Quagmire

Obama did not exactly say, “Putin, trust me, we Americans know what it means to get stuck in a quagmire, so take this warning to heart.” Nor, of course, did Putin take it that way. Pity.

President Obama noted publicly that “An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work.” Obama will quite probably be proven correct, but to understand the outrageous hypocrisy of the remark, simply remove the names by abstracting as follows:

An attempt by [a global power and a regional client] to prop up a [vicious regional dictator] and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work.

There was, for you young readers who haven’t studied your history, once a guy named Leonid who discovered this for himself in Afghanistan. Too bad Leonid was too old to write a history, for we are all still suffering from the consequences two generations later, and it would have been considerate of him to have warned us against repeating his mistake. Now, to be fair, I suspect Obama has in fact read some history, judging from his path-breaking (we hoped) Cairo speech way back at the now long forgotten beginning of his White House years, but in the rush of trying to run the world, one overlooks even the most obvious of lessons, which leads to having to rush all the more to learn them all over again…which brings us to the hypocrisy of Obama’s pot calling Putin’s kettle “black.”

This very week, as Putin solidifies his military position in Syria and flattens Aleppo (wasn’t that once a city that supported Assad?), Obama, who has been vigorously arming Riyadh with the bombs it has been using the past couple years to flatten Yemen, actually opened fire against one side in the very long Yemeni civil war. Did any Houthi imagine that Obama would respond to a Houthi rocket attack on a highly threatening U.S. destroyer sneaking around off the Yemeni coast by apologizing for the havoc wrought across the world’s most abused society by U.S. bombs over the past two years? [Note: it remains unclear whether it actually was Houthis rather than some false flag element hoping to provoke a thoughtlessly violent American response.] Bad judgment by the Houthis it may have been, and yet, fighting for your political rights against the combined might of Western bombs and Western-supplied Saudi jets for two years and then watching a U.S. destroyer, armed to the teeth, sticking its nose where it did not belong (was it…no surely not…inside Yemeni waters???) must get frustrating. More to the point, to quote a certain U.S. politician, all this is going to get the short-tempered superpower that just moved from the background of the Western campaign to manipulate the Yemeni civil war into the limelight “stuck in a quagmire.”

Follow-Up:

Dear Donald, Dear Hillary, “If elected, will you continue the Obama policy of supporting the Saudi aerial war against one side in the Yemeni civil war?”

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Offer Iran a “Moderate” Deal

When talking about Iran, U.S. political labels merely confuse Americans. Rouhani will not act moderate because he “is” moderate but because and only because the U.S. offers Iran a “moderate” deal so couched as to be of clear benefit to Iran. Continue reading

Whadda Ya Mean, a War on Islam?

Emma Sky is talking, and every American interested in the position of the U.S. in the world should be listening very carefully.


Former military governor of Kirkuk Province under the U.S. conquerors, Emma Sky, now opening up in public, recently noted about the U.S. post-9/11 policy toward the Muslim world:

It has been seen by many Muslims as a war on Islam. Now, we are saying, ‘We’ve pulled out of Iraq, we are pulling out of Afghanistan, and it’s all over now.’ It may be over for the politicians. But it is not over for the Muslim world


Just because both parties have trivialized collateral Muslim damage, that does not mean Washington has been fighting a war on Islam, does it?

Just because the decade (so far, no end in sight) of war in Muslim states by the U.S. has tended to classify all Muslims who disagree with Washington’s policy as “enemies” does not make it a “war on Islam,” does it?

Just because a wave of anti-Muslim paranoia has been sweeping those portions of U.S. society most supportive of the military effort that responded to the tiny al Qua’ida gang, as though it had been a superpower, does not make it a war on Islam, does it?

Just because both parties kneel low before the most fundamentalist and aggressive faction in Israel does not make it a war on Islam, does it?

Just because the U.S. effort began in reaction to a marginalized terrorist gang and instantly shifted to an attack on a nasty secular dictator and then smoothly transformed into a cyber?/terrorist?/economic/diplomatic war against a very cautious and rather non-aggressive Shi’i power trying to rise to its natural potential does not make Washington’s policy a war on Islam, does it?

Just because Washington, even under what claims to be a different political party, still has not attempted to hold former officials accountable for the last disastrous decade, does not mean that Washington is fighting a war against…well, surely not “Muslims”…after all we’re over the Crusades…but against…uppity Muslims, does it?

I mean really, where did she (I mean, the Muslims) ever get this idea???

Obama’s Iran Dilemma

Obama faces a dilemma on the Iran issue: no common ground exists between the demands of the Netanyahu “Greater Israel” faction for unilateral security and the legitimate demands of any patriotic Iranian regime. Moreover, what is good for both the American and Israeli societies would be very bad indeed for the Netanyahu “Greater Israel” faction.



Plenty of room exists for a reasonable compromise between the U.S. and Iran: Iran needs security, while the last remaining superpower can surely live with a secure Iran. To reach that positive-sum position, both sides will obviously have to move some distance from their preferred solution space, but both can easily do so and maintain “their way of life.” Moreover, such a compromise also satisfies the legitimate national security interests of the Israeli people.


Nevertheless, Obama faces a real dilemma, though it is a political dilemma rather than a national security dilemma, because no common ground exists between the demands of the Netanyahu “Greater Israel” faction and the legitimate demands of any patriotic Iranian regime. The crisis with Iran appears to exist because Washington has not ever sincerely and consistently, i.e., persuasively, offered Iran a compromise. (I say “appears” because Washington has never offered Iran a real compromise, so the proposition that Tehran would accept such a compromise, while logical, remains untested.) Instead, Obama is publicly demanding, in essence, that Iran surrender its ability to defend itself and surrender its independent foreign policy by placing itself in a strategic position of such inferiority that its independent stance becomes clearly untenable. The collusion of the Shah and the Shi’i mullah landowning class with British and U.S. intelligence to overthrow the Iranian democracy movement in the early 1950’s notwithstanding, it is hard to imagine any Iranian regime today accepting such a negotiated defeat.


No national security justification exists for Washington’s stance. Given nuclear transparency on Iran’s part, that country presents no particular security threat to the U.S. or Israel. A strong and independent Iran symbolizing opposition to the current world order is something both the U.S. and Israel could live with, if not benefit from, to the degree that it would encourage both to reconsider their behavior toward the rest of the world. A deal with Iran would have immediate benefits for the U.S. in its efforts to stabilize both Iraq and Afghanistan by facilitating negotiated solutions to the endless instability in those two countries. A strong but clearly non-nuclear Iran would, however, challenge two things: U.S. global dominance (as opposed to U.S. global leadership) and Greater Israel (Israeli regional military domination, Israeli territorial expansion, and the repression of the Palestinian people). 


A deal with Iran that left Iran transparently non-nuclear, clearly enunciated the parallel goal of ultimate (if not immediate) Israeli nuclear transparency and nuclear demilitarization, made room in the world for an Iranian political challenge to U.S. or Israeli regional domination, and recognized Iran’s right to possess the means of self-defense would have both benefits and drawbacks for various American and Israeli factions. For the people of the U.S. and Israel (as well as for the people of Iran), the benefit would be the opening of the door to a more cooperative and more stable relationship with the Muslim world, not to mention the strengthening of domestic democracy. American or Israeli empire-builders, on the other hand, would suffer a powerful and immediate setback. Justifying foreign wars or waving the bloody shirt to win elections would become far more difficult. International relations would take a different course.


One might argue that Iran should take the deal still publicly being offered by Obama and submit to avoid war. Admittedly, giving up the ability to defend itself is a small loss for Iran, since it obviously really has no ability to defend itself against nuclear Israel anyway. But such a deal would represent a humiliating return to the days of being a lackey of the West. The humiliation part will be hard to swallow, and the humiliation part is surely Netanyahu’s minimum goal because the whole nuclear issue is only a proxy for Israeli hegemony. The Greater Israel faction ruling Israel does not want equality and mutual security; it wants domination. It wants a carte blanche for Israeli control over, if not obliteration of, Palestinians and the continuation of its overwhelming military superiority over all of its neighbors, to put it simple, “unilateral insecurity” for everyone else.

This leaves Obama with a problem: if he cuts a rational deal with Iran designed to resolve the nuclear problem, then it must include something for Iran and that “something” must surely address Iran’s legitimate right to self-defense. This is not difficult – U.S. guarantee of no attack plus support for the sale to Iran of Russian air defense missiles might suffice. A more reasonable deal would include diplomatic recognition of Iran as a country, termination of all efforts at regime change, and acceptance of Iran as a political counterpart like every other state on earth with which the U.S. would consult on regional issues.
The problem is that a rational deal trading complete Iranian nuclear transparency for Iranian national security will take the sting–the humiliation–out and therefore such a deal WILL NOT SATISFY NETANYAHU. On the contrary, a deal that recognizes Iran’s right to exist, be safe, and continue to pursue its independent foreign policy, while frankly quite fine for the U.S., would be the worst defeat the Greater Israel faction has ever suffered. So Obama has a problem.

Defeating Ourselves in Afghanistan

Long-time author and reporter on the Afghan debacle of the last generation Steve Coll describes a collapsing U.S. Afghan policy that is also “destabilizing” Pakistan and is seen by the Pakistani military (not to mention himself) as imperiled because “the logic chain of the American military campaign is broken.” [The New Yorker 3/29/12.] Too focused on short-term advantage and, more seriously, benefit specifically of American and allied elites rather than the populations of either Afghanistan or America, Washington’s policy all too often amounts to lifting rocks only to drop them on its own feet. Afghanistan is just the most recent example in a long line of making the same mistake over and over.


U.S. policy toward the Muslim world is manifestly ineffective. The particular locus of crisis moves around, but the bottom line is the same: harsh military repression combined with long-standing background economic policies that support client regimes while undermining popular economic development jointly provoke fully justified anti-American feeling. The U.S. needs a new grand strategy, a real strategy thoughtfully constructed of an incremental series of mutually supporting and logically consistent steps that build on each other to create a political atmosphere in which momentum builds toward an outcome of benefit to both Muslim and American societies, rather than focusing exclusively on elites. 

Elites of course prefer padding their own pockets, but the price (albeit one paid primarily by the populations) is recurrent instability, including terrorism and wars. To a degree, current U.S. policy does already have “an incremental series of mutually supportive and logically consistent” components, though one should not push the ‘logically consistent’ part too far, but the real problem is that these components rest on a zero-sum foundation. That may be the tried and true historical foundation for great power politics, but the world has changed. Events from 9/11 to the 2007 financial crisis to the horrifying years of the Iraqi insurgency should suffice to demonstrate how outdated and self-defeating the old zero-sum policy of force has become. As columnist and strategic thinker William Pfaff put it:

The United States’ millenarian notions of a national destiny and the militarism that has infected American society have been responsible for a series of wars from which Washington has gained little or nothing, and suffered a great deal, while contributing enormously to the misfortune of others. [“Manufacturing Insecurity,” Foreign Affairs 11-12/10, 140.]

One can obviously make a strong moral argument for positive-sum policy, but that is not needed; even from the perspective of pure self-interest, zero-sum foreign policy in a tightly interdependent world is a self-defeating proposition. The most effective way to achieve a more rational and stable situation is by designing a positive-sum strategy while keeping one’s gun in one’s holster. (Everyone knows the gun is there.) Even if U.S. policy were perfectly logical, with all moves fully consistent, a policy based on a zero-sum foundation that considers force the conflict resolution method of choice is in today’s world a non-starter.

The Peace Candidate on Washington’s Afghan War

It was a waste, there’s not gonna be a happy ending, and I think the Republicans have dug a hole for themselves because they’re trying to out-militarize the president, say ‘we should do more.’ Yet 75 percent of the American people say ‘we’ve had enough.’ [Ron Paul on Face the Nation.]


But as the whole decade-long Afghan war demonstrates, U.S. policy toward the Muslim world is far from logically consistent. The Pakistani-Afghan theater of the broader U.S. confrontation with politically active Islam is a case study in mutually contradictory, self-defeating policies based on a zero-sum view of the world that comes dangerously close to defining the world’s one billion Muslims as “the enemy.” Washington seeks military victory but it is precisely its use of military force to resolve political, cultural, and economic disagreements that breeds hostility. Washington wants Pakistan’s support while seeking to deny it desperately needed Iranian gas imports. Washington provides nuclear technology to India, thus aggravating Islamabad insecurity and contradicting its policy of opposing Iran’s nuclear program. And the rising prospect of a U.S. military retreat from Afghanistan seems increasingly to look, in Washington’s eyes, like defeat rather than transformation from a vigorous but short-sighted military policy to a vigorous but long-term policy of encouraging politically-active, reformist, independent Islamic stabilization and development. 


Grand Strategy

Grand strategy is composed of a coordinated set of policies. Faced with Hitler or Attila, one naturally turns to violence because destruction appears the only alternative. Fortunately, no such threat is even remotely visible on the political horizon, so the U.S. has choices. Counterintuitively, however, the U.S. has restricted itself since 9/11 (with the exception of some fine words, e.g., in Cairo) to a grand strategy of military empire, arbitrarily denying to itself a range of powerful foreign policy tools that, in the hands of a skillful superpower, can have impressive effectiveness.

The ineffectiveness of brute military force for creating a new world of long-term benefit to American society has in barely a decade been made glaringly clear. Iraq and Lebanon are in Iran’s orbit, Somalia a basket case, Afghanistan a looming U.S. defeat, and Pakistan a crisis very visible on the horizon. Turkey is alienated, and Israeli democracy under domestic attack. The U.S. should seize the opportunity to come up with a more effective grand strategy than the combination of invasion, drone bombings, and blatant military threats backing up economic sanctions to force adversaries to surrender in return for the right to kneel at the “negotiating” table. [“Grand Strategy.”]



A policy of support for independent, reformist Islamic political  activism would not be a policy leading to U.S. empire or U.S. control over local resources or U.S. military bases for dominating Central Asia, but it might be a policy consistent with U.S. security and with a reasonable probability of being effectively implemented. 

Explaining Afghanistan

Is the U.S. really in Afghanistan to help the Afghanis? Is this a pipeline war rather than a “war on terror?”



Kathy Kelly from Voices for Creative Nonviolence has this to say:

…why is the United States in Afghanistan? I believe that the United States knows that it can’t go after China or Russia, but they want to be able to continue a cold war and have a leg up on China by being able to control the pricing and the flow of resources that would course through Afghanistan. And for this reason, the United States wants to secure its bases, its forward operating bases, its prisons, and what will become an even larger embassy than the one that was built in Baghdad. And meanwhile, the United States public is poorly informed. [Democracy Now 3/12/12.]



It’s not just about Russia and China. The “Iran factor” also looms large:

More than half of Pakistan’s manufacturers use natural gas to power their factories, and no other country relies as heavily on natural gas to fuel its cars, buses and trucks. About 21% of the country’s vehicles run on compressed natural gas.Yet Pakistan produces only 30% of the natural gas it needs. Neighboring Iran, meanwhile, has the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves, topped only by Russia. The proposed 1,300-mile pipeline would deliver to Pakistan more than 750 million cubic feet of gas per day from Iran’s South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. has touted an alternative pipeline project that would transport natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into Pakistan and India. But with Afghanistan mired in a 10-year-old war with Taliban insurgents, experts in Pakistan doubt that pipeline will ever be built. [LA Times 3/8/12.]

Islamabad now officially supports both pipelines, i.e., “We will work with Iran; Washington, if you want to build us a second pipeline, go for it!”
Endless slaughter of civilians for an oil pipeline that will surely get built, since it only will go a few hundred miles in some of the world’s most mountainous terrain, where the locals love us more every day. Or, Washington could cut a deal with Iran, supporting its desire to strengthen economic ties with a U.S. ally that desperately needs a reliable source of energy. But no. That would be too logical. Instead, let’s anger both Iran and Pakistan simultaneously and, to protect our still non-existent pipeline, launch another Afghan surge!

Yemen: More Resistance

Given how well it worked in Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, why not Yemen?



According to a U.N. official, “Despite all counterterrorism efforts, al-Qaeda in Yemen has not retreated.”


Let me translate that:

Despite Washington’s sabotaging of the democracy protests and queering of the “election” process to ensure retention of the dictatorship (albeit without the dictator), so that drones strikes on anti-government militants that the government swears are “al Qua’ida” can continue, organized military opposition to the government continues.



The only surprise is that anyone is surprised.


And now, according to USA Today, “The Pentagon is planning to restart programs that would fund military training and equipment in Yemen, nearly a year after they were shut down because of escalating chaos in the embattled country.” Presumably, the programs are being restarted because of escalating chaos in the embattled country.


Is there an Alternative?
We are clearly seeing in Yemen a repeat of what has, since 9/11, become the automatic application of brute American force to resolve fundamental socio-political issues in Muslim societies. Clearly, this approach does not work.

the American military presence post-withdrawal is a very tenuous and uncertain proposition. By every reckoning, it is just a wild-goose chase for America….American military presence, come as it will predictably as a foisted tool, is sure to further destabilise this unfortunate land. [Frontier Post 3/11/12.]

With simultaneous displays of violence in Palestine, Yemen, and Afghanistan by the Washington-Tel Aviv axis, this description of how Washington’s policy of conflict resolution by violence cuts to the chase:

The United States continually pours funding into the Afghan National Police force, into these Afghan National Security Forces, into forces that will secure the TAPI pipeline, for instance, and the Afghan Local Police, the Arbakai. And it’s as though the only kind of security is that which comes from one group having heavier arms and more weapons and ammunition and so-called training than another. But what about health security and food security? And what about the fact that it’s claimed by numerous human rights groups that children in Afghanistan are starving to death at the rate of 250 per day, according to some?

The United States has, I think, done its best to secure the potential for a roadway, the pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, 450 bases that might be maintained, huge prisons. They’re still spending $100 million on construction of a new prison near the Bagram Air Force Base. And meanwhile, the conditions in Afghanistan are deplorable. People have endured a very harsh winter, as Democracy Now! has covered several times. And the rage that people understandably feel when $2 billion is being spent per week on maintaining an occupation, while people within Afghanistan are desperate just to try to find food to feed their families, it’s something that all of the surveillance and the analysis that the United States studies simply won’t understand. [Democracy Now 3/12/12.]



Washington’s policy of violence is failing in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestine, and now Yemen. [See the Guardian’s marvelous graphical summary of Arab protests for an overview of the last year’s events.] Shedding light on what may be the actual political dynamics in Yemen, one local newspaper observed:

Yemeni politicians and analysts accused the ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh of using Al-Qaeda to intimidate some Western countries with the aim of keeping his relatives in their military positions. [Yemen Post 3/11/12.]



The military killing of enemy combattants without addressing the underlying socio-political grievances that give them their popularity is the sweeping away of protest waves on the ocean of popular anger. When the killing of combattants is performed in the context of repeated murder of innocent civilians, it is not just futile but extraordinarily counter-productive. 

_____________________________ 

Yemeni rights organizations condemned the alleged U.S. airstrikes, calling them illegal. HOOD, a prominent Sanaa-based rights organization, said that no one has the right to kill another person without first bringing that person to trial. 

“This is illegal and dozens were killed without given a chance to prove their case. We are against any U.S. attack in Yemen,” said Mohammed Nagi Allow, HOOD’s president. [CNN 3/12/12.]

 ______________________________

So, is there an alternative?


Theory is always easier than practice, but to start somewhere, in theory, the alternative is a vigorous program of socio-political reform to empower the population at the expense of the elite. The best defense against violent revolution is vigorous reform. Now, John Adams and Franklin Roosevelt may have understood that, but today this point is hardly accepted even in the U.S. by the ruling elite, so expecting that same elite to apply such an approach to Yemen is wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the fact remains that practical application of this theory in the U.S. created the conditions for a half century of dramatic economic growth and a fairly steady, moderate rise in equality and justice.


This does not prove that freedom and justice would work in Yemen, and it certainly does not mean U.S. taxpayers must foot the bill, but over the past year, thousands of Yemeni citizens have risked their lives in a volunteer effort to create a democracy that, in its willingness to make personal sacrifices, is simply unimaginable to comfortable, short-sighted Americans.* At a minimum, all Washington needs to do is follow the doctor’s mantra: DO NO HARM! Simply stand aside and permit moderate, popular, democratic reform. Who knows? Perhaps the Yemeni 99%, like the Egyptian 99%, are more capable than we think. 


It’s not just irrational regimes that need changing but elitist, abusive regimes, and this is the way to do it.

Giving a Fix to an Addict

Reports of giving offensive weapons of mass destruction to the Netanyahu gang sound like buying off the neighborhood junkie with a free fix. The next U.S. president better come into office with a plan of pure magic.

The best TV news program available in the U.S. today, Democracy Now, says that Obama has “reportedly” offered Israel offensive weapons of mass destruction to delay a war of aggression against Iran, i.e., a new and more powerful fix for a buddy who is already a junkie and on the verge of “going rogue.” Given that Obama wants to help Israel, defensive arms and/or an even more solid security wall around Israel than the U.S. already provides might have been in order, but to offer to increase the ability of a potential aggressor to commit aggression in return for a promise that the potential aggressor will delay ever so slightly his commission of the sin would constitute a betrayal of presidential responsibility for protecting U.S. national security, not to mention being a very nasty thing to do to one’s addict-buddy. A friend would offer Israel an option other than the madness of launching an uncontrollable war against a vastly larger adversary rather than further whetting the appetites of a regime already committed to solving its foreign policy and domestic policy problems through violence.

Even the infamous hardline former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, keeps warning against the Netanyahu regime’s promotion of war as the answer, most recently calling the idea “stupid.” One wonders how well he will sleep if the regime he recently left and now distrusts becomes convinced that it finally has the ability to deal the Iranians a “final solution.”

Democracy Now indicated the news might not be true. One can only hope, but this is exactly the self-defeating policy Washington has been pursuing for a generation, and the U.S. “Israel problem” just keeps getting worse and worse. If the report is true, Obama may get reelected, since no presidential-quality opposition is yet visible on the horizon, but if he does, then how will he control Israel the next time?

Will Netanyahu’s Provocations Backfire?

Netanyahus combined efforts to push the U.S. into a war on Iran as a smokescreen for his plan to absorb the West Bank and to manipulate the U.S. presidential election may open the door to an alliance of U.S. and Israeli national security officials who believe in security through peace and justice.
Netanyahu is interfering in the current U.S. Presidential campaign to put into office a president who will kowtow to his factions agenda, namely to get the U.S. to attack Iran to facilitate Israeli consolidation of control over the West Bank. While U.S. politicians remain mostly in denial about Netanyahus interference in the U.S. political system and threat to U.S. national security, former Israeli foreign minister Livni openly criticized Netanyahu for endangering the U.S.-Israeli alliance by his anti-Obama attitude.
Although it is impossible to distinguish with certainty the responsibility of Washington from that of Tel Aviv for recent acts of anti-Iranian aggression, even the militantly right-wing website DEBKA seemed recently to be hinting that the recently murdered Iranian nuclear scientist was killed by Israel to provoke a U.S.-Iranian war:
By denying “absolutely” any US involvement in the killing, the administration implicitly pointed the finger at Israel, [emphasis in original] an unusual act in relations between two friendly governments, especially when both face a common issue as sensitive as a nuclear-armed Iran. Obama seemed to suspect that Israel staged the killing to torpedo yet another US secret effort to avoid a military confrontation with Iran through back channel contacts with Tehran, while the administration’s extreme condemnation is seen as tying in with its all-out campaign to hold Israel back from a unilateral strike. [DEBKA 1/14/12.]
Netanyahu seems simultaneously to be interfering in U.S. internal affairs and attempting to undermine U.S. foreign policy in a way that directly harms U.S. national security. While neither represents anything unique in the long, troubled U.S.-Israeli relationship, Netanyahu may well be carrying such anti-U.S. behavior to an extreme that will finally awaken the American public to the harm of allowing Israel to manipulate the U.S.
Ironically, Obama has numerous natural allies in Israel for any effort to avoid the dangers of a war with Iran, which would put Israel in a highly exposed position. The most obvious ally for Obama is ex-Mossad chief Dagan, who has, since his recent retirement, been on a public campaign to warn against the belligerence of the Netanyahu faction. Perhaps no foreign policy mistake by Obama is more difficult to comprehend than his failure publicly to associate himself with such Israeli national security officials as Dagan who fear that the poor judgment of Israeli political leaders will endanger Israeli national security.
Despite having the reputation of having been an extreme hardline defender of Israel quite willing to fight dirty covert war, Dagan has over the last six months made his distrust of Netanyahus war-mongering crystal clear. In December, he reiterated his concern, noting, on the subject of a possible U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran:
The commotion surrounding the immediate alternative of an attack may lead the Iranians into a reality in which they are (pushed over the edge) and try to obtain nuclear capabilities as quickly as possible instead of treading rather carefully while taking the international community’s demands into consideration….this situation could prove to be problematic because it may (affect the entire Middle East) in such a way that it would have security and economic-related repercussions for Israel…[Ynet News12/19/11.]
Dagan spoke publicly again in early January, implying that Israeli political leaders do not pay attention to Israeli national security, specifically accusing both Israeli defense ministers and prime ministers of ignoring IDF exercises designed to study Israeli national security issues [Israel National News 1/4/12].
Dagans calls for caution regarding Iran echo similar concerns voiced by leading U.S. national security figures, and, while falling far short of advocating that Irans interests be taken into consideration, nevertheless open the logical door to a new approach along those lines.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently made clear the threat to Israeli national security, even to its continued existence, posed by Netanyahus belligerent policy of provoking tensions simultaneously with Iran and Palestinians, observing:
At this dramatic time in the Middle East, when there have been so many changes, it’s not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated. And that is what’s happening. [The Corner Report 10/9/11.]
Former defense secretary Robert Gates also reportedly accused Netanyahu of endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank [Haaretz 9/7/11.]
Rather than listening, Netanyahu has evidently decided not only to dig in his heels but to attempt regime change in Washington. Netanyahu has long been confident of his ability to manipulate Washington and with good reason, but this time he may be biting off more than he can chew.
The more openly Netanyahu allies himself with the dishonored neo-con wing of the Republican Party that is struggling to reinvigorate the Bush-Cheney policy of U.S.-provoked imperial wars at a time when the U.S. is retreating from the Islamic world and struggling to recover from its decade of foreign adventures and financial excess, the more he opens political space for American officials who believe in a more cautious route to U.S. national security to ally themselves with like-minded Israeli officials.

Challenge to the War Party

American media are being flooded with calls for aggression against Iran, all replete with glib assumptions and careful avoidance of any deep analysis of what might go wrong. Here is what I want:

an argument for launching a war against Iran that is intellectually honest and profoundly self-critical, an argument that enumerates assumptions and questions them, an argument that searches for what could go wrong and lays out a precise plan for avoiding pitfalls, an argument that shows how war will lead us to a world we can honestly expect to be better than it would have been without war.

I predict that no one can make such an argument. I challenge the smooth-talking, “they will welcome us with flowers” set–those of you who think wars can be managed and long-term dangers avoided–to prove me wrong.