Or maybe it’s time to realize that Israel is on its own...
Wall Street Journal..
03 September ’12..
Maybe Martin Dempsey chose his words poorly.
Maybe the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff didn’t mean to imply Israel would be committing a crime when he told reporters last week that the U.S. would not be “complicit” with an Israeli attack on Iran. Maybe he hadn’t yet read the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, noting that Iran continued to enrich, continued to obstruct, continued to deceive. Maybe Gen. Dempsey wasn’t speaking for the president at all, just offering opinions above his pay grade.
Or maybe he was speaking directly for a president who, politics being what they are, can’t yet say such things himself.
Maybe it isn’t true, as the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported yesterday, that the U.S. has told Iran via European channels that it would not back an Israeli strike provided Iran did not retaliate against U.S. assets in the Persian Gulf. Maybe it’s a slur to suggest this administration would ever broach, much less cut, a deal with Tehran at the expense of Jerusalem.
Or maybe it would cut that deal in a heartbeat.
Maybe it’s no big deal that the U.S. is walking away from a joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise scheduled for October and cited last year by the State Department as evidence of the “new heights” to which Mr. Obama had carried America’s “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.” Maybe “slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise,” as Time magazine reports, was merely the result of ordinary budgetary pressures.
Or maybe that’s another piece of Gen. Dempsey’s non-complicity policy.
Maybe the president is serious when he says he will prevent Iran from getting a bomb in the first place, rather than try to contain a nuclear Iran after the fact. Maybe the elaborate antimissile systems the U.S. is racing to set up in the region—so that, according to the New York Times, “even if [Iran] developed a nuclear weapon and mounted it atop its growing fleet of missiles, it could be countered by antimissile systems”—is not about containment at all.
Or maybe the administration thinks containment is a viable option after all, or at least a better one than military strikes, which is why it’s now spending its money on it.
Maybe the administration thinks that it can pursue an effective covert strategy against Iran while also telling the media that it is pursuing such a strategy. Maybe someone forgot to tell whoever is leaking the details of this strategy that “covert” is another word for “secret.”
Or maybe the Obama administration is happy to brag about its covert accomplishments, even when the bragging betrays Israel’s secrets as well.
Maybe the administration knows that diplomacy has run its course with a regime that has rejected one overture after another.
Or maybe the administration really thinks it can still tempt the mullahs with a grand bargain in which they give up their nukes in exchange for a U.S. embassy in Tehran (they loved the last one) along with spare parts for their airplanes.
Maybe President Obama is, as some senior Israeli decision makers claim, a sincere and fabulous friend of Israel.
Or maybe such statements are simply a matter of being polite about an administration that knows it has a problem with disenchanted Jewish voters and distrustful donors.
Maybe Mr. Obama has privately offered Israel realistic assurances that the U.S. is prepared to use force to stop Iran as soon as the election is behind him. Maybe the near-hysteria that has gripped the Israeli government is an ingenious head fake designed to make the Iranians think they can exploit the discord between the two Satans.
Or maybe the only head fake is the president’s attempt to woo skeptical voters that he really has Israel’s back.
Maybe, dear Western reader, you think the administration is right to stay Israel’s hand—because you’d rather have the U.S. do the job cleanly, after exhausting whatever other options remain, rather than risk having Israel do the job messily. Maybe you have a fair and defensible point.
Or maybe you think that the mullahs nuclear ambitions are their own business and they’ll leave us alone if only we leave them. Maybe you’re Ron Paul.
Maybe, dear Israeli reader, you think it oughtn’t be the responsibility of a small power to confront Iran alone, especially when Iran’s threat goes well beyond Israel alone. Maybe you, too, have a fair and defensible point.
Or maybe you think that, whatever the merits of that argument, Israel will not find its security on the strength of its debating points. Maybe you think, too, that Israel puts its sovereignty and security at risk when it allows any other nation to seek a veto over its actions.
Maybe the risks of Israeli inaction—not least to its reputation and deterrent power—are greater than the risks of action, real as they surely are. Maybe it’s true that those who dare, win. Maybe it’s time to stop letting the Iranians do all the daring.
A version of this article appeared September 4, 2012, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Maybe Obama Has Israel’s Back.