “American-enforced security architecture,” but that, in essence, is what we are really talking about here: maintaining Israel’s nuclear monopoly at all costs. It is okay, in Pollak’s worldview, for the Israelis to possess this terrible power: they, after all, can be trusted with it, because, after all, they’re just like us – aren’t they? They wouldn’t use nuclear weapons against, say, the Iranians, by launching a first strike that would wipe out Tehran.

I wouldn’t be so sure, and one can be certain that the Iranians – and the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and everyone else in the Middle East – aren’t so sure, either. Which brings us to the question of why these folks didn’t begin their arms race long ago – if only to deter a nuclear-armed Israel. If that didn’t motivate them to develop The Bomb, then, I would argue, nothing will – including the nuclearization of Iran.

If Pollak is going to decry the prospect of an arms race in the Middle East, then perhaps he should place the blame on those who started it – the Israelis. They were first to build a nuclear arsenal, and, unlike Iran, they refuse to this day to allow inspectors in and have steadfastly declined to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The present “American-enforced security architecture” is unsustainable, and must collapse due to its inherent unfairness. The Arab-Muslim nations of the Middle East cannot be expected to cower indefinitely under threat of attack from a nuclear-armed Israel or its American patron, meekly accepting foreign domination of their own region. Our posture is the main recruiting tool of the worldwide terrorist insurgency symbolized by Osama bin Laden, and it can only be maintained by sacrificing American interests on the altar of our “special relationship” with Israel.

Our present policy is a gross distortion that desperately needs to be corrected before we can hope to eliminate the danger to our economic well-being and security posed by the rise of radical Islamism. The “clash of civilizations” is really a conflict generated by Western imperialism and colonialism; it is not at all inherent in the nature of either Islam or the West.

The United States should apply the same standards to Israel as it does to Iran. If the Iranians must disarm, then so must the Israelis. If nukes in the hands of the mullahs are threatening, then they are no less so when wielded by ultra-nationalistic Zionists of the Likudnik persuasion. The current crisis provoked by the Iranian nuclear power program only highlights how utterly archaic our present policy in the region has become – and demonstrates that nuclear disarmament must be made a regional issue rather than a bludgeon with which to beat the Iranians.

Anyone who could argue, as Pollak has, that an American attack on Iran would not produce regional chaos has got to be smoking some pretty strong stuff. Not once does he mention the probable fate of the 150,000 or so American soldiers in Iraq who would surely be the objects of Shi’ite rage in response to the killing of thousands of their Iranian co-religionists. Apparently the lives of so many Americans make no difference to him. So much for his pretense of upholding American interests in the region.

This isn’t about America, however, as Pollak makes all too clear. The current propaganda campaign on behalf of striking Iran – a campaign given a big boost by the Republican candidates for president, who, except for Ron Paul, favor hitting Iran with nukes – is all about Israel. It’s as simple as that.

The question before the house is this: should the United States exhaust itself militarily, economically, and psychologically in order to ensure indefinite Israeli domination of the Middle East? To the Israel Lobby, this is a no-brainer: of course it should. Anything less than unconditional support for Israel’s strategic objectives would be anti-Semitic and “hateful.”

To which an increasing number of policy wonks, such as Brzezinski, and ordinary Americans, such as myself, answer: we won’t be intimidated any longer. It’s high time the central premise of American policy in the Middle East is challenged and the specialness of the “special relationship” is held up to scrutiny. This latest demand – that the U.S. expend its resources, including the lives of its young people, in yet another war on Israel’s behalf – has nothing to do with defending the Jewish state against what Pollak admits is the canard of nuclear incineration at Iranian hands, and everything to do with keeping the Israeli boot firmly on Arab and Muslim necks. And that cause is not worth a single American life.

Read more by Justin Raimondo