Presume, for a moment, that this report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz is accurate:
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s administration will offer Israel a “nuclear umbrella” against the threat of a nuclear attack by Iran, a well-placed American source said earlier this week. The source, who is close to the new administration, said the U.S. will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran.
But America’s nuclear guarantee to Israel could also be interpreted as a sign the U.S. believes Iran will eventually acquire nuclear arms. Secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton had raised the idea of a nuclear guarantee to Israel during her campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency. During a debate with Obama in April, Clinton said that Israel and Arab countries must be given “deterrent backing.” She added, “Iran must know that an attack on Israel will draw a massive response.”
Who was the first one talking up this idea? Back on April 11 of this year? Even before that April debate?
During the Cold War, we were successful in preventing an attack not only on the United States but also on America’s allies. We did it by extending the American nuclear umbrella — i.e., declaring that any attack on our allies would be considered an attack on the United States.
Such a threat is never 100 percent credible. But it was credible enough. It made the Soviets think twice about attacking our European allies. It kept the peace.
We should do the same to keep nuclear peace in the Middle East. It would be infinitely less dangerous (and therefore more credible) than the Cold War deterrence because there will be no threat from Iran of the annihilation of the United States. Iran, unlike the Soviet Union, would have a relatively tiny arsenal incapable of reaching the United States.
How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush’s greatest contribution to nuclear peace would be to issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy’s language while changing the names of the miscreants:
“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.”
That would be Charles Krauthammer. When he proposed it, liberals declared this idea was evidence that Krauthammer is insane. When Hillary Clinton echoed the proposal, Keith Olbermann said it was “far further to the right than John McCain. This may be far further to the right than the Bush administration policy about the Middle East, which you didn’t think was physically possible.” Rachel Maddow said it was “hard to imagine a conception of American interests broad enough to make this a prudent promise to make to the world, particularly to this volatile part of the world.”
Hear that, netroots? From Krauthammer’s column to Obama administration policy. Glad you put all that effort into beating McCain, huh?