element leads me to the conclusion that the United States will not go to war
with Iran, nor allow Israel to do so. It is this: common sense.
It is true, of
course, that common sense dictated against invading Iraq. But the very fact
that we did invade Iraq, and that the Iraq war is almost universally considered
a catastrophe, should add to the weight common sense carries this time.
Then there is
the war in Afghanistan, which most Americans are now desperate to see end,
especially after the recent massacre of innocent Afghan civilians. The polls show that Americans are sick and tired
of both the Iraq war (which has thankfully ended... for us) and the Afghanistan war as well.
And then, on
Monday, the New York Times
reported on a classified Pentagon simulation exercise which concluded that an
Israeli strike on Iran "would lead to a wider regional war, which would draw in
the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead." On the positive side, the
Israeli attack would "set back the Iranian nuclear program by roughly a year." (Emphasis mine.)
inconceivable that the United States will get involved in a third Middle East
war in a single decade.
That is why the New York Times front page story this weekend titled,
"Hawks Steering Debate on How To Take on Iran" was so jarring. It seemed to
accept war's inevitability.
(Worth noting. The
Times likely changed the title from
the original version "Pro-Israel Groups Differing Approaches on Iran" when it
realized that most of the sources it cited were not so much "pro-Israel" as
right-wing pro-war Republicans.)
In any case, according
to the Times:
Israeli leaders warning of an existential threat from Iran and openly
discussing the possibility of attacking its nuclear facilities, pro-Israel
groups on all sides have mobilized to make their views known to the Obama
administration and to Congress. But it is the most hawkish voices, like the
Emergency Committee's, that have dominated the debate, and, in the view of some
critics, pushed the United States closer
to taking military action against Iran and another war in the Middle East.
The evidence presented
could hardly have been weaker. Here, in order, is a list of the luminaries that
the Times cited for their conclusion
that we are moving closer to war. (Note the absence of business leaders, like former Republican three-term Senator Judd Gregg
— now a Wall Street analyst — who warned yesterday of the tremendous costs in blood and
treasure of another war; this prediction is not surprising given that another
war would cause oil prices to skyrocket and kill off economic recovery.)
- The far-right Emergency Committee for Israel and its vice-chair, the Christian right and GOP leader, Gary Bauer. The ECI's chair is William Kristol, a leading Republican;
- The House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the GOP's #1 spokesperson in Congress and close ally of Binyamin Netanyahu;
- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a hawk in almost all conflict situations and a vehement adversary of President Obama;
- "The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC; the so-called 'neocons' from the George W. Bush administration who were strong proponents of the war in Iraq...";
- Sheldon Adelson, the "billionaire casino owner" who is a primary funder of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign;
- The Republican candidates for president; and
- Richard N. Perle, the leading neoconservative who famously started pushing for war with Iraq within 24 hours of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Talk about your
Then, mid-story, the writers decided to conflate the Congressional supporters of Iran
sanctions with those favoring military action, even though many backers of
sanctions view them as alternatives to war. Lumping these legislators with
William Kristol, Gary Bauer and Sheldon Adelson is ridiculous.
one person is going to make the decision about war, and that is President Obama
— who has repeatedly said that, for him, war is a last resort. That is
certainly the case given that the military is so strongly
opposed to it. Retired
General (and former CENTCOM commander) Anthony Zinni puts it like this: "If you like Iraq and Afghanistan,
you'll love Iran."
As for Congress,
even the most hawkish will not likely jeopardize the lives of their
constituents in uniform who are already deployed in the Middle East and whose
lives would be endangered by a U.S. or Israeli attack. That became obvious
when, after announcing at AIPAC that he would immediately introduce a resolution authorizing war, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) subsequently pulled
back, understanding that his war resolution would not sail through the Senate
with anything like the (sometimes unanimous) support of previous sanction bills.
Come on. Is
Barack Obama really going to surrender to the pro-war lobby either in the
run-up to November or in a second term, especially when most of the war lobby is
comprised of his political opponents who are doing everything they can to deny
This is not to
flat-out predict that war cannot happen. It can and it might. But common sense,
political calculations and, above all, the president's commitment to the
national security of the United States — and to the brave men and women who
keep us safe — dictate against a war with Iran.
In short, the Times gets the story all wrong. Except for
this one thing (which we need to worry about):
In the standoff with Iran, it is the
hawkish groups supporting military action that wield more money, political
clout and high-profile names than do the advocates of a diplomatic solution.
In all, pro-Israel political action
committees and donors affiliated with them have given more than $47 million
directly to federal candidates since 2000, according to data from the Center
for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.
They rank among the top contributors to
a number of prominent Democrats and Republicans, and pro-Israel groups have
hosted many lawmakers on expense-paid trips to Israel. When Aipac featured Mr.
Obama and Mr. Netanyahu at its conference this month, more than half the
members of Congress attended.
alarming. But it does not outweigh other considerations, prime among them that
Americans want to extricate themselves from Middle East wars. Neither Sheldon
Adelson, John McCain, Gary Bauer, nor William Kristol (and their neocon
network) can change that, especially if the rest of us make clear that the very
thought of a another war in the Middle East is intolerable.
And that this
time, we won't take it lying down.