Goldberg’s war drums

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A few more takes on Goldberg’s piece that seeks to rationalize an attack on Iran. First, Trita Parsi at Salon says that the piece represents a "campaign for war":

It is important to note that the aim of this unfolding campaign may not be to pressure Obama into military action. It could just as much serve to portray Obama as weak and indecisive on national security issues that are of grave concern to the U.S. and that are of existential nature to Israel. This portrayal will give the Republicans valuable ammunition for the November congressional elections as well as for the 2012 presidential race.

…If Goldberg’s article is the starting salvo of a campaign that does not take into consideration the existential threat this [military action] constitutes to the Iranian pro-democracy movement, and that aims to push out Obama and push in a Republican president amenable to a U.S. war against Iran for the sake of avoiding an Israeli war against Iran, then the risk of war in the short term may not be as great as Goldberg claims.

But the long-term risk of a war that is boldly framed as a test of an American president’s commitment to Israel should not be easily dismissed.

At the Atlantic, Jim Fallows takes Goldberg’s side, concluding that he is not trying to mainstream the idea of war, then offers this line: "the magazine is meant to contain a lot of different views." I don’t think this is true, and in fact reflects the distorted frame that the mainstream has erected here, impressed by neoconservatives. Fallows offers Robert Kaplan’s piece in the Atlantic against war on Iran, but I’d point out that Kaplan is opposed to the realist-Arabist strain of thought in American foreign-policy that opposed Partition and has been revived today by realist opposition to Israeli expansion/sympathy for the Arab view of militarist Israel. Does the magazine ever contain this realist view? Let alone an antiwar/leftwing view? Remember that this magazine killed Walt and Mearsheimer’s bombshell piece on the Israel lobby that shockingly said there was not a "moral" reason to support Israel over Palestinians. 

I still haven’t read Goldberg’s piece, but very few people read it as Fallows does. The two experts on the PBS News Hour last night, for instance, regard it as a predicate for war.

MARGARET WARNER: But when you talked about the drumbeat of war that has been out in the air, what are you referring to, briefly?

ROBIN WRIGHT: Well, "The Atlantic Monthly" has a piece. There have been a number of columns —

MARGARET WARNER: About the thinking in Israel?

ROBIN WRIGHT: The thinking in Israel and the point of no return, and have we already crossed the threshold? That Israel believes that if nothing is done, it will have to strike, and it’s basically pressuring the United States also to consider taking military action. And I don’t think — I think that’s jumping the gun by a year or more.

RAY TAKEYH: I have heard from Israelis that this is an existential threat and this summer is the last summer. That was 2004, 2005, and now it’s next summer. And next summer it will be the following summer.

So I don’t actually believe that there is going to be an Israeli war. I think Israelis are risking one danger. By continually talking about existential threats and red lines, and not following through, they are increasingly facing a potential credibility crisis.

Also at, Gareth Porter suggests that Goldberg as a neoconservative tool is working to convey Israel’s bluff to the U.S., to manipulate the U.S.

Israel clearly cannot afford to risk a war with Iran without the assurance that the United States being committed to participate in it. That is why the Israeli lobby in Washington and its allies argue that Obama should support an Israeli strike, which would mean that he would have to attack Iran with full force if it retaliates against such an Israeli strike. 

The knowledge that Israel could not attack Iran without U.S. consent makes Israeli officials extremely sensitive about the possibility that Obama would explicitly reject an Israeli strike.

Goldberg reports that "several Israeli officials" told him they were worried that U.S. intelligence might learn about Israeli plans to strike Iran "hours" before the scheduled launch. 

The officials told Goldberg that if Obama were to say, "We know what you’re doing. Stop immediately," Israel might have to back down. 

Goldberg alludes only vaguely to the possibility that the threat of an attack on Iran is a strategy designed to manipulate both Iran and the United States. In a March 2009 article in The Atlantic online, however, he was more straightforward, conceding that the Netanyahu threat to strike Iran if the United States failed to stop the Iranian nuclear program could be a "tremendous bluff."

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