On July 15, Bret Stephens, foreign affairs columnist of the Wall Street Journal, gave a persuasive presentation to American Jewish Committee Chapter of the Sarasota area, arguing that the United States is wrong in not backing the Netanyahu government in attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In fact, he feels the United States should be the attacker. It is not important to argue the chances of success or failure of such a mission but to recognize what are the possible consequences. The probability is that any military action against Iran at this point will, in all likelihood, drive the price of oil to $300 a barrel or higher. Without any military action, there is already a $20 to $40 risk premium in the price of oil.
The world today is in the most fragile economic condition since the 1930s, a price spike of any magnitude would plunge the world into the worst depression in modern times. This would unleash the greatest anti-Semitic surge in history. The depression would be blamed on Israel which would be seen as the instigator.
It is interesting to listen to the well-crafted arguments of Mr. Stephens, who is obviously a bright and well-educated individual. The arguments are strongly reminiscent of NeoCon points, which led us into the Iraq War.
The Iraq War may be characterized by history as the worst blunder by the United States in the 20th century. We leave Iraq after a cost of billions of dollars a virtual failed state. Iraq prior to our invasion was the greatest counter-balance to Iran. Only by destroying Iraq has Iran been able to gain its current balance of power. The failure in Iraq resulted in a major drop of prestige and respect in the region. The billions of dollars wasted is in part the cause of the economic problems we now face.
By moving the focus from Afghanistan to Iraq, we lost a winnable war, which is another source of the view that U.S. is a waning power.
Mr. Stephens is correct in saying that Iran is the current major threat to Israel. It is a major stretch to say, as he implies, that Iran could ultimately be a military threat to the United States. This is the kind of reasoning the NeoCons have traditionally used.
It is questionable to believe that it would be in Iran’s interest to attack Israel. In fact, it would be suicidal for the current regime. It is true that Israel today is in the most hostile environment in its recent history with virtually no alliances left in the region. The likelihood is that the region will be dominated by the Islamists, who will be hostile to Israel. Mr. Stephens, in pointing this out, also does not acknowledge the deep division in Islam by the intense hostility between the Sunnis and Shiites. The fact that Iran is the lone Sunni state in the region puts it in an isolated position.
Mr. Stephens is correct the United States must maintain itself as the strong leader of the world. The United States has become, since World War II, the equivalent of a modern empire. This position was not as much a matter of choice but one imposed on us by the accidents of history. As with all empires, the risk is of over-reaching. There are limits to our power. We will need a strong military, but more power will need to come from approaching the world as a chess master rather than the Dr. Strangelove approach of the NeoCons. We will need to build alliances, exploit rivalries and recognize our limitations.
Realistically, I do not think that if President Obama or Gov. Romney become are elected there will be much change in foreign policy. I believe Jews should vote for the man who they believe be the best leader for the United States not for who will do the most for Israel. The best future for Israel is a strong America.
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