Jeffrey Goldberg Calls For War With Iran?

Jeffrey Goldberg, foreign policy hawk, is making the case for some more “liberal” interventionism.

From Bloomberg:

An Iran with nuclear weapons may be unbearable for Israel. It would further empower Israel’s terrorist enemies, who would be able to commit atrocities under the protection of an atomic umbrella. It would mean the end of the peace process, as no Arab state in the shadow of a nuclear Iran would dare make a separate peace with Israel. And it isn’t too much to imagine that some of Iran’s more mystically minded leaders, mesmerized by visions of the apocalypse, would actually consider using a nuclear weapon on Israel — a country so small that a single detonation could cripple it permanently.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who once told me he believes that Iran is led by a “messianic, apocalyptic cult,” is correct to view Iran as a threat to his country’s existence.

[President Barack Obama] has said, repeatedly, that an Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable to the U.S. Many Israelis, and many Americans, think Obama is soft on such matters. But I believe, based on interviews inside and outside the White House, that he would consider using force — missile strikes, mainly — to stop the Iranians from crossing the nuclear threshold.

We’ve been here before.

From Goldberg’s 2002  New Yorker piece calling for American intervention in Iraq:

Saddam Hussein never gave up his hope of turning Iraq into a nuclear power … There is some debate among arms-control experts about exactly when Saddam will have nuclear capabilities. But there is no disagreement that Iraq, if unchecked, will have them soon … There is little doubt what Saddam might do with an atomic bomb or with his stocks of biological and chemical weapons.

The trouble is, no evidence was ever found that Saddam Hussein had any weapons of mass-destruction. But that didn’t stop the military-Keynesians who steamrollered into Baghdad before embarking on almost a decade of wasteful, expensive occupation at cost to the American taxpayer.

In a late 2002 debate in Slate, Goldberg described Hussein as “uniquely evil” and advocated an invasion on a moral basis:

There is consensus belief now that Saddam could have an atomic bomb within months of acquiring fissile material. … The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.

Yes — profound morality.

Because, of course, war, imperialism, torture and mutilation are “profoundly moral” acts.

For those with strong stomachs, here’s some more explicit pictures of that “profound morality” guiding American “liberal” interventionism.

Goldberg was wrong about Iraq, and he’s wrong about Iran. Far from plunging the middle east into the throes of war, an Iranian nuclear weapon could very well stabilise the region under the shadow of mutually-assured destruction — the same force that stabilised relations between the Soviet Union and America.

The big difference, though is that with Iraq there was no threat that any “liberal” interventionism would spill over into a wider regional war.

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24 thoughts on “Jeffrey Goldberg Calls For War With Iran?

  1. In what ways is the middle east “totally dominated by a nuclear-armed Israel”? Politically? Sure, Israel gets plenty of aid from the U.S., but so does Egypt. Outside of America, who else supports Israel politically? Superior military supplies? Absolutely, but that doesn’t stop the missiles/rockets from Gaza or the suicide bombers from taking away civilian life. Who has almost all of the oil and other natural resources – including land? The Arab states do. Not all, of course, but as a whole. I just don’t see how one can say Israel “dominates” the middle east.

    • Which other state in the middle east possesses thermonuclear weapons? In every respect (planes, ships, artillery, combat) Israel has the most superior military organisation and military technologies. If there was an all-out war tomorrow between Israel and the entire Muslim world, Israel would easily win, and that brings with it a massive diplomatic advantage.

      Simply — as we’ve seen for the past sixty years — I don’t think that an asymmetric peace can hold. Both sides feel as if they have nothing to lose by dragging their heels on peace — Israel can gain more territory and settlements, and the Muslims can hope that some day they may gain the upper hand. I think a key problem here is one of ideology — many Muslims feel that they “lose” if the Jews remain in Palestine, many Jews feel they “lose” if the Muslims remain in Eretz Israel.

      In reality I think both sides need to learn that it is impossible to maintain this mentality: Muslims do not “lose” if Jews remain in Palestine, & vice verse. The question is “how can we get to a place where both sides can recognise that co-operation and acceptance is superior to mutual antagonism?”

      Mutually assured destruction forced America and the Soviet Union — in spite of their ideological differences — toward a lasting peace. As much as I dislike nuclear weapons I have to accept that in some ways Einstein and Oppenheimer and Hiroshima created a new era of peace and prosperity.

      Ideally, there would be no nuclear weapons in the middle east, but I believe there is a much better chance of both sides being serious about peace if both sides can come to the table as equals who need to reach a new understanding in order to avoid a very bad outcome.

      • What US and Israel really fears is not just a nuclear iran, but a nuclear Saudi Arabia. That’s why even if Iran is a secular democracy, a nuclear Iran will still scare Israel and US.

        • You wanna elaborate on that?

          I’ve heard the “Saudi is establishment is dependent on American support but really hates America” thesis…

          But i’m just not sure. The Saudi people hate the Saudi elites, pretty virulently. Without America and Israel the House of Saud would die like Qaddafi. Seems like they’re between a rock and a hard place.

    • The House of Saud would defy the wishes of its protectors America and Israel and build a nuclear weapon?

      Sounds like diplomatic bluster with no real substance — House of Saud wants America and Israel to take out Iran. That’s what this is about.

      • After seeing US throw his good friend Mubarak under the bus, Saudi know that they can no longer depend on US protection, that’s why they formed the Gulf Cooperation Council

    • The Nobel committee have made some striking decisions, Buddy:

      Mohandas Gandhi was overlooked, but Henry “Ship American productive capacity to China” Kissinger got one, as did Barack “War is Peace” Obama.

      With logic like that it seems conceivable anyone could get one….

  2. Excellent analysis, you nailed it.

    I want to point out a big fallacy in one of the earlier, critical comments. That is, equating the ‘aid’ given to the Egyptian regime with that given to Israel.

    It is only superficially similar, but in fact completely different. Israel can do absolutely anything it wants with the billions it gets, even if it hurts US interests and the president complains. Check the record.

    The money that goes to Egypt on the other hand, while seemingly similar in amounts, thought less is a completely different kettle of fish. It is something like 1 / 10th what Israel gets on a per capita basis, for starters. And it is basically used to pay off and keep in power the Egyptian elites, police and military forces, who we have seen, are used to implement pro-Israel and pro-US policies, often against the interests and wishes of the Egyptian people.

    The money that goes to Israel is free gravy for them: an enormous economic subsidy that has allowed them to develop their economy (even while the US economy languishes and really could use the money). The money that goes to Egypt is pretty much to pay off a corrupt ruling class that does not care a whit about average Egyptians — and the revolution seems to have failed: humanist dissidents are once again being imprisoned and tortured.

    This is all just perfectly fine with Israel and the US: they only care that the true will of the Egyptian and Arab people are continuously crushed or frustrated, especially with regards to helping bring justice for their Palestinian brothers and sisters. Democracy for the Arabs? That’s the last thing Israel and the US want, since it would mean that their governments served the people instead of Israeli / US interests. And then Israel gets to use the argument it’s the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East to boot!

    • Thanks — it should be noted Israel’s licence to do whatever it likes includes bombing the U.S.S Liberty — an attack that multiple sources on the ship and within the U.S military have claimed was deliberate.

      I have no problem with Jews living in Palestine. Jews have a very deep ancestral connection to that land. But if the Israeli government wants to claim that it is a modern democratic republic, surely that is incompatible with it being enshrined into law that it is a Jewish majority state (especially seeing that the 1948 borders are today a 50/50 Jewish-Arab split — most of the Arabs do not get a Knesset vote).

      I honestly believe that ultimately the two state solution is bound to fail (neither party likes it) and that the best solution in the long run is a Western-style secular democracy, where one person equals one vote, and where Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious and individual freedoms are protected.

      The reality is that Israel and Palestine are two nations within one geographical country, and that the post-1948 Israeli government has created a new Arab diaspora. Eventually we’re going to have to deal with this reality in the exact same way that most other nations on Earth have to do — disparate ethnic groups and religions have to learn to live together in a tolerant manner.

      I hope then that some Jews might feel safe to return to other lands they have inhabited for thousands of years, including Lebanon, Yemen and Iran, where ancient synagogues are now deserted because many Jews did not feel safe living there after 1948 and the holocaust and left for Israel.

      Perhaps I am being a little hard on the Jewish side of the fence — of course Islamic extremists cause huge problems, and compromise for them will be just as hard, or harder than for Likud, etc.

      In the short term, I am not optimistic. I think it is ultimately the Israeli plan to bulldoze (or at least dismantle) the Dome of the Rock and rebuild the Temple. Many Jews i have spoken to believe that rebuilding the Temple is highly unlikely, because of the various disagreements between different religious groups and between secular and religious Jews, but with more and more radical people like Danny Danon and Avigdor Lieberman getting elected it could come to pass soon. That one piece of land right there is a huge problem in negotiations.

  3. I’m so sick of organized religion. Countless Jewish & Arab scholars have & continue to make contributions to science, wherein *universal* truths are uncovered & proven, yet when it comes to the supernatural, these and other cultures are unable to evolve to understand that their religions are the work of Man, not God.

  4. What a basket case. With Turkey going all islamist and militarily muscular and cosying up to Egypt, we potentially could have a multi-nuclear middle east with a complex web of alliances a la europe pre-World War I. Here you go, kids! Enjoy the inheritance!

  5. The issue is not so much a country having nuclear weapons due to MAD being a major disincentive, but in having capacity for plausible deniability. Unfortunately, with Iran having proxies and having shown willingness to use them as its modus operandi, the potential for a briefcase nuke being let off in downtown Paris increases by orders of magnitude. Ensure that any such nukes can be traced to its origin and Iran having nukes ceases to be such a major concern as they could no longer risk using them.

    I said at the time of the Iraq invasion that they raided the wrong house, but now it is far more difficult to execute, and the goodwill towards the US has been all but destroyed from the Iraq misadventure to the extent that even if they are correct about Iran developing nuclear weapons, few will believe them.

    I have no illusions about US military morality, but only because it is an oxymoron. China, Russia, and everyone else are operating in their own interests, and will play these games in perpetuity. Power corrupts, dude.

    • Soviet Union had proxies too, and a whole lot of plausible deniability, and strong motives. So does Pakistan.

      The whole point is that if Iran or Pakistan let a terrorist group set off a briefcase nuke in Tel Aviv, Israel (second-strike capabilities) and the United States would turn both nations into nuclear graveyards. That’s an extremely strong motive for them to not do it, but to instead use their new found clout to raise the standard of living of Muslims in the middle east, something that I believe surely will lead to a swifter resolution with Israel.

      The vast majority of people in the middle east, including in Iran, want Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz and iPads way more than they want a caliphate or to destroy Israel.

      • In my opinion, many of the Arabs’ states leaders do not cater to their people’s best interests. I couldn’t agree more that the majority of Arabs in the Middle East want a better standard of living and peace instead of war, but the leaders in power are both incredible at distributing propaganda as well as completely wrapped up in their own mischevious interests.

        In terms of Israel, it has many internal problems that are preventing peace with the Arabs. The minority (not a small minority, by any means) of extremely religious Jews in Israel seem to have an exorbitant amount of power, and they are very unwilling to give up land to Arabs. Additionally, some of these religious Jews believe that Israel’s existence is a sin because the “messiah” must bring the Jews back to Israel, rather than impassioned Jews looking for a true homeland (i.e. a big go-fuck-yourself to Zionism). Needless to say, there is huge conflict between the ultra-orthodox and the secular (more or less) Israeli citizens. Some consider the ultra-orthodox a bigger threat than Palestinians themselves.

        My point is, you can’t say Israel doesn’t want peace, because that’s simply not true. Israel is so torn internally that no goal can be accomplished, which is why one would think Israel is “drag(ging) its heels in reaching a lasting peace agreement with the Muslims.” Until Israel can solve its internal conflicts, nothing can really be accomplished.

        • Just as I cannot blame the people of Iran and the Arab nations for the actions of their governments, I cannot blame the Israeli people for the actions of a small part of their establishment, so when I say “Israel” is dragging its feet, yes — I am referring to a very small but very influential group of people, not the whole of the Israeli population.

          You correctly identify two bands of Israeli society that are at odds (the secular “Tel Aviv” Jews and the Haredim), but in truth I think it is a third band that is the biggest problem for peace: the neoconservatives — Danny Danon, Avigdor Lieberman, and Netanyahu are examples of these — they are not necessarily overly religious, but believe in a “whole israel” and population transfers for “security” reasons. Ariel Sharon was one of these, until he saw sense, and chose to pursue peace in a unilateral fashion (perhaps he went about it in the wrong way, but at least he was seeking some kind of closure). His successor as leader of Kadima, Ehud Olmert has stated the problem most succinctly — that unless there is a two state solution quickly Israel’s status as a Jewish majority state will ultimately be overwhelmed by Arab population. The neo-conservatives and ultra-orthodox refuse to see this, and so Netanyahu’s government has returned Israel to the old ways of stalling and trying to maximise the Israeli position under the status quo.

          In reality I would say the overwhelming majority of secular Jews (and many Orthodox and Conservative religious Jews) generally seem to want a two state solution (i.e. peace) fairly swiftly, but are prevented from this by the “whole Israel” lobby led by the neoconservatives who want a very conditional peace,

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