Dempsey’s Dissent

The President of the United States may not have the cojones to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs does — and he’s doing it!

When Gen. Martin Dempsey told British reporters he did not want the US to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran, the boys in Tel Aviv were crushed. For weeks Netanyahu & Co. had been telling anyone who would listen that the US would have no choice but to be sucked into a devastating regional war in the event of an Israeli first strike on Tehran: their tone was almost gleeful. In the absence of a direct response from the White House, it looked like the Israelis had us over a barrel: the American giant, it seemed, was helpless in the face of the Israeli pygmy’s deft manipulations. Then came Dempsey, whose comments put the kibosh on Israel’s blackmail threats — and threw Netanyahu’s government into a panic:

Dempsey’s stark comments made clear to the world that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was isolated and that if he opted for war, he would jeopardize all-important ties with the Jewish state’s closest ally.

“’Israeli leaders cannot do anything in the face of a very explicit ‘no’ from the U.S. president. So they are exploring what space they have left to operate,’ said Giora Eiland, who served as national security adviser from 2003 to 2006. ‘Dempsey’s announcement changed something. Before, Netanyahu said the United States might not like (an attack), but they will accept it the day after. However, such a public, bold statement meant the situation had to be reassessed.’”

“Dempsey’s announcement changed something” — it’s the understatement of the year, perhaps the decade. Because this is the first time since the days of George Herbert Walker Bush that a major player has reminded that Shitty Little Country of its littleness. For months, the Israelis have been going around acting like they are the superpower, and we are a minuscule dependency relying entirely on our patron’s generosity — and endless forbearance.

Or maybe not so endless, at least as far as the US military is concerned. You’ll recall that in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, a number of high-ranking officers spoke out in public against the lunacy of believing we could march in and turn the place into an American suburb. They questioned the low-ball estimates of troop strength and other resources required for an extended occupation, and the neocons were telling them to get back into their barracks.

They don’t like Dempsey much, and after this they’ll like him much less: in their eyes he’s just a tool of the Obama administration. Yet even if this is true, and Gen. Dempsey is speaking out at the behest of the White House, haven’t we come to a sorry pass when the President of the United States cannot speak in his own name and on his own authority about an issue vital to our national security? What a testament to the power of the Israel Lobby. Not bad for a pressure group that supposedly doesn’t even exist.

The real problem, however, is that Dempsey in all probability is speaking for himself, and didn’t require any prompting from the White House. Nor is this the first time the military has signaled its opposition to striking Iran. With US military assets in the region vulnerable to an Iranian counterattack, I wouldn’t be surprised if those alleged secret contacts between Washington and Tehran (via European intermediaries) were made at the military’s insistence: the first instinct of a commander, after all, is to protect his troops. In effect, the Israelis, by constantly threatening a first strike at Tehran, are holding the tens of thousands of US military personnel in the region hostage — because they will be likely targets of an Iranian counterattack. With the White House maintaining radio silence on this issue, Dempsey and the generals had no choice but to go public in order to protect their own.

There was a time when the separation of the military and the civilian in politics was strictly observed. While a soldier can still be disciplined for speaking at a Ron Paul rally, the higher ups have a bit more leeway. In the age of empire, the dissolution of the bright line between the civilian and the military is only a matter of time: what’s interesting, however, is that no would-be Caesar has arisen to personify the militarist spirit — although I wouldn’t rule it out. Instead, those military figures who have taken a public stance on these matters almost universally urge caution and restraint.

With back to back deployments, and two wars without a victory, what does the Pentagon have to look forward to but a third war, one which promises to be regional in scope. Little wonder they’re beginning to make their opposition known.

Dempsey can’t be the only soldier who resents taking marching orders from Netanyahu — and dreads the onset of Netanyahu’s war. This has got to be a restraining factor on the Obama administration, which prevents them from completely capitulating to Israeli demands.

Let’s hope the peaceniks in the Pentagon can hold the fort, because Obama and the Democrats raised the white flag of surrender to the War Party long ago. Here is the most recent edition of the Democratic party platform on the question of war with Iran:

The President is committed to using all instruments of national power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. … President Obama believes that a diplomatic outcome remains the best and most enduring solution. At the same time, he has also made clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely and that all options — including military force — remain on the table. But we have an obligation to use the time and space that exists now to put increasing pressure on the Iranian regime to live up to its obligations and rejoin the community of nations, or face the consequences.”

While the platform admits “the Iranians have yet to build a nuclear weapon” it goes on to assert they “cannot demonstrate with any credibility that [their] program is peaceful.” Iran is guilty until proven innocent — and the standard of proof is impossible. Because the Americans, egged on by the Israelis, will always be asking “How do we know you aren’t hiding something from us?” As for evidence, it can always be manufactured, although the key question here is: evidence of what?

The Israelis have set a new standard when it comes to Iran. They insist the red line must be the “breakout” capability, as estimated by Tel Aviv’s strategists, of course: that is, the moment when Tehran can theoretically throw together a nuclear weapon of some sort on very short notice.

The catch is that this point exists in theory only: there is no solid evidence the Iranians are pursuing nuclear weapons, and indeed the official US assessment is that they gave up all such attempts in 2003, and haven’t resumed. There have been all sorts of rumors that a new intelligence assessment was in the works, but so far it hasn’t surfaced. The clear implication is that, as in the Iraq misadventure, key elements of the intelligence community are refusing to drink the Israeli Kool-Aid: Dempsey’s dissent is the first unequivocal and clear voice raised against the prospect of fighting an unnecessary war for Israel’s sake.

You won’t find that in the Democratic platform.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].