Monday, November 7, 2011

Arab Spring-Israeli Winter

The Middle East appears to be going through two seasons at the same time. On one hand we have the Arab Spring where citizens have risen up, or are rising up to challenge dictators and repressive governments in the name of democracy, freedom, transparency and dignity. The movement has generally been supported by Western nations including the United States even though the movements ultimate outcomes or, in many cases, its leaders are unknown. On the other hand, we see an Israeli Winter, where Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the Middle East and, as a result, increasingly paranoid (which some may argue is justified).

This paranoia has lead to an alarming development in Israeli politics and public opinion. Recent reports in the Israeli press indicate the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are working to convince other member of the cabinet and Israeli security officials that Israel must launch a preemptive strike on Iran‘s nuclear program. Israel has taken such actions in the past. In 1981, Israeli aircraft bombed an unfinished nuclear reactor in Iraq, destroying that country’s nuclear program. And in 2007 Israeli warplanes destroyed a site in Syria that the U.N. nuclear watchdog deemed a secretly built nuclear reactor. Neither country retaliated against these acts of aggression. As to public opinion., the Dialog polling institute recently reported that 41% of the Israeli public said they would support an attack and 37% would oppose an attack (with a 4.6% margin of error).

I believe it is wishful thinking to believe that Iran would not respond militarily to an Israeli attack and that the exchange might not lead to a wider war, perhaps involving most, if not all, of the Middle East. If this were to occur, there is no reason to believe that the U.S. would not be drawn into the war. Given the current readiness of the U.S. military after ten years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the state of the world economy, and the current U.S. budget deficit and debt, a total war in the Middle East is the last thing America can afford…in terms of blood and treasure. Someone at the White House should call Prime Minister Netanyahu and tell him in the most unambiguous terms as possible that attacking Iran’s suspected nuclear sites is not acceptable and if he chooses to do so nevertheless he and his country are on their own in dealing with the consequences. The U.S. can no longer afford to be a dog being wagged by its tail.

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