07/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Professor Benny Morris: Nuclear War to Avoid Nuclear War

In today's New York Times the Israeli academic Benny Morris, in an article fittingly entitled "Using Bombs to Stave Off War," opines that a "preemptive" nuclear conflagration in the Middle East could have some kind of positive outcome for Israel, the United States, and the world. It's a disgraceful piece of intellectual demagoguery based on mind-boggling, and really quite insane, situational ethics. "Israel," Morris's lead begins, "will almost certainly attack Iran's nuclear sites in the next four to seven months."

Later in the piece, he narrows down his prediction for an Israeli military assault on Iran for the period between November 5 and January 19, "ensur[ing] that Israel will have support from a lame-duck White House." Morris's advice is that Israel should finely calibrate its timetable to hit Iran based on American domestic politics. This coordination between Israeli "security" policy and American elections exposes a very strange relationship between the two nations. He also laments the fact that given the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, "the American public has little enthusiasm for wars in the Islamic lands."

Professor Morris goes on to argue that the current nuclear standoff with Iran leaves "the world" with only one option: "the military option, meaning an aerial assault by either the United States or Israel." He longs for the United States to give the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) access to air strips in Iraq to carry out the strikes, adding: "The best outcome will be that an Israeli conventional strike, whether failed or not . . . would persuade the Iranians to halt their nuclear program." That notion is the most chimerical, dangerous, and LEAST LIKELY OUTCOME of any IDF strike against Iran. Didn't these Israeli hawks learn anything from the failed "war" in Lebanon in the summer of 2006? Hezbollah, which depends on Iran's largesse, emerged from that encounter stronger than ever, politically and militarily. Just yesterday Israel was forced to ignominiously exchange with Hezbollah live prisoners of war for dead ones. What evidence is there that Iran would be weakened for any period of time from IDF attacks no matter how large-scale they might be?

Morris's circular logic puts Iran and Israel in an inevitable nuclear showdown. He claims Iran, a country that has not invaded any of its neighbors in over 250 years, is so ideologically committed to the destruction of Israel that the moment the Iranians get an atomic bomb they're going to hurl it at Tel Aviv. But he also seems to believe that somehow, miraculously, Iran will be persuaded to dump its nuclear program following a devastating IDF or U.S. assault.

This is dangerous codswallop.

The much more likely scenario is the Iranian government, with its public opinion galvanized after being subjected to unprovoked attack, will rush head-first into building a nuclear weapon as fast as possible as a deterrence to future IDF or U.S. military assaults.

Morris recklessly suggests that if Iran dares to fight back in any way against Israeli or American interests following the IDF's conventional military violence "an Israeli nuclear strike to prevent the Iranians from taking the final steps toward getting the bomb is probable."

So Morris argues that 1). The Iranian regime is so driven by ideology that it will use any nuclear weapon it gets its hands promptly against Israel; 2). The IDF must launch a preemptive military strike against Iran to stop them from getting the bomb; and 3). If Iran reacts to the conventional attack by hitting Israeli or American interests in the region, Israel should, in turn, "respond" to Iran's justified actions in self defense by raining atomic bombs, (which Israel officially denies it possesses), on the heads of the Iranian people.

Morris uses his intellectual gifts to try to construct, with gonzo logic, a patina of legitimacy for a policy that could easily end up killing millions of people.

The terms "preemption" and "self defense" that Israeli hawks like Morris throw around are nothing but euphemisms for aggressive war and military violence (and terrorism) in the pursuit of geopolitical objectives. The IDF failed in Lebanon with a relatively small number of deaths on both sides, with the 1,400 Lebanese civilians paying the highest toll. Yet any confrontation with Iran along the lines Morris seems to be perfectly happy with will not only fail to win any long-term "security" for Israel, it would inevitably result in far higher civilian and military deaths on both sides.

But the craziest part of Morris's argument is his matter-of-fact tone towards Israel using for the first time since Nagasaki the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. For Morris, the Bomb is just another item in the IDF's tool chest. He has no regard for the potential effects of such unthinkable belligerence on the region and on the world. He doesn't entertain the down side of a tiny nation of under 7 million people, with no fixed internationally-recognized borders, (that shouldn't have nuclear weapons in the first place), using them as a means to attain some kind of future "stability" -- under Israel's terms. It's a colonial mindset. These are delusions of grandeur I thought we had moved beyond after the repudiation of the neo-cons in Iraq.

Morris's outrageous, amoral cheerleading for military violence, if followed as "policy," could plunge the world into a large-scale war -- only this time with 21st Century technology on all sides. Such flagrant disregard for the well-being of millions of innocent women and children in the region and in the world should be relegated to pamphlets handed out by homeless guys with tinfoil hats, not found in the opinion section of the New York Times.