I never cease to be amazed and humbled by the number of pundits who, without any classified information, confidently prognosticate on global affairs, especially on the United States and Israel. So what is a political scientist like me to say when asked whether the U.S. or Israel is going to bomb Iran to prevent its development of nuclear weapons? Almost any person who takes 9/11 seriously and has heard about Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s boast of a world without America and Israel, should be able to see that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a mortal threat to Western civilization. It requires no political scientist to see that a nuclear Iran would control the vast oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and cow an already cowed Europe. This, he would see, would be enough to devastate the American economy and bring the last bastion of freedom and human dignity to a miserable end. As for Israel, one nuclear strike would doom it to oblivion. Exit Judaism as well as Christianity.
Hence, I am asked: “Will Israel or the United States launch a preemptive attack on Iran, the epicenter of Islamic imperialism—horror of horrors that makes the imperialism of Nazi Germany appear as a minor affair in world history?”
There are almost 1.5 billion Muslims on planet earth, and the lowest estimate of the number openly supporting Islamic jihad is 10 percent. Imagine what the percentage would be with a nuclear Iran. All talk about “Muslim moderates” is or would then be gibberish.
So what am I to say about an American or Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran to prevent this catastrophe? Despite my seven years in the US Air Force, a few books on American statesmanship, and almost 20 years teaching Israeli officers at Bar-Ilan University, I’m no better qualified than the know-it-all pundits mentioned earlier to offer confident predictions on the matter in question. Sure, the historical record and today’s behavior of America’s leaders and Israeli’s ruling elites suggest that neither country will launch a pre-emptive attack. But what about tomorrow?
Let’s go back to 1949. The US then had an exclusive monopoly on atomic weapons. Yet, even though the USSR lacked the delivery system, the US did not prevent the Soviet Union from developing the A-Bomb, which facilitated communist enslavement of eastern Europe for more than 40 years.
Fast forward to December 2007 and the US National Intelligence Estimate, which declared that Iran had ceased its nuclear development program in 2003. John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote an excoriating critique of the NIE report in The Washington Post (December 7, 2007). He said, in conclusion: “…the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions in an essentially unmolested fashion, to the detriment of us all.”
This is precisely why Mr. Bolton wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal virtually encouraging Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran. He boldly asserted that the US should support Israel before, during, and after such a strike—should it take place.
Yes, but Mr. Bolton surely knows that Israel’s government, led by “we’re tired of being courageous” prime minister Ehud Olmert, cannot even muster the wherewithal for a serious attack on Iran’s proxy Hamas next door in Gaza. Thousands of Hamas missiles have depopulated the Israeli town of Sderot, and yet Israel’s government, despite the overwhelming power of the Israel Defense Forces, twiddles its thumbs. To expect this government to attack Iran, when even the United States, with far more power and far less risk, refrains from doing so, is hardly realistic.
Nor will things look brighter if Olmert is replaced by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni or by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. As members of the anti-Zionist or post-ideological Kadima Party, both are committed to a Palestinian state on Israel’s doorstep—enough to indicate that they lack the moral commitment and stamina for an attack on Iran.
What about Benjamin Netanyahu, favored to become Israel’s next prime minister in the next national election? I wish I could offer a heartening assessment. Mr. Netanyahu’s record is not an encouraging one, if only because, as a minister in the Sharon government, he voted for withdrawal from Gaza, contrary to the warnings of Israel’s highest military and intelligence officials. Moreover, his book, A Durable Peace: Israel and Its Place Among the Nations, tells me that it was written for Americans, that its American-preoccupied author had yet to address, or make plain to mankind, the enormity of evil confronting Israel as well as civilization.
In all fairness, however, I should add that the book was written in 1999, i.e., before 9/11 and before Ahmadinejad had vowed to “wipe Israel off the map.” Dare we hope that Mr. Netanyahu has seen the light and that he can muster the courage to do what must be done to save Israel—and not only Israel? To answer this question one must be more than a political scientist.