Binyamin Netanyahu recently slammed critics of a pre-emptive strike on Iran as “having set a new standard for human stupidity”.
Yet Netanyahu’s view is not shared by all Israelis. In fact, there are some very prominent Israeli critics of Netanyahu’s view. Meir Dagan, the former head of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, says that an attack on Iran would be the “stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.”
Speaking to ’60 Minutes’ Dagan noted: “An attack on Iran now before exploring all other approaches is not the right way to do it.”
Dagan should be congratulated for his rationality. It is my belief that the greater threat to Israel and the West is not the potential for an Iranian nuclear weapon — the truth remains that mutually assured destruction remains the most potent peacemaking force in history, even for supposedly irrational regimes like Pakistan, North Korea and Soviet Russia — but the dangers of blowback from a unilateral strike on Iran.
Oil and resource supplies through the Persian Gulf could be interrupted, sending energy prices soaring, and damaging the already-fragile global economy.
A regional war in the Middle East could result, potentially sucking in the United States and Eurasian powers like China, Pakistan and Russia. China and Pakistan have both hinted that they could defend Iran if Iran were attacked — and for good reason, as Iran supplies significant quantities of energy.
And with the American government deep in debt to foreign powers like China who are broadly supportive of Iran’s regime, America’s ability to get involved in a war on Israel’s behalf is highly questionable. And even without a war, further hostility and tension between America and her creditors would surely result in an even faster rush toward more bilateral and multilateral agreements to ditch the dollar for trade, something that America will almost certainly seek to avoid. So even with a President in the White House significantly more sympathetic to Netanyahu than Obama, America may find herself constrained by the realities of global economics, and unable to assist Israel.
Most discouragingly, such a high risk operation seems to offer very little reward — a successful Israeli strike on Iran is estimated to set back Iran’s program by only one to three years. And such an operation would likely require bombings over many days and in many locations.
If Netanyahu wishes to go ahead with a unilateral strike then that is his prerogative. But if he will not listen to Dagan’s wise counsel, why should the West rush to his aid if his scheme backfires?
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This is a poor summary of the dilemma facing Israel. Waving Dagan’s name is no substitute for a more honest presentation. Here’s an interview with an Israeli “decision maker” (very
likely Defense Minister Ehud Barak) that lays out the case for an attack on Iran.
And on a personal note Aziz (although how personal can it be if I don’t know and probably never will…) your success as an economic blogger is making you arrogant IMHO, I don’t know how else to explain such an unserious post from an otherwise serious blogger.
Aziz doesn’t seem at all arrogant to me. Maybe your own views on the topic are showing through here?
Wait so Barak and Netanyahu are willing to risk triggering a larger global war now — and why should we not take Chinese and Pakistani rhetoric as seriously as we take Iranian rhetoric? — for the hope that in ten or twelve years the regime might fall?
The bottom line is, as both Meir Dagan and I appear to see it, that a strike now is a massive risk for a potentially small payoff. Iran is going nuclear unless there is a full regime change, and the only thing that can definitely bring about regime change is a full scale invasion, something that neither the United States nor Israel can afford. And beyond that, mutually assured destruction works, even with supposedly irrational regimes. We have a strong 60 year record of evidence starting with the Soviet Union, continuing through Pakistan and North Korea.
That is my calculus and I stand by it.
mutually assured destruction doesn’t work here. Firstly, Iran can take a couple of missiles and survive. They have no regard for human life anyway, so it could be an acceptable price for them to pay to destroy the Jewish cancer once and for all. Secondly, the USSR and the USA came to inches away from a nuclear war at least once. Arguably, we were very lucky indeed not to be destroyed in the past 60 years. Thirdly, the USSR (or the USA) never stated that it is their greatest desire to obliterate the other side. Finally, it’s very easy making those calculations from where you’re sitting and betting that everything is going to be peachy. From where I, and many other Israelis are sitting, it’s better to act now rather than wait a couple of years before one morning some Iranian fanatic wakes up in the morning CONVINCED that god told him in a dream to push the button.
I honestly believe that Israel’s nuclear submarines are enough of a deterrent to stop Iran trying to attack, because I think they understand that the Israeli mentality is unforgiving to anyone who would try to initiate a second holocaust against the Jews. Do you remember what Moshe Dayan said about Israel being willing to attack Rome if it came to it?
I think that considering that Pakistan — which at times has arguably possessed a more radical and dangerous regime than Iran’s considering that they harboured Osama bin Laden in a compound adjacent to their leading military academy — has nuclear weapons and has done nothing to Israel whatever illustrates this principle very clearly. Israel will obliterate anyone who tries to obliterate them. Very clear and simple.
To what extent does it worry you that acting now might trigger something worse for Israel than the potential for Iran getting a nuclear weapon? Global trade shocks? Regional wars? Hezbollah and Hamas?
Global trade shocks? Regional wars? Hezbollah and Hamas? yes it’s all bad but it’s something we can survive (besides it seems it’s all happening anyway…). A nuclear Iran (and very likely to be followed by Egypt and Saudia) is un-survivable (new word?)
The Indians and Pakistanis said the same thing of each other, and it actually stabilised relations between the two countries. As Barak, Netanyahu and many, many others note, it is going to happen anyway, it is just a question of which regime is in power and how they feel toward Israel. Attacking Iran now will just sour relations and make it more likely that when Iran achieves nuclear power that the regime in power will bear a grudge. That said, I still put the chance of Iran actually attacking Israel at almost zero because of mutually assured destruction. But the more Israel interferes, the more aggressive they may be later on.
Gilad – Aziz is one of the least arrogant bloggers I can think of. He cited a well known Israeli who is in a position to know things the general public cannot. You cited an Israeli MSM news source, however most grownups know the MSM generally exists as a propaganda mouthpiece for the .gov’s interests in the military industrial complex.
IMO it’s arrogant of YOU to take pot shots without any skin in the game yourself. Where’s your blog outlining your oh-so-seriously and carefully considered position?
But hey if you feel that strongly about it, you are free to back up your armchair quarterbacking by volunteering for the IDF…but no way in HELL are you or anyone else going to get my boys to do Israel’s fighting for them.
Sadly, Israel will undoubtedly bomb Iran. It will stymie the Iranians for a while. They will probably bomb again after a 2-3 years. But the Persians seem like they have the patience to keep pushing forward. So, a short term victory for Israel, but in the long term only a full scale invasion will stop the nuke program.
a full scale invasion will never happen. who’ll do the invading? a long-term solution is either a revolt by the Iranian people (most of whom are supposedly a lot saner than the regime) or China/Russia pulling their support. I think it is an arrogant post because Aziz is not showing the knowledge or honesty that he usually shows in his other posts and it’s arrogant to post such a sloppy comment on such a serious subject. I’m sure that in posts relating to economics Aziz wouldn’t have said something as senseless as this: “But if he will not listen to Dagan’s wise counsel, why should the West rush to his aid if his scheme backfires?” Who appointed Dagan a divine messenger whose wisdom is the standard by which we should all be judged?
Dagan is offering a serious low-risk alternative to Netanyahu’s chosen path. He is articulating a realistic and secure path forward that doesn’t involve starting a war.
I hope he enters the Knesset and becomes Prime Minister. I admire his pragmatism and his courage.
Former head of Shin Bet Yuval Diskin: “I have no faith in the prime minister, nor in the defence minister. I really don’t have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings.”
“They’re creating a false impression about the Iranian issue. They’re appealing to the stupid public, if you’ll pardon me for the phrasing, and telling them that if Israel acts, there won’t be an (Iranian) nuclear bomb.”
Diskin said he was not necessarily opposed to an attack on Iran, though he cited experts who argue this risked backfiring by accelerating its nuclear programme.
How about turning the tables: “From where I, and many other Iranians are sitting, it’s better to act now rather than wait a couple of years before one morning some Israeli fanatic wakes up in the morning CONVINCED that god told him in a dream to push the button.”
Nevertheless, if regime change is really the only viable long-term solution, then I’m sure further sanctions, assassinations, aggressions, and threats of existential peril will do wonders to temper national militarist sentiment and drive the Iranian people against their regime… right?
I don’t get your first point. The leadership in Israel is not religious and never stated it’s their desire to destroy Iran.
On your second point, as far as I understand from reading less conventional sources (so not BBC, CNN and others), the Iranian people hate the regime, hate the nuclear program, and blame its own leaders for the poor economy. But it’s hard to tell.
I am seriously concerned that the strike will have serious ramifications beyond Iran’s nuclear program. I think certain countries and actors in Eurasia are itching for the chance to weaken the United States with a proxy war.
Aziz, have you seen the docu-drama “Countdown to Looking Glass”. It’s eerily relevant to today, especially as things in the movie begin with a debt default and death of a US ambassador in the Middle East: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knSSUEdLcvg It also centers around the Straits of Hormuz.
Israel has a right to exist. As do the Palestinian people (Palestine) have a right to a homeland. There is the possibility that Muslims in Palestine could have been Jews who converted. Therefore they are brothers of different faiths. They must not let zealotry destroy their peace. This happened in Ukraine before the war. catholic Poles orthodox Ukrainians ans Jews all lived side by side, worshipping in their own way and playing football together. Then Nationalists stirred the pot and during war, massacres occurred.
How do we temper the emotions of zealots on both sides? We are potentially dealing with irrational emotional people. This would mean we have zero chance of reconciling. When this occurs war and nationalist side taking is the only outcome. How come Muslims and Jews live in Melbourne Australia? They admittedly live in different suburbs, but we don’t see turf wars. People go about their business. Why? Because in Australia we live a very relaxed lifestyle. People go about their business and don’t bother each other.Zealotry is very rare in Australia. Zealotry is a sympton of stress. Perhaps the ottoman empire was a good thing. It kept nationalism at bay and secularism was the norm.
Buddy- your first paragraph paints a very rosy picture of jewish/gentile relations that didn’t exist. It is true that there were times when the two lived in a cold peace- but Poles/Ukrainians generally despised the Jews and hated them for their success (when they were successful) and for not believing in Christ (when they weren’t successful). I doubt they “played football together” but I do know of a Ukrainian sport called “Op Kazak!” wherein a Jew would be outfitted with a bearskin and forced to out-dance a Ukrainian gentile on the penalty of death (this may be Jewish lore but more bizarre things like Blood Libels and alleged Christkilling rituals really did exist in the roster of complaints the Ukrainians/Poles had against their Jewish neighbors). My grandmother can lecture you on how, just after the German invasion in 1939, the Polish neighbors with whom they did so much business and were on such friendly terms rushed to inform the local SS dispatch the identity of the Jews among them. It meant free Jewish loot, after all! Weird, though, that you think “nationalism” was what caused the Gentiles to massacre and turn in their Jewish neighbors. Almost like the atheists that claim “religion has killed so many people,” you fail to understand that, far from being created by the political zeitgeist of the day, deep hatred that exists in different peoples in different amounts- at a core, most basic level- needs only the slightest excuse to emerge.
Bullshit. My Grandmother is Ukrainian christian and she had her whole family Murdered by Germans and she had to work 5 years in Germany for no pay. Was offered 800 dollars compensation in 1990. stop spreading lies about what. Happened. The Nazis paid local drunks and criminals to do the dirt work. The general population got along very well.. Watch the movie documentary Galicia. It is a very good account of what happened.
Its Kozak not Kazak so now I know you are not a Ukrainian Jew. Liar.
You accuse me of spreading lies about an event to which you were no more privy than I. Ridiculous.
I never claimed to be a Ukrainian Jew. I am a Jew whose grandparents *happened to live* in Poland. I should watch a documentary? You should read some Daniel Jonah Goldhagen- “Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.” For your edification, my grandmother was hiding behind a wall in the Warsaw Ghetto when Ukrainian soldiers, ransacking her house in an effort to find her and drag her to the Umshlagplatz for deportation to “work” in Treblinka- and infuriated by their failure to find her and her brother- took a shit on the floor of the room she and about 10 others slept in. My grandmother saw this as she watched from a false wall she was hiding behind. Though I grew up hearing her accounts of the holocaust from a very young age, most of them countless times, this one she told me only once, amid tears, because she is a very refined person and the Ukrainian savagery was too much for her to deal with.
In Jewish circles it is common knowledge that specifically Ukrainians and Lithuanians were more brutal in their behavior than the SS themselves. I read an account told of a Lithuanian rabbi whose hands were bound behind the chair he was sitting in and his head cut off with a hacksaw over the page of Talmud he was studying- by a gang of Lithuanians.
I pray to God for the safety of my Jewish brothers living in the countries of Eastern Europe, but at the same time wonder how many holocausts it will take until my people abandons the would-be graveyard of European Jewry.
I agree Ukrainians acted like animals. there were animals in all aspects of the war. People were being killed by the Waffen SS if they did not tell the truth. it was a difficult situation. There were animalistic men who were given liquor and a u iform and a sense of power whe previously they did not. Do not blame Ukrainians in general. it is like people branding israeli soldiers as animals then blaming jews. I know the Israeli soldiers gave them a hard time because I have hung out with ex IDF soldiers on leave in Melbourne and they mocked the palestinians just like Ukrainians hooligans may have mocked jews in ww2 there is racism in Israel too.
I don’t know the exact details of my great grand larents death. My grandmother is too traumatised to this day to talk about the war. But Ukrainian christians were killed by Germans too, especially ones who may have protected Jewish friends. perhaps this is why my grandparents died? so the holocaust is a Ukrainian christian and not just a Jewish tradgedy. The Germans were the supposed master race and jews and slavs were treated just the same.
Another thing. I have studied the Nazis and ww2 history due to my unique situation and my grandmothers refusal to talk about the war. I was hit by my father when I would visitmy grandmother and ask questions about the war. So I read about the holocaust. Why now is the story changing about Ukrainian and Lithuanians causing the death of Jews? It was never discussed in documentaris until recently. The death of witnesses to refute, and the pay off of. Elderly people with possible dementure to speak about the war is all too convenient for revisionists. I know my history and I notice that the stories are changing. So who was responsible for the holocaust? the Nazis or Ukrainians? Do not denigrate the memory of the dead.
My ancestors were pagans. then were converted to christians. perhaps your ancestors are genetically family too but chose a different path. i notice Ashkenazi Jews are very Ukrainian looking. Very different to Israelis.
man invented religion is a curse. that is why I converted to Deism.
Why can’t we all just live together and play football as children. religion and nationality is a disgrace on our God given reason.
Become a Deist and we can become brothers on Earth.
Lets put our historical differences behind us. Why argue. We are on this planet together. No one else in our immediate solar system to help us.
Ultimately if most of Israel’s friends and allies see no imminent threat from possible Iran nuclear weapons – that should give Israelis pause. And the reality is a strike against Iran would have extremely negative global consequences – it really isn’t a matter only for the current Israeli govt to decide.
I have never seen a credible argument regarding the ‘irrationality’ of the Iranian leadership. It’s just a baseless go to point for proponents of a strike against Iran.
I got flamed by some commenters for suggesting that the “irrational” ones were the ones calling for a strike irrespective of the dangers of blowback and wider geopolitical problems.
Well, whatever. Israel has to make its choice, but I hope for everyone’s sake that they do it in a more balanced way than simply writing off well-intentioned critics as “having set a new standard for human stupidity”.
I think the problem is that both parties are not acting very palatably, yet the common man ignores the sins of one of them (depends on where the common man lives). Both Israel and Iran and not what I’d want for a neighbor. So finding the good guy is not really possible. When 2 bullies are fighting each other, its best to not get involved, let them absorb the pain of their years of non-negotiations. They made their beds.
g, Iran stated it wants to destroy Israel. Israel never said that. The Iranian regime routinely prosecutes gay, women, and the opposition. Israel is a liberal democracy and a sanctuary for west bank gays. If that’s not enough for you to tell who’s the good guy then I submit to you that you are ignorant or a bigot.
Hey John, I wasn’t hallucinating, was I, it was SO EASY to read your the text. Try that type-style again and see what people think. Much cleaner, IMO. 🙂
Oh yeah Aziz,
resource wars have nothing to do with limits to growth, just to do something with human stupidity, right? We it not for this stupidity, we could grow our global economy by 2-4 % next 50-100 years.
Aaaaand, wanting to grow this crazy is not stupid at all…
Resource wars have everything to do with human stupidity.
Well, implicitly you claim, that it is stupid to secure resources for own well being/survival. Darwin would be surprised, I think… Alex
If Israel does nothing, it faces the very real threat of extermination.
If Israel attacks, it faces the possible threat of possibly increasing the chances of a possible war between other powers.
You might not want Israel to attack, but it has massive reasons to do so, a few reasons not too.
If China is worried about its energy supplies, perhaps it should get involved now in a constructive manner
I really do realise the ability to reduce huge swaths of people into a book, much less a single word like the “West” is virtually an impossibility; and whilst I do sincerely hope Israeli faith in it’s own nuclear deterrent can work to reduce the chances of more war from erupting in the Middle-East, for the benefit of all humankind to better promote Peace… I must still say that in some ways the West still does have a giant amount to offer many other parts of human civilisation vis a vis its long, principled history of particular ideas, of which some I would argue are literally the most important knowable to humankind. Like free speech. It seems increasingly a Western idea that the dissemination of information should not constitute any type of reason whatsoever for some body to try and claim a justification to deploy violence against the disseminator of said information. I have not and will not watch the movie that has produced such violent chaos in the Middle East recently, but I will stand by the principle that no movie is an excuse for anyone to act violently – that no ideology, or, in other words, no communication – no matter how evidently stubborn or even unjustifiable… no ideology, not even any religious ideology…should ever be deployed to use or justify violent acts.
And once again, we see really only in the West there is this thin but still broad and at some times very deep (see the link) idea that modernity means relinquishing oneself from the overly sensitive ability to be emotionally moved enough thanks to someone’s communication to then go and act violents.
Earth is a public sphere populated by about 6 billion private properties, each of whom has a right to live and say whatever they want so long as they do not initiate unwanted violence against any other person. Locke said a (private) property exists in each person, and he was right.
Interestingly, the above author of the NYTs link has labelled himself “a deflationist”
Like Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik said… “We are all part of humanity, but at the same time, alone” …which chimes beautifully with what John Milton wrote in his Paradise Lost:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”
Although I seem to be the only one who cares, this [type-style] is a very nice compromise. I have to admit that I did not read many of the posts because it was simply too fatiguing.
Thank you for the improvement :).
I believe that the Israeli/Arab quagmire explicitly demonstrates the futility of attempting to resolve [multiple] paradoxes using templates that caused the paradoxes in the first place. [Sort of like attempting to borrow your way out of debt.]
As far as I can ascertain, attempting to understand long-standing, deep-seated mistrust is beyond our ability. Although medicating the “infection” with economic prosperity might be palliative in a sense, I am not sure that this does not introduce many unintended consequences.
I find it interesting that those in the Middle East are still passionate enough to fight for what they believe is correct [judgement aside], whereas we, in the “civilized” world, ignore most everything, except that which satiates our desires.
In many ways, I believe the Israeli/Arab conflict is perhaps one of the last great battles to be waged between Religion and The Enlightenment, one that many take several more centuries to work itself out.
“Although medicating the “infection” with economic prosperity might be palliative in a sense, I am not sure that this does not introduce many unintended consequences.”
Its not a cure, and it quickly loses all effects.
For example, 100 years ago, governments “created” free healthcare and temporary welfare for all.
Today, the descendants of those people believe they have a right to have their front lawns mowed twice a week for free, seriously.
Someone who has their lawn mowed by the state, free of charge, weekly, complained it was not enough and “those fucking bankers” should pay more.
TrT, that wasn’t really what I was getting at, instead, I was alluding to the notion that although economic prosperity is often seen as the cure for nearly all social [and personal] dilemmas [in contemporary Western culture], this is not the case, and especially in this incredibly complex, long-standing conflict.
And further, although putting a golden bandage on the wound may well result in superficial healing, the underlying etiology is allowed to fester, manifesting itself in a more virulent form once the correct set of conditions arise.
Buddy, you write: “I have hung out with ex IDF soldiers on leave in Melbourne and they mocked the palestinians just like Ukrainians hooligans may have mocked jews in ww2 there is racism in Israel too.”
The problem is that Ukrainian hooligans did far more than “mocking” the Jews. They beat the shit out of them, stole their property and were generally happy to see the Jews perish. Don’t believe me? Just look at the way the poor in America view the rich. Add to that some good, old-fashioned religion-based hatred, plus transgenerational, inherited venom, and you are approximating an explanation for how the Ukrainian/Polish masses behaved towards the Jews. FYI, my grandfather’s father was beaten in the street by a group of Poles BEFORE the Nazi invasion, on his way back from synagogue on Erev Pesach (passover eve) 1938 and his beard ripped off. He died within a few hours, ostensibly of internal bleeding, while leading the Pesach Seder with his family.
So many horrible stories relating to the treatment of Jews in Eastern Europe.
The Jewish side of my family emigrated to Britain in the 19th Century and so were spared this kind of fate.
Ironically, the Arab side of my family in the West Bank experienced victimisation at the hands of Israeli settlers, being beaten, shot and having olive trees burnt and destroyed.
One of the things I noticed in school was that the bullies were often children who themselves had been bullied when they were younger.
I like Meir Dagan because he seems to want to have peaceful resolutions that end the cycles of violence.
I am sorry to hear that. I agree that there were very bad elements in the war. But believe me, I am very prominent in the Ukrainian community. We don’t hold antisemitic views. We are more focussed on leading a pious life and ensuring Ukrainian independence from Russia.
We hold animosity towards Stalin and Communism because of the famine and deaths forced on Kukaks who were property owners. Google Holodomor to understand this genocide on Ukrainians.
Perhaps the Jewish link with Communism could have been the catalyst for the violence, but I dont here people say it was a Jewish thing. More Communist. Ukrainians have a sprit of Freedom. Kozak means Free man. Comunism goes against these principles.
Thanks for sharing your family experience.
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