A nuclear Iran is clearly a danger to the world and a particular threat to Israel, but I’ve always wondered: how much of the intense focus on Iran among pro-Israel groups here is the result of a sober analysis of the threat, and how much is about finding a good organizing and fundraising focus for groups that do the best when they confront a dire menace and a clear cut villain?
May I suggest a test?
Jewish groups that pound away at the Iran issue but ignore Pakistan aren’t serious. Because if you’re concerned about Israel’s survival in this perilous century, Pakistan could be a much bigger menace.
Yes, Iran seems well on its way to building its first nuclear bomb, and it is led by a fanatic who has said Israel should be wiped off the map.
But Pakistan already has a substantial nuclear arsenal. Moreover, it has a largely dysfunctional government with myriad ties to Islamic extremists and terrorist groups.
This week Newsweek is reporting a dramatic expansion of its nuclear capacity. We’re not talking one or two bombs here, we’re talking hundreds, and the raw materials for simple dirty bombs.
Iran is a nation; its leaders, though religious extremists, want to hold on to power. I’ve heard the claim that they are apocalypse-minded fanatics who wouldn’t mind committing national suicide in the interests of an Islamic messianic age, but I can’t find any serious Iran experts who believe that.
With Iran, there is a reasonable probability an updated version of the Cold War doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD) would protect an Israel with – allegedly – a much bigger nuclear arsenal than Iran is likely to have for decades, and an extensive second strike capability.
Any Iranian nuclear attack would guarantee the destruction of the nation, and Iran’s leaders know it.
The threat from Pakistan is different. Its leaders are not threatening to destroy Israel, but it’s hard to imagine that some of its bombs or dirty bomb material won’t eventually end up in the hands of terrorists bent on destroying the hated Zionist entity.
And those terrorists aren’t a country; MAD doesn’t work against diffuse groups that operate across nation borders.
I’m not suggesting Iran isn’t a threat, or that Jewish groups shouldn’t worry about it. By all means toughen sanctions and work to isolate the Tehran regime, and while we’re at it, let’s do more to support Iranian dissidents who want a government that takes care of its people instead of spending billions on crazy dreams of regional hegemony.
I am suggesting that if they’re serious, they should be just as active in pressing for some kind of solution to the problem Pakistan. If they don’t, it’s going to be harder and harder to take them seriously as we learn more about the political chaos in that country and what could be the lack of clear lines of control over its substantial nuclear arsenal.
What I hear, mostly, is silence.