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10 bad reasons to not bomb Iran

To Uri Savir, and those who think like him, strength is weakness, and only popularity is a virtue

Quick homework assignment. It’s designed to test your ability to spot complete and horrifying folly. Don’t worry, it won’t be too difficult. Just read Uri Savir’s article on JPost.com “War-ning on Iran,” Then respond to points a) through j). When you’re done, come back here. Correct answers are posted below.

Ok, you’re finished? Here are the correct responses:

a) It would in all likelihood lead to a regional war – the whole Muslim and Arab world would close ranks withTehranin case of a solo- Israeli attack. Shia-Sunni antagonism would pale next to a Jewish- Islamic war.

Who does Savir imagine will take part in this regional war? Which leader  would be willing to risk embarrassing and likely-catastrophic (for their regime at least) defeat in order to ensure a near-invincible Iran? Certainly none of the Sunni states, which are terrified of the prospect of a nuclear Iran. The ones that might benefit from a nuclear Iran — Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas — would be neutralized quickly and violently should they choose to join in (in a multi-front war Israel would not have the luxury of wasting the time and resources in avoiding civilian casualties that bogged it down in previous wars). They are well aware of this, which is why Hezbollah already declared that it would stay out of any conflict. Either way, “all likelihood” of a war with the Muslim and Arab world? No way.

b) It is to be assumed that an Israeli-Iranian war – which probably becomes regional as the chief of staff told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee – would end with us having the upper hand, using our strategic conventional defense capacities. This in turn would likely lead to the nuclearization of the Middle East with countries like Saudi Arabia, possibly also Egypt and Turkey, turning to the development of nuclear strategic capacities. In turn our strategic deterrence would be questioned and harmed.

Israel has had the upper hand for 45 years. So far there hasn’t been any mass rush to nuclearization. Probably because anyone who has tried has found their programs abruptly canceled in a pile of rubble. Where does Savir come up with the idea that, should Iran’s nuclear program suffer the same fate, countries in the area will all be dying to try their luck? It’s an especially puzzling conclusion since the consensus (confirmed by Saudi king Abdulla via Dennis Ross) is that not stopping Iran from obtaining nukes will result in exactly that scenario.

c) The terror war against Israel, by Hezbollah and Hamas, would with time turn non-conventional, from chemical to nuclear on a small but lethal scale.

So keeping their suppliers from getting nuclear weapons will cause Hezbollah to have them?

Just to make sure I’m following Savir’s plan, then:

Step 1) Allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.

Step 2) Hezbollah and Hamas are prevented from getting nuclear weapons for some reason.

Is there a step 1.5 that I missed here?

(This guy was chief negotiator on the Oslo Accords, by the way. Just thought now would be a good time to bring that up.)

d) The Assad regime in Syria would be saved as Iran’s main ally and Syria’s non-conventional capacities would be introduced into the war zone.

“We just need to hold out long enough for our main ally and supporter to be catastrophically defeated; then we’re saved.”
— Bashar Assad, apparently

e) Such a war would bring to an end the vital peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and any hope of a solution to the Palestinian issue, leaving us isolated in a bi-national state.

Again, I don’t see why this is something either country would cancel a treaty over. If they thought canceling their treaties would have served their interests they would have done so by now. A war with Iran doesn’t change that analysis from Jordan’s or Egypt’s perspective. If his point is that a war will serve as a pretext for either country to end the treaty, then the treaty isn’t really worth much to begin with, is it?

As far as the Palestinians, what hope is there currently for a solution? And how, exactly, will a war with Iran make it any worse? Will the Palestinians be too disillusioned with how states have been acting and decide they don’t want one of their own?

f) The entire Muslim world, with more than 1 billion citizens, would remain hostile to Israel, probably for decades to come.

That would be a shame, because Islamic hatred of Jews is currently set to expire at the end of 2012.

g) Perhaps most dangerously, the Israel “attack alone option” would lead to an unprecedented rift with the American administration and we would be perceived by our No. 1 strategic ally as harming strategic American interests. This would endanger the very backbone of our national security.

They’ll get over it. They might even appreciate it if we take care of it ourselves without dragging them into another war.

h) Internationally, Israel would be perceived as bringing the region to the brink of a nuclear confrontation, which would turn us into a pariah state, endangering our political and economic interests.

The region would be no more on the brink of nuclear confrontation than in any previous war, as Israel is the only nation in the region that — according to foreign reports — has nuclear weapons, thus avoiding any potential nuclear brinksmanship (Hhpefully we can keep it that way). Should we allow Iran to gain nuclear weapons, any confrontation between Iran and Israel (or even Iran and anyone else) will likely be just that. Either way, if Savir’s main goal is for Israel to be beloved by the world, he’s going to live out his life as a very disappointed Israeli.

i) The national coherence and consensus in Israel would be shattered, as much of the country is not convinced that this is a necessary war and prefers American leadership on the Iranian issue. Not to speak of the unpreparedness of Israel’s civil defense and the casualties inflicted on us (which should not be a consideration for or against a military operation).

“The national coherence and consensus in Israel would be shattered?” What consensus is he referring to exactly? And why does not striking Iran preserve this consensus, since much of the country is convinced that this is a necessary war? Do those people not count toward the consensus?

As for the unpreparedness of Israel’s civil defense: If he feels that’s the case, that’s an excellent reason that he should have written an article titled “Why We Need to Improve the Preparedness of our Civil Defense,” instead of the one he ended up writing.

(Incidentally, does anyone else find it disconcerting that in Savir’s list of considerations, Barack Obama’s mood ranks at the top [see point g)], while avoiding civilian casualties doesn’t even make the cut?)

j) An Israeli attack on Iran and its nuclear facilities would delay but not prevent Iran from going nuclear. It would harm Iran’s nuclear capacities but increase its motivation to become nuclear. The international case against Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be severely weakened.

So we’ll bomb them again till they aren’t motivated. It worked with Iraq and Syria. That’s a great motto actually: “Bomb the motivation out of them.” Well, it’s an OK motto , certainly better than Savir’s “They pretty much have it anyway, so why go through all the trouble?”

OK. How did you do? I told you it wouldn’t be too difficult.

We often hear people complain about Netanyahu and Barak fear-mongering in order to gain support for a strike on Iran. As far as I’m concerned, fear of nuclear weapons is one fear that should be peddled. Nukes are like table saws: everyone should have a healthy fear of them (Lord help us if the Iranians develop nuclear table saws). The dangers of a nuclear Iran are obvious to just about everyone. We shouldn’t need to hear it from Netanyahu, and we couldn’t blame him if we did.

It’s Savir’s brand of fear mongering, however, that I take exception to. The kind of baseless speculation that is just designed to manipulate and distract from the real discussion we should be having.

Savir opens the article by claiming that we survived the Holocaust, among other disasters, due to our “understanding that such struggles of survival are not about physical strength.” Is he really suggesting that the Holocaust should be our paradigm for survival? He seems to be, since his plan is the same one most European Jews followed 80 years ago: sit tight and wait for the rest of the world to bail you out. It was bad advice then, and even worse now, since now we know better. If there was ever any support for his theory, it ended abruptly with the Holocaust. The Holocaust arose because we were in a position of weakness. Israel was borne out of strength, and has been able to survive only because of the unceasing maintenance, and when necessary, utilization, of that strength.

But to Savir, and those who think like him, strength is weakness. Only popularity is virtue. They want nothing more than for Israel to be loved among the nations of the world. If we could just show the world how peace-loving and wonderful Israel really is, they would accept us with open arms (2,000 years of Jewish memory to the contrary notwithstanding). Then they would all rally around us, protect us from harm. The use of force is impolite. We wouldn’t want to offend the world body. How are we supposed to win them over if we go about bombing every country that threatens us (by my count six of Savir’s 10 points were some variation of “you don’t want to upset people”).

Thus, non-sanctioned force is immediately ruled out on principle. And for the benefit of those who aren’t sold, he pulls some scary, yet far-fetched, doomsday scenarios out of his hat (everyone will go to war with us. And they’ll all have nukes. And Israel will disintegrate from the inside out. And even if Iran doesn’t get nukes, Hezbollah will. But Iran will get nukes).

I am aware that there are people, former defense officials and the like, who know a lot more than me, and would disagree with my opinion on striking Iran (though I disagree right back). And I’m not saying that there is no discussion to be had on this topic. Of course there is, and we need to continue to have it. But in important discussions like these, articles like Savir’s are spam — devoid of content, intended for those who don’t know any better. If not to convince them, to at least paralyze them into inaction. It should be payed attention to just long enough to know why it should be disregarded.

About the Author
Amitai is a civil engineer who lives in Maryland. He has some opinions.