Proportionate response *UPDATED*

With regard to Iran, Israel is currently facing two options.  It can launch a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, which will allow Israel to survive intact while inflicting minimal loss of life or property against Iran.  Alternatively, it can allow Iran to take a preemptive strike against Israel (which would be a nuclear strike), which will result in the complete destruction of Israel and her people.  Faced with that choice, what would you do?

I’m thinking of that because my friend the Bald-Headed Geek directed my attention to Bob Federman’s article about the situation facing Israel.  Whether in the old paper media or the new blogosphere, there are regular articles about the existential risks facing Israel, but everybody in European and American politics seems to ignore them.

I’m sure they’ll ignore this one too (pity, really), but that probably won’t matter to Israel.  Federman’s point is that, with Olmert gone, Israel will almost certainly act on the two lessons she learned from the Holocaust:  When a nation says it intends to destroy you, believe it; and you can’t trust anyone other than the Jews to take care of the Jews — and that’s true no matter how well-intentioned others are.  America, for example, is a good friend to Israel, as are most American citizens.  Nevertheless, without feeling the existential pressure that is an everyday feature of Israeli life, it’s almost impossible for America to respond appropriately to Israel’s security needs.

I leave you with some of Federman’s thoughts:

As each day passes, it becomes more obvious that Iran’s real intention is to develop nuclear weapons. Why does Iran need nuclear weapons? Iranian leaders have given us the answer- they seek the destruction of Israel- yet the world has chosen to ignore it.

Unfortunately, some analysts naively believe that Iran’s threats to Israel are a recent innovation of the current President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The truth is that the goal of the destruction of Israel has long been a fundamental pillar of Iran’s foreign policy. Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, said in a sermon on Iranian television on December 15, 2000, “Iran’s position, which was first expressed by the Imam Khomeini and stated several times by those responsible, is that the cancerous tumor called Israel must be uprooted from the region.”

However, there is no doubt that Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has taken this madness to a new level. His repeated calls to “wipe Israel off the map” were also accompanied by a government sponsored conference titled “A World Without Zionism” (October, 2005). His most recent outrage was calling Israel “a stinking corpse” on the occasion of its 60th birthday.

Israelis cannot ignore these threats and for good reason. They know that Iran backs its threatening words with deeds. This became evident during the summer of 2006. Following the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, proceeded to fire 4,000 rockets into the cities of northern Israel. These rockets, which were supplied by Iran, sent a clear message to every Israeli: When Iranian leaders speak of the destruction of Israel, they need to be taken for their word.

UPDATE: Just to remind you what Israel is dealing with when it comes to Iran and nuclear weapons.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • David Foster

    Obama has stated his intent to rid the world of nuclear weapons. What this would likely mean in practice is that he would put enormous pressure on Israel to give up its nuclear capability. Israel would of course refuse. In retaliation, Obama would slash American military cooperation with Israel, possibly including a ban on sales of strategic technology.

  • Bill Smith

    You know, I’m just a former cop, and never faced a gun-hostage situation. But cops deal with this stuff every day.

    Somebody is brandishing a gun. Maybe he’s holding it on a hostage, maybe not. You try to talk him out of it, to put the gun down, to be reasonable. You make every effort to save the life of the perpetrator, but, ultimately, your obligation is ALSO to save the lives of others.

    To be sure, there have been times when cops have been too trigger happy IMO, but then, I wasn’t there; they were. But, restraint is the guiding principal.

    However, when a perpetrator is still brandishing a weapon, repeated negotiations have failed, the perp has made, and continues to make threats, to kill, he leaves you no choice. You have to act.

    Negotiations are meant to prevent shooting. You don’t wait until he shoots to conclude that negotiations aren’t going to work.

    No matter what you do, people are going to say you were wrong. ESPECIALLY if you fired “first.” The real questions are who created the situation, and have you done everything possible to end the clear and present threat?

    If you didn’t create the situation — and merely having been born, and living on the same street as the perp does not qualify as creating — and you’ve tried every reasonable negotiation, then your obligation is to end the threat, not indulge it.

    Every fire chief in the US has the legal right to blow up, bull doze, or otherwise remove a structure that presents a larger threat of spreading fire to the larger community. He, or she should not, indeed can not wait until it catches fire. Then it’s usually too late. If the whole town burns down because the chief was afraid to do the only thing he/she knows has the best REMAINING chance to end the threat, well…

    Old saying: Never let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good. That is, waiting for perfect conditions is often not perfect behavior; it’s not even good. It very likely will become the evil you were trying to prevent.

    As to the current situation, at some point the people of Iran must bear responsibility for the actions of their leaders, however innocent each of them individually may be. If your house is a fire threat to the neighborhood, it matters not at all how good, and decent you are. Leave your house, because it must be destroyed, and will be destroyed.

  • Ymarsakar

    I kind of like the days when you could surround and blockade a city/nation and starve their people out.

  • Ymarsakar

    People back then actually understood the consequences of force, war, and sieges. People now a days are like prima donas. They don’t truly understand what violence is, for we have been disconnected from the reality of human nature due to the prosperity and protections of the West.

  • Ymarsakar

    The funny thing about human nature is that whenever people and nations get complacent, the barbarians come in out of the Asian steppes and teach everyone a lesson.

    If you have ever studied the nomadic steppe lifestyle compared to the civilized societies of Constantinople or Rome, you would realize an interesting comparison to modern times.

    Civilizations have inherent limitations in them, whether the technology is 21st century or 6th century. Civilizations need towns. Nomads don’t. They can burn all your towns down and not have to fear for their own people.

    Compare this to terrorism, where we have to obey rules and the terrorists don’t. But people always forget, terrorists have families, cities, and parades of their own that can be bombed, strafed, and nuked. Just like we do.

    Our ancestors had a good excuse. They could not combat the nomadic lifestyle that made every able bodied man into a horse archer and cavalry man. We don’t.

  • BrianE

    The world’s leading state sponsor of terror must not be allowed to acquire the ultimate weapon of terror. If the world continues to ignore this threat, then it must understand that Israel has no alternative but to defend its right to exist, and the lesson of the Holocaust, Never Again, may be implemented very soon.

    We’ve all read the scenarios that has Israel attacking between November and January, especially if Obama is president-elect.
    I sympathize with the position Israel is in– with the prospect of only ‘the least of bad choices’.
    Can Israel take down enough of the Iran’s nuclear infrastructure?
    My son, recently returned from Iraq, believes Israel could occupy and hold a forward operating airfield in Iran long enough to make sustained attacks on Iran’s facilities.
    Can the US prevent the Strait of Hormuz from being blocked?
    At the narrowest point, the shipping lanes are only two miles wide. It would probably mean US strikes inside Iran. If the strait is blocked, it is estimated 20% of total world supplies would be cut off. Iran may not take this action, since it would also cut off it’s oil shipments.
    Does Iran have sleeper cells in Western countries and how much havoc could they initiate?
    Is this the unknown?
    If Israel attacks, and oil spikes to $200-300 a barrel, the wrath of the west, including, I fear, the US will come down on not Iran, but Israel. If, at the height of the projection of US military power in Iraq, enemies of America were able to create enough fear to prevent us from using that power to elicit concessions from Iran and Syria, it’s unlikely we’ll have the fortitude to weather the uncertainty of a stand-off with Iran now.
    An attack plus an Obama presidency could permenantly change US-Israel relations.
    I pray this is merely idle speculation.

  • Bill Smith

    The rational prediction backed by much evidence is that Iran will use their weapon, and it won’t be used against Borneo.

    What ifs are fine, as long as you include “What if we (U.S. and/or Israel) don’t?”

    In several of the fine movies on the Normandy Invasion, the commanders are seen agonizing over the terrible weather forecasts; wait another month for the optimal tides, and risk the Invasions true objective being discovered, plus thousands of other things, or go now? As we all know. Rather than risk discovery, and those other things, consequences “too terrible to contemplate,” Ike said, “We go.” More recently, some other brave souls said, “Let’s roll.”

    You study the cards you have, the cards you know your enemy has, and probably has, his stated intentions, his history, and, when you can do nothing else — and when doing nothing (which is a purposeful action) is about to become not doing anything (passive, fearful, frozen inaction) — you MUST act.

    People say a lot of things. Israel’s taking out of Iraq’s Osirak reactor was roundly — and kneejerkily — condemned in the 80s, but all honest observers now agree it was absolutely necessary.

    In the early days of JFK’s presidency we had The Cuban (Soviet) Missile Crisis which was brought on by JFK’s disgraceful IN-action during the earlier Bay of Pigs invasion. Inaction emboldens your enemies. Thank God JFK got a clue in a hurry, and let Nikita Sergeivich know unequivcocally that those missile sites, and the ships bringing more missiles would be destroyed. Yes, I know about the secret deal, too, which was a sop to the Soviets. What happened publicly is what matters.


  • Bald-Headed Geek

    Thanks for the H/T, Bookworm! :-)

    I see one other factor at play here–if Livni is the one who succeeds Olmert, we will see no change in Israeli policy (i.e,, inaction). If anything, she would be even more “dovish” than Olmert is.

    Insofar as how Israel’s relations with the U.S. would change under a Barack Obama Administration, I think that the BEST case scenario would be a return to the cool relations between the two countries during the Bush 41 Administration. Potentially, we could see a situation where the U.S. would cut off all military and economic aid to Israel, as an earlier comment noted.

  • BrianE

    What ifs are fine, as long as you include “What if we (U.S. and/or Israel) don’t?” – Bill Smith

    As apprehensive as I am about the outcome of an Israeli strike, a nuclear equipped Iran is unthinkable in my estimation for the reasons cited.

  • Mike Devx

    I applaud the thoughtful commentary in #6 and #7 by BrianE and Bill Smith. The balancing of positive and negative effects of going to war are what responsible leaders do in any serious crisis, and many of the effects are listed therein.

    I’d like to add a few comments:
    “Can the US prevent the Strait of Hormuz from being blocked?” No, not if blocking it is one of Iran’s primary objectives during the opening phases of conflict.

    “Does Iran have sleeper cells in Western countries and how much havoc could they initiate?” Yes, and they could initiate a great deal of havoc.

    Iran is a capable foe. They would be able to hurt us, even perhaps bloody us. But I have to ask, why should that matter? We can absorb anything they can do. In fact, were Iran to take these actions – and on our soil or friendly ally soil – it would solidify American support for regime change against these religious madmen. And it would lead to a worldwide purge of Hezbollah, which would be a notable improvement.

    No one on our side is fomenting rabidly about wiping any other country off the face of the earth, involving mass genocide of millions. Someday, when and if the world ever becomes civilized, a nation acting as Iran has been acting would already be an international pariah. I’m probably a Pollyanna. “He may be a murderous, genocidal madman, but he’s OUR murderous, genocidal madman”, as China is currently doing vis-a-vis Iran, solely to counter US influence, is probably the way it will always be.

    My only hope is that our flow of support (money and weapons?) into Iran, for the purpose of destabilization, brings our freaky mullahs to their senses before it is too late, before real war breaks out, with all of the bad consequences that war always brings.