Israel Confronts Iran
Taking the Iranian nuclear threat seriously.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Egyptian field marshall Mohamed Tantawi in Cairo, July 31, 2012


Conrad Black

Having gone this far, the U.S is going to have great difficulty dissenting if Israel chooses to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. If Obama did not have such an indifferent record dealing with Israel — he was coldly censorious of Netanyahu in the early years of his administration — it would seem that he was inviting Israel to take down the Iranians, and providing them weapons and offering diplomatic cover to do so. There seems mercifully to have vanished from official discourse the nauseating defeatism to the effect that the United States and Israel (now for these purposes effectively the same at least in initial capabilities) don’t have the means to mount, to use Hillary Clinton’s favorite and misapplied adjective for sanctions, “crippling” attacks on the Iranian nuclear program. Scientific laboratories cannot function precisely with 15-ton bombs falling overhead, no matter how profoundly interred they may be, and return visits to Iranian airspace could be launched at whatever frequency is necessary to interdict this activity, and indefinitely, until the Iranians finally, as they would clearly wish to do, dispose of this antediluvian despotism, cloaked in theocratic heresies.

The Obama administration has clearly agonized over what to do about Iran after the abject failure of its attempted “engagement” with that country. The parallel failure of the “reset” with Russia was highlighted at the same time as the full empowering of Israel by congressional approval of a bill prohibiting the sharing of anti-missile technology with the Russians, whom Obama, in the open-microphone exchange with then-Russian President Medvedev earlier this year, seemed to approve as rightful permanent holders of a nuclear first-strike capacity against the West. The administration’s reluctance to plunge into a new Near Eastern conflict is understandable, after 13 years, 7,000 lives, and $2 trillion expended for unclear results in Afghanistan and Iraq. But if Iran acquires nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them, Israel is in mortal danger, though it would reply to an attack with the nuclear obliteration of Iran. All neighbouring states, including Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, would alter course to reflect the Iranian nuclear capability. All would probably move to acquire the same nuclear-strike capacity; and the chances that terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weapons would be greatly enhanced.

The whole nuclear-arms-control and non-proliferation policy of the nuclear powers is a fraud: The Americans could not prevent the Soviets from replicating their weaponry, and then could not object when the British did the same. Those three powers could not prevent or righteously object when France and China joined the club, mainly in response to Russia, and when India did so (motivated by China), which caused Pakistan to arm itself against India. Israel required assurance against the large Arab countries around it, and then came the all-white regime in South Africa (which has since self-denuclearized). The nuclear club grumbled at new members, but effectively turned the other way, though the Clinton administration ineffectually imposed soft sanctions on India and Pakistan for their temerity. Even Pakistan, in all its dysfunctional perfidy, has been a responsible nuclear power, but Iran would not only be a menace to regional peace and a time bomb as a terrorism promoter and supplier, it would also assure helter-skelter nuclear militarization. The routinization of nuclear military power would be inevitable and the likelihood of a nuclear attack somewhere would sharply increase.

That the U.S. foreign-policy establishment doesn’t want to face the issue, after attempted nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq, and facing sequestration of defense funding in the shambles of gridlocked Washington, is not surprising. The reluctance of much of the commentariat, even relatively sensible outlets such as The Economist, to face it, is less understandable, but not entirely unexpected. But it must be faced, even if the world cravenly leaves it to the Jews to do the dirty work for all of us, yet again.

Note: Thanks to reader John Campbell for pointing out that George Washington was a practising Christian at times, and a vestryman at Truro Parish, and that Madison and Hamilton at least had their religious moments also. And thanks to reader Steven Van Dyck for reminding me that John Adams diluted his religious attachments and became a Unitarian. These facts don’t alter the point I was trying to make in last week’s column, but the religious beliefs of the principal Founders of the U.S. evolved with more complexity than I acknowledged, though Jefferson was a fairly consistent Deist and Franklin an uncontested indifferentist (agnostic).

— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and, just released, A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at [email protected].