Will abstracted, isolated Obama be prey to neoconservative policy elite re Iran attack?

Israel/Palestine
on 12 Comments

Great piece by David Bromwich in NYRB on Obama’s political temperament– a preference for imperial utterance… extreme abstraction alternates with spasmodic engagement… seeks isolation/vacation from Washington, and is vulnerable for that reason. So no wonder Netanyahu cleaned his clock, and why “the neoconservative policy elite” is able to muscle Obama. This is an extended excerpt from the end of the piece, with its consideration of the ways that Netanyahu’s huge success in Congress may affect Obama’s maneuverability on the Iran question:


Netanyahu’s speech to Congress was also part of a larger strategy of his right-wing coalition. He got his invitation to address Congress from Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and the Republican Party is now working to detach Jewish donors from the Democrats and to convert Republicans at large to the Likud and neoconservative politics that support a greater Israel. In the pitch offered to Americans, taking sections of the West Bank from Palestinians is as warranted as the taking of lands from American Indians. Mike Huckabee has indicated his sympathy with this point of view. Sarah Palin wore a Star of David on her necklace in her recent liberty tour. Glenn Beck has planned a mass event, “Restoring Courage,” on August 24 at the Southern Wall excavations in the city of Jerusalem. Americans of the chauvinist and evangelical right are being invited to think of Israel as a second homeland.

Considered as a response to this predicament, Obama’s speech at the State Department, with its broad-gauge pronouncements and its candor regarding Palestine, was utterly overmatched by Netanyahu’s speech to Congress….

Netanyahu made the “existential threat” of Iran a major part of his appeal to Congress, as was to be expected. And this is probably the final terrain on which, in the next two years, Obama will have to confront the difference between the reformist intentions he cherishes and the conventional signals he has been sending. In 2007, there were many signs that the neoconservative policy elite, and the Office of the Vice President, wanted the US to back Israel or combine with Israel in an attack on Iran. They were thwarted by Admiral William Fallon, the commander of CentCom, and a letter from the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to President Bush, and a few other acts of resistance from persons in authority. Most of all, the case for attacking Iran was defeated by the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which declared that no evidence existed of an Iranian nuclear program that could yield a weapon.

The 2011 NIE has now appeared, and it says much the same. But it has been kept under wraps by the Obama administration, in a manner reminiscent of the way the 2007 NIE was suppressed, as far as possible, by Cheney and Bush. According to Seymour Hersh, writing in the June 6 New Yorker, American intelligence has found “no conclusive evidence” that an Iranian weapons program exists. A June 3 New York Times article by Ethan Bronner backs up the Hersh report with testimony from Israeli sources. Meir Dagan, the recently retired head of Mossad, and other senior members of the Israeli intelligence establishment are now warning Israel, and by implication warning America, not to fall in with the adventurism of Netanyahu—the war fever he is drumming up in two countries with no foundation in an actual threat.

Yet Obama’s national security advisers have disparaged Hersh’s findings as warmly as if they were still seeking a pretext to attack Iran. And the tight inner circle around Obama has denied a visit with the President to informed dissenters on Iran policy like Thomas Pickering. As a Times editorial pointed out on June 13, the latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency cites new reasons for calling on Iran to disclose the possible “military dimensions” of its nuclear program. Plainly the answers to such questions will form a necessary part of any negotiations between Iran and the US. Meanwhile, the attempt to isolate the President from views such as Pickering’s seems full of hazard; though presidents who are said to be victims of isolation, from Johnson to Reagan to Obama, have become so by staying close to persons who shield them from unwelcome stimuli. In the same way, one recalls, on Afghanistan Obama declined offers of help by dissenters from the Petraeus-McChrystal escalation policy, even when they came from officials as well placed as Karl Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke.

In appointing a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Obama passed over the person who was said to have been his first choice, General James Cartwright, the former vice-chairman of JCOS: a skeptic on Afghanistan who had become a trusted adviser of the President. He has appointed instead General Martin Dempsey, who had served as head of Tradoc (Training and Doctrine Command for American ground forces). The Israeli newspaper Haaretz devoted a June 1 article to the appointment of Dempsey under the headline: “Obama’s New Security Staff May Approve Attack on Iran.” The author of the article, the military correspondent Amir Oren, finds it significant that Dempsey has studied closely the operations of the Israeli Defense Forces, and that he worked at Tradoc with an IDF liaison officer. This appointment can stand as the first of many footnotes to the encounter, in late May 2011, between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu.

12 Responses

  1. seafoid
    July 8, 2011, 12:40 pm

    Obama is a fraud

    Of course the man who put himself before the electorate twice to point out the fact that the 2 parties are irredeemably corrupt- you wouldn’t vote for him

    link to counterpunch.org
    The corporate state moves on. Corporate power has unique characteristics. It is perfectly willing and able to corrupt, regardless of sexual or ethnic preference. It offers equal opportunities to be corrupted or coopted . That’s why it’s very difficult for the civil community, which is affected by principles, nuances, honest disagreements, to confront the monistically commercial corporations. No one says ‘the big debate inside Exxon is whether to go more for oil or solar. That’s why every religion in the world, in their scriptures, issues a warning not to give too much power to the merchant class. The commercial instinct is relentless, consistent, limitless in achieving its goal. It will run rough-shod to destroy, co-opt or dilute civic and spiritual values that stand in its way

    • Mooser
      July 8, 2011, 12:52 pm

      “The commercial instinct is relentless, consistent, limitless in achieving its goal.”

      Thank God for the moderation imposed by religion!

    • Keith
      July 8, 2011, 6:45 pm

      DAVID BROMWICH: “Obama will have to confront the difference between the reformist intentions he cherishes and the conventional signals he has been sending.”

      Reformist intentions he cherishes?

      SEAFOID: “Obama is a fraud”

      Seafoid gets my vote!

  2. MHughes976
    July 8, 2011, 12:47 pm

    I still don’t sense war fever. Public opinion does not seem to be bellicose – there’s not much protest, as far as I know, over Obama’s real or purported winding-down in Afghanistan. The IAEA statement on Iran isn’t (yet) being treated as the basis for an ultimatum – it’s not even getting much publicity. The objective reasons for not going to war are overwhelming and the political folly of military adventures that might not be too successful or too popular just before an election won’t be lost on politicians. Obama may be weak but he isn’t an idiot. He has, the last I saw, a more than 10-point lead over each and all known Republicans and it doesn’t seem as if there are any unknown Republicans about to burst forth. His obvious course of action is not to rock the boat though to reassure pro-Israel donors and voters that he is mindful of their concerns and all that.
    The Republicans are making loud pro-Israel noises but have any of them really identified themselves as war candidates or even re-adopted the half-comic ‘Bomb Iran’ posture of McCain? (This is a real, not a rhetorical question.)
    I think that some new travel restrictions on Iran are indeed being announced but things like that seem to me to be much more of a gesture than a threat (see Zimbabwe).

    • Citizen
      July 8, 2011, 1:35 pm

      Would you really put it past Obama, who loves his luxurious family tourist treks and his golf, to stop a war on Iran if say, Bachmann cries out, “He’s kicking poor widdle golden Israel to the curb!” She’s already made that speech publically in a video clip, to kick off her campaign for POTUS. And domestically, Obama has greased the new US police state in so many ways.
      Do you really think any US political leader and wannabe is ready to say for the record, “First they came for the Muslims…” See: link to loonwatch.com

      • MHughes976
        July 8, 2011, 3:29 pm

        But does he not above all need a reasonably stable economy? An attack on Iran would quite likely cause an oil price shock and that in turn would surely make the presidential golf buggy wobble.
        I can remember when some Democrat bigwig was claiming, in the later days of Ike, that ‘we need a President who knows that it’s an 18-hour a day job, not an 18-hole a day job’. Have we reverted?

      • Citizen
        July 9, 2011, 5:17 am

        Dunno, but it will be interesting to see what Israel is doing during the next transitional to POTUS; recall OP Cast Lead occurred at that time last time.

  3. Chu
    July 8, 2011, 1:23 pm

    Gates seemed to stave off the Iran engagement.
    What will Panetta’s positions be?

  4. Sin Nombre
    July 8, 2011, 2:16 pm

    Phil Weiss wrote:

    “So no wonder Netanyahu cleaned his clock, and why ‘the neoconservative policy elite’ is able to muscle Obama.”

    Don’t think it’s that elite really. As I posted in another thread, per Zev Chafets and a “Democrat insider privy to unreleased research” it seems now that jews contribute about 80% of the individual contribs. to the Dem Party.

    link to thedailybeast.com

    Seems to resonate more with what we’ve seen of Obama. You wouldn’t think even the “elites” would be able to make Obama grovel and eat excrement they way he has after he first has gone and said such things as he did in Cairo. But if the whole Party comes to him after same and tells him if he doesn’t they could lose up to 80% of their blood, well…

  5. Sin Nombre
    July 8, 2011, 6:45 pm

    From Haaretz’s print edition:

    “Last week, acting on orders from the government, the Civil Administration declared 189 dunams of land belonging to the Palestinian village of Karyut to be state land, so as to retroactively legalize houses and a road in the Hayovel neighborhood of the settlement of Eli. This would seem to violate Israel’s long-standing commitment to the United States not to expropriate Palestinian lands for settlement expansion…

    In his speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, ‘We have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements. But there is a need to have people live normal lives and let mothers and fathers raise their children like everyone in the world.'”

    link to haaretz.com

    You just watch Obama go crazy now though and whack Israel or Bibi.
    Any second now.
    Just waiting…

    • seafoid
      July 9, 2011, 7:10 am

      I don’t think it matters what Israel does any more. The result was set on 4 June 1967. Israel is doomed. Same as Rupert Murdoch. You have to play fair at the end of the day . I came across this Nehru quote which says it all :

      link to guardian.co.uk

      “it is more important to adopt the right way, to pursue the right means, than even to have the right objectives, important as that is. No method and no way which is bound up with the creation of hatred and conflict and which bases itself on violence, can ever yield right results, however good the motives, however good the objective.”

  6. stevieb
    July 9, 2011, 10:52 am

    As has been said before, Iran should -if they have any sense- be building some nukes or precuring them from N.Korea. That’s the ONLY chance they have of NOT being attacked, I’m afraid. Yes it’s pure insanity for Israel or U.S to attack Iran even without a nuclear arsenal, but I have my doubts about how long the realists can beat back the crazies…

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