In his Atlantic piece designed to elicit an Obama endorsement of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, Jeff Goldberg undermines his case by realistically predicting what the effects of an attack would be.
He predicts thousands of deaths -- not only Iranians but also many Israelis and probably Americans. Oil prices would skyrocket, Jews in the diaspora would come under attack, the United States would be embroiled in the worst Middle East crisis ever, and Israel would become the "leper of nations."
In January, James Phillips, Senior Fellow for Middle East Affairs at the very hawkish and right-wing Heritage Foundation, produceda strong report which, among other things, describes what an Iranian retaliation to an Israeli attack would look like. Here are the "highlights."
Iran's retaliation for an Israeli strike is likely to be fierce, protracted, and multi-pronged. Iran is likely to bombard Israel with its Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missiles, possibly armed with chemical, biological, or radiological warheads. Such a missile barrage would amount to a terror campaign, similar to the "war of the cities" during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, when the two adversaries launched hundreds of SCUD surface-to-surface missiles at each others' cities....
In addition to direct attacks on Israel, the Tehran regime is likely to launch indirect attacks using a wide variety of surrogate groups, such as Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas, all of which are armed with Iranian-supplied rockets.... Hezbollah has received longer-range and more lethal Iranian rockets that would threaten many more Israeli civilians than during the 2006 war.
Iran also has armed Hamas with increasingly sophisticated long-range rockets... capable of striking Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city, from Gaza. Terrorist attacks on Israeli targets outside Israel, as well as against Jewish communities abroad, would also be near-certain....Iran could activate Hezbollah sleeper cells to attack Israeli targets not only in the Middle East, but in South America, North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.
The Heritage paper also describes the horrific effects an Israeli attack on Iran would have on US interests -- including on our men and women in uniform throughout the region.
But that is for another essay. After all, few of the major proponents of bombing Iran are arguing that it is necessary for US security -- let alone that a bloody blowback against Americans is a risk worth taking. No, at this point, the argument is all about Israel and the threat an Iranian nuclear weapon might pose to it. That is why virtually all the personalities and organizations agitating for war are strongly identified with the Israeli right.
And that is ironic.
Imagine if an American politician declared that it was necessary for the security of the United States that we take an action that would result in missile onslaughts against our cities. Imagine the South Korean government -- which has a truly crazed neighbor next door -- proposing a solution to its security problems that would leave thousands of people in Seoul dead or dying. Imagine the Republic of Georgia deciding that the best way to defend against Russia is by bombing Moscow and then seeing what happens next.
Of course, these scenarios are unimaginable. People who advocate policies that would lead to missile onslaughts against civilians in their own country tend to be dismissed as lunatics -- unless their country is already under attack. (Londoners bravely withstood the blitz that took 50,000 British lives, but they were defending themselves against Hitler, who attacked their island.)
But, in the case of Israel, those who claim to love it most would tolerate mass carnage to preempt a threat that is completely hypothetical.
I am being generous.
Few Israelis, in contrast to the "pro-Israel" organizations here, argue that Iran would use a nuclear weapon. They admit that their concern is that an Iranian bomb would limit Israel's freedom of movement -- in other words, its regional hegemony.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Goldberg that the "real threat" is that an Iranian bomb might cause an Israeli "brain drain," with some Israelis deciding to leave the country for greener pastures abroad.
"Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. The real test for us is to make Israel such an attractive place, such a cutting-edge place in human society, education, culture, science, quality of life, that even American Jewish young people want to come here." This vision is threatened by Iran and its proxies, Barak said.
And Goldberg devotes a sizable chunk of his piece arguing that war is inevitable because Netanyahu has to impress his fanatical right-wing and seemingly unhinged 100 year-old father, Ben Zion Netanyahu.
"Always in the back of Bibi's mind is Ben-Zion," one of the prime minister's friends told me. "He worries that his father will think he is weak.
One of Netanyahu's Knesset allies told me, indelicately, though perhaps not inaccurately, that the chance for movement toward the creation of an independent Palestinian state will come only after Ben-Zion's death. "Bibi could not withdraw from more of Judea and Samaria"--the biblical names for the West Bank--"and still look into his father's eyes."
Still look into his father's eyes. Binyamin Netanyahu is 61 years old and the prime minister of his country. And yet he makes life-and-death decisions for the children, women and men of his country based on his need for parental approval. What can one say?
There is no evidence whatsoever that a nuclear-armed Iran would behave any differently than any other country that possesses the bomb. It is no more interested in national suicide than the United States, France, Pakistan or even North Korea.
But the hawks and neocons in Israel and here say, "What if they are suicidal? Then it will be too late."
Well, welcome to the atomic age. Since 1945, every nation on the planet -- and particularly those, like the United States, with nuclear-armed enemies -- have had to live with the possibility that one of their enemies would do something insane. Americans, to put it rather inelegantly, freaked out when they learned that Stalin, a monster who had killed millions of his own countrymen, had the bomb. But only the crazies proposed preemptively bombing the Soviet Union -- or Maoist China, when it got the bomb a decade later.
And why? Mostly because they knew that Americans would not tolerate the mass destruction at home that attacking our enemies would produce, destruction which the advocates of attacking Iran are willing to accept for Israel.
The neocons will respond that Israel is in a uniquely precarious situation. And, they will say that after the Holocaust, Israel has every right to do everything in its power to ensure that the State of Israel survives. I totally agree, and the whole point of Israel's nuclear arsenal is to serve as the ultimate guarantee that no one can attack Israel with the deadliest of weapons.
And that is precisely why smart Israelis, and their friends abroad, must prevent the "bomb Iran" zealots from convincing the United States government that Israel is so helpless and vulnerable that it needs to "Pearl Harbor" Iran. Attacking Iran would begin the terminal unraveling of the Jewish state. What kind of friends would allow that to happen?
You don't destroy the village to save it, especially if the existence of the village is a miracle.
Those who support an Israeli attack on Iran are indistinguishable from Israel's worst enemies. The only difference is that their plans can actually be realized.
Follow MJ Rosenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mjayrosenberg