Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Perry letting slip the dogs of war?

Rick Perry's default modes of discourse are the smear, the lie and the threat.  All three make repeat appearances in his speech outlining his Middle East policy. To sample briefly: the smear: Obama has pursued a policy of "appeasement" of the Palestinian authority and has given "equal standing" to Palestinian "orchestrators of terrorism." Lie: that unspecified U.S. actions during the Green uprising could have unseated Iran's current rulers.  But let's spotlight in particular a noteworthy threat, cushioned though it is by some conventional policy recommendations and diplomatspeak.  It's here:

Israel’s security is critical to America’s security. We must not forget it was Israel that took out the nuclear capabilities of Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. In both instances, their actions made the free world safer.

Today, the greatest threat to the security of Israel and, by extension, a threat to America, is the Iranian government developing a nuclear arsenal. One thing is clear: we must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Economic sanctions must be tightened and increased and all options must remain on the table to stop a brutally repressive regime from acquiring a nuclear capability.
The explosive nugget is well encased here, in that a) it's probably true that Israel enhanced Middle East security, and by extension the U.S.'s, by taking out at least the Iraqi reactor; and b) Perry seems to be simply reiterating current U.S. policy: orchestrate the toughest sanctions we can and keep "all options on the table," a de rigeur threat voiced across the political spectrum.  But the subtext is the three-strike structure: Israel enhanced our security with two aerial attacks on nuclear installations; their interests are always and completely inseparable from ours; and "we must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

That sounds to me like a green light for strike 3. Consider that Perry gave this speech flanked by Israeli hardliners, and consider too the latest doomsday warning relayed by Jeffrey Goldberg, from H'aaretz:

Is it likely that Benjamin Netanyahu will announce at the United Nations that several Israeli aircraft have just returned from Iran? At first glance, no.

But worry over this issue doesn't stem only from the assurance given by the prime minister's friend, Dick Cheney, that Israel will attack; or from the messianic statements about a possible attack that Haaretz has recently quoted Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak as making in closed forums; or from former Mossad chief Meir Dagan's warning that an attack will occur in the waning days of September in response to Israel's increasing international isolation; or from heightened anxiety caused by the imminent closure of the operational window of opportunity...

This must be said, and clearly: No leader has either the moral authority or the strategic possibility of endangering tens of thousands of citizens before doing everything possible to make Israel beloved of the West. That is how Yitzhak Rabin made strategic decisions, while Barak at least talked about turning over every stone. And what exactly does Netanyahu intend to say to the thousands of bereaved families whose sons are not named Jonathan anymore?
With the Republicans crying appeasement every time Obama tries to exert an ounce of pressure on Netanyahu, with Republicans fawning over Netanyahu's every word and gesture, how do you think Obama would react if Israel did strike at Iran?

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