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An open letter to President Obama

I do not think you have any choice but to give the war-weary American people a speech that will likely raise the specter of a war. For if you do not, I worry that the Israeli government will make that decision for you

Dear President Obama,

I write to you both as an American citizen who loves America, who has spent the majority of his adult life writing about and teaching American history, and as a worried Israeli who looks out my window at the headquarters of the Israeli Air Force as I write this. I clearly hold dual loyalties. However, at the moment, I believe the interests of both my countries are truly the same.

As an Israeli, I worry that my government may not heed your calls to wait before attacking Iran. I fear that the Netanyahu administration has not prepared Israelis for what might happen in the event of an attack, nor has it done the two things I think would be fundamental groundwork before starting a war– 1) Put our country in the best light diplomatically, and 2) Make sure we have as many defensive weapons in place as possible.  After all, it was only a year ago that a Knesset committee investigating the matter came to the conclusion that we needed a minimum of 14 Iron Dome defensive systems in place in order to properly defend this country. Today we only have six of these systems in place. We have done little in the past two years to improve our ties with the world. Instead, the government here has clung to their perceived need to maintain the status quo. Even more importantly, I fear most military analysts are correct when they posit that we are only capable of slowing the Iranian program to build an atomic bomb. They believe we would not be able to eliminate their nuclear program. We do not have the ability to carry out the follow up missions that would really be needed to stop Iran for the foreseeable future.

President Obama, I know you have said repeatedly that you will not allow Iran to acquire the bomb. I believe you. I know how much Iran with nuclear weapons is inimical to American interests – and how it may be a true threat to the US.  Sadly, the leaders here may not believe you. The leaders here in Israel have concluded that history teaches us that we Jews cannot count on anyone but ourselves. They believe that this is Czechoslovakia in 1938 and that the world will pay lip service to the “poor Israelis,” as they did to the Czechs as they sold them down the river. In some ways, it is hard to blame some of our leaders for not believing you.  On one hand, we look to our north and we observe Iran’s only strategic ally, Syria, slaughtering its people – while the US remains largely inactive. We have watched over the years as the United States first pledged never to allow North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons and then stood by silently when it did.

In addition, you have told Israel for years that if it will “give you time,” “we will get strict sanctions in place,” and though much later than we might have wanted, you have indeed instituted a strong sanction regime against Iran. However, what has it achieved? Have we seen any sign that the Iranians are slowing their nuclear program?

President Obama, it’s up to you to stop our Israeli leaders from taking precipitous actions that will not only endanger us, but possibly you as well. The only way to do this is for you to break your routine of campaigning, your incessant attacks on the hapless Romney campaign, and give a major foreign policy speech to the American people.  I know that suggestion goes against all campaign logic. First of all, your campaign seems to be doing just fine. You have a significant lead in the polls. Why endanger your next 4 years by upsetting the apple cart and speaking about important and serious issues to the American people? Furthermore, your predecessors– such as Wilson, F.D.R., even L.B.J. all campaigned on a platform of keeping the United States out of wars. I am sure you do not want to do anything to give the opposite impression. However, Mr. President I do not think you have any choice but to give the war-weary American people a speech that will likely raise the specter of a possible war. For if you do not, I worry that the Israeli government will make that decision for you.

Mr. President, you are an excellent wordsmith. I have many of your speeches on my web site (historycentral.com). You may ask, so who am I to propose a speech to you? Respectfully, I ask that you look at what I am about to suggest as an early draft – one that with your rhetorical skills, you will transform into a work of beauty and inspiration.  So here it goes – humbly, Mr. President. This is what you need to say:

My fellow Americans, and citizens of the world: Since the beginning of my administration I have spoken about the need to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. For the past two years America has been at the forefront of efforts to impose sanctions on Iran. Unfortunately, none of our efforts have born fruit, to date. And so, my fellow Americans, I have come here tonight to tell you that it is time for us to step up the pressure on Iran. I must warn you that while I do not want us to go to war, the actions that I am proposing might lead to war with Iran. First, a few facts about Iran that I, and my predecessors, have downplayed over the last few years. Over the past 35 years Iran has repeatedly taken actions against the United States. In a different era, these actions would have (and maybe should have) resulted in an American declaration of war against it. Iran’s actions have included: Taking the personnel of the American embassy as hostages, (We believe the current President of Iran was one of the hostage takers. Of course the hostage taking was not done by some rogue ban of terrorists, but rather by the governments itself.) This was an act that went against all norms and laws of international relations. But the Iranians did not stop there.

Throughout the intervening years, the Iranian government has been behind countless attacks against the United States. Those attacks include: The 1980 Beirut bombing that killed 200 Americans. A bombing of the US embassy preceded this terror attack.  The Iranians were also behind the attack on the Kobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996  that killed 19 Americans. Even worse, the Iranians were behind countless deaths of Americans in Iraq. They provided the bombs that killed our troops, and were behind many other attacks on our troops.

For many reasons we have looked the other away. It was easier. We had other interests in the world. The Iranians were major oil exporters and we benefitted indirectly by their exports of oil. However, it’s not possible for us to look away any longer. A country that has a history of doing what Iran has done and continues to be an active partner in international terror cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. We went to war with Iraq because they were suspected of pursuing a policy to obtain Weapons of Mass Destruction. In the case of Iran, there is no question that they have been violating UN agreements. They have been openly enriching uranium. Yet, despite their vehement claims to the contrary, there is no other rational explanation for their enrichment other than to develop nuclear weapons.

Our latest national intelligence estimate concludes that Iran is moving ahead rapidly at developing nuclear weapons. This cannot be allowed to happen. No state that has been a major sponsor of terrorism can be allowed to possess nuclear weapons. Therefore, I have ordered our Navy to blockade the Iranian ports, cutting off all Iranian oil exports and most imports. We will allow Iran to continue to import food and medical supplies. All other imports by sea will be discontinued. We have also reached an agreement with over 80 nations to bar Iranian aircrafts from landing or taking off, or using their air space.

In order to limit the impact on the oil markets as a result of this actions, we have received the assurance of Saudi Arabia that they will increase their oil output to the maximum, thus ensuring there will be no shortage of oil on the world markets. In addition, I will freely use our petroleum reserves to help stabilize the markets.

We are giving the Iranians three months to fully suspend their nuclear program, and place the program under close international supervision. If they do not comply, we will be forced to take further actions. I do not undertake these actions lightly. I understand that the Iranians might respond with military attacks against our forces. However, I warn them that if they do so, I will respond with the full force of the US military.

I spoke earlier this evening with my esteemed opponent, Governor Romney, and he has agreed to endorse these actions– thus showing the world, and Iran that we are a people united and determined to stop the Iranians. He and I have our policy differences. However, when the national interests of the United States are at stake, partisan politics stop at the water’s edge. Although I believe that I have the power as Commander-and- Chief to order these actions, I have contacted the leadership of the House and the Senate and asked them to convene in special session to pass legislation in support of this action– including a symbolic supplementary allocation to the Department of Defense fund this action. The Congressional leadership has assured me that this bill will be approved quickly.

We are entering uncertain times, but thanks to the steadfastness of the American people, our actions will succeed. God bless the United States. Thank you, and good night.

About the Author
Marc Schulman is the editor of Historycentral.com -- the largest history web site. He is the author a series of Multimedia History Apps as well as a recent biography of JFK. He holds a BA and MA from Columbia University, and currently lives in Tel Aviv. He is also a regular contributor to Newsweek authoring the Tel Aviv Diary.