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?