Remnick favors containment of Iran, calling war plans ‘a heedless attack that risks the whirlwind’

on 31 Comments

David Remnick has published a great piece at the New Yorker throwing cold water all over the idea of an attack on Iran as “a heedless attack that risks the whirlwind.” The piece is notable for beginning squarely in Jeffrey Goldberg’s psycho-historical territory– Israeli planes over Auschwitz– and ending in a good American space: the idea of containment after World War II that was pushed by wise man George Kennan.

A unilateral attack from Israel, however, would be a grave mistake for all the reasons made plain by Meir Dagan and so many others. It is terrible enough to imagine what might happen if Iran came to possess a bomb; but an attack now would almost certainly lead to a tide of blood in the region.

The Middle East today is in a state of fragile possibility, full of peril, to be sure, but also pregnant with promise. A premature unilateral attack could upend everything and one result of many would be an Israel under fire, under attack, and more deeply isolated than ever before.

“For Israel,” a columnist from Ynet, Yediots English-language Web site concluded, “the way to cope with the Iranian nuclear threat is to adopt indirect routes, by supporting tougher sanctions against Iran and also by securing an agreement with the Palestinian Authority that would minimize regional tensions.” This route—call it the route of rigorous containment—is the right one.

Where was this sagacious David Remnick when we needed him during the runup to the disastrous Iraq War? Well, then he was influenced by neoconservatives like Jeffrey Goldberg– not by the Kennan realists–and he urged that war on, probably in some strong measure because of his love of Israel.

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31 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    November 7, 2011, 8:49 am

    There’s a lot of nonsense about Iran’s bomb. Or anyone’s. If Iran had a bomb, it would never explode it (e.g., over Israel) for fear of the retaliation. I almost believe it would refrain from doing so if Israel exploded ONE A-bomb (small) over Iran FIRST.

    All this hoo-haw seems science-fiction. Perhaps Israel (and its citizens) who have been practicing real war-making “as if crazy” for many years are unable to imagine a country which — if armed with an A-bomb (or H-bomb) would not use it in a “crazy” way.

    I just don’t get it. What I especially don’t get is the knee-jerk way that everyone (meaning pundits) in USA accepts the absolute undesirability of Iran getting nukes but have nothing to say about India and Pakistan in this respect, Pakistan being a rather undisciplined country (apparently) (to say nothing about the most war-like of all countries, except perhaps the USA, Israel, with its bombs).

    • Chaos4700
      November 7, 2011, 9:36 am

      It’s not science fiction, it’s full on tin foil hat conspiracy theory fueled by racism. And that’s pretty much what drives national policy focus in the US nowadays.

      If our little brother rogue state ever uses a nuke, no one will ever trust the US again.

      • dumvitaestspesest
        November 7, 2011, 9:49 am

        “If our little brother rogue state ever uses a nuke, no one will ever trust the US again.”
        There may not be “the US again” if our little brotehr states usues a nuke. Along with most of the planet.
        The power of human mind may bring his total self-destruction.
        Sometimes I wonder, why did God create us knowing that we end up like this? I would call it “a bad sense of humor”.

      • Taxi
        November 7, 2011, 9:54 am

        How about the insanity of an Apartheid state with known illegal nukes threatening to or actually striking preemptive nukes at a country that indeed has none (to date), then expecting the world, even it’s bff, to support this criminally hypocritical and dangerous move like it’s holding the higher global moral ground here?

        I mean by their logic, Iran should be allowed a preemptive strike to destroy the dimona – same as israel gave itself the right to preemptively strike at the Osirik plant.

      • dumvitaestspesest
        November 7, 2011, 10:14 am

        You are correct.
        The current state of the events , shows us clearly WHO calls the shots in the western /global politics.
        WHO is the Big Kahuna that all “our “corrupted politicians chose to bow to??

      • Am_America
        November 7, 2011, 10:30 am

        why are these ‘alleged’ Israel nukes illegal? an Iranian strike on Dimona would be impossible for them and would end in their destruction by the entire western world.

      • Chaos4700
        November 7, 2011, 10:42 am

        I guess we should be PERFECTLY happy with Israel trying to sell nukes to apartheid South Africa, then. And God knows who else…

      • Taxi
        November 7, 2011, 12:02 pm

        “why are these ‘alleged’ Israel nukes illegal”.

        I guess you’ve either never heard of MordechaiVanunu, or you think we’re all deaf and dumb simpletons.

        Just buzz off with your stupid low and lowly-graded propaganda! Apartheid israel HAS ILLEGAL NUKES – and the whole frigging world knows it except YOU apparently – Sherlock Einstein.

    • MRW
      November 7, 2011, 10:29 am

      Israel is creating anti-semitism. It is endangering all American Jews, and my buddy in Rome. Shame.

      • Shmuel
        November 7, 2011, 11:01 am

        Thanks, MRW, but if the GOI actually goes through with this one, general resentment against Jews will be the least of our worries. Are Lieberyahu et al. really that cynical/nuts? I wish I could believe they weren’t.

    • dahoit
      November 7, 2011, 11:03 am

      Of course you are correct.And how could Iran nuke Israel without killing uncounted Muslims.Total nonsense.
      And as a non signer of the NPT,and being a signatory to international laws and UN membership makes those Israeli nukes illegal,or at the least, makes Israel the true rogue state.But hey,as we all have seen,they are above the law.This crap has reached its sell by date.

  2. Chespirito
    November 7, 2011, 11:01 am

    I’m sorry but Remnick is still a turd for his stance on the Iraq invasion. If he (and George Packer, and Jeffrey Goldberg) had a scrap of integrity they’d move to Fallujah for, I dunno, just 6 months even, and write about the violence, chaos, destruction, lasting damage to the public health and environment that the war unleashed. Let these smart Ivy League guys write about the hospitals full of babies born with horrendous birth defects thanks to our depleted uranium shell casings poisoning the elements. Let these macho milquetoast laptop bombardiers drink the tapwater every, single, day and tell us how it tastes in Fallujah, in Sadr City, in Kirkuk. The New Yorker deserves to never live down their moral and intellectual failure that did so much to mainstream the ’03 Iraq war. At least Remnick unlike so many others seems to have learned a little something, but the guy should’ve been tossed out on his ass a long time ago and replaced with Amy Davidson or someone else who has less difficulty consistently writing like a human. Again and finally, it’s great that Remnick’s learned a little, but we have no right to forgive him and his sleazy little buddies for anything.

  3. Donald
    November 7, 2011, 11:37 am

    Remnick alludes to the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor as an example of how Israel slowed down nuclear proliferation. In fact, according to Richard Wilson, a Harvard nuclear physicist who visited the bombed out site in 1982, there was no way the reactor could have been used in a weapons program. But it’s become a widely accepted myth among our pro-Israel chattering classes that Israel did the world a great favor with their attack on the Osirak reactor.


    That’s what I hate about most of our pundit class–even when they write a halfway decent article they nearly always include some flagrant falsehood, one which acquires yet more credibility because it appears in a piece that is critical of an possible Israeli attack on Iran.

    • RoHa
      November 7, 2011, 8:18 pm

      It is even more frustrating when they repeat things which have long been proved to be false.

  4. Justice Please
    November 7, 2011, 12:04 pm

    What’s to “contain”? How many countries did Iran invade in the last few centuries? How many civilians did it nuke to oblivion in Nagasagi and Hiroshima?


  5. hass
    November 7, 2011, 12:08 pm

    In 2003, Iran offered to make complete peace with the US and even to recognize Israel. This and many other Iranian concessions have been ignored, because Iranian ‘nuclear weapons’ are just an excuse for forcing regime change in Iran, just as “WMDs in IRaq” was just an excuse for a war.

  6. Richard Witty
    November 7, 2011, 4:44 pm

    Good headline though.

    Do you agree that containment is a good approach, or less intervention, or more?

    Each and every assumption by BOTH the left and the right should be questioned relative to Iran.

    • Chaos4700
      November 7, 2011, 7:06 pm

      Can we sanction and contain EVERY country with proliferated nukes, Witty? Or is it that you contend different rules apply to non-Jewish countries?

    • RoHa
      November 7, 2011, 8:21 pm

      “Do you agree that containment is a good approach, or less intervention, or more?”

      What exactly is Iran doing that needs to be contained?

      I haven’t seen anything but wild accusations being thrown around.

      • eljay
        November 8, 2011, 7:23 am

        >> What exactly is Iran doing that needs to be contained?

        Nookyoolar weapons, Akmadinnenutjob, Jews, Hitler, Israel, Holocaust, terrrrrrrr, “Axis of Evil”, oil, freedom, Amurrika.

        Is that not enough?!

  7. piotr
    November 7, 2011, 5:28 pm

    Remnick has it partly backward.

    It is not that containment of Iran would be more effective if Israel got a peace agreement with Palestinians. Containment of Iran is needed to avoid ending the occupation and yet do not suffer ill consequences (what if scenario about long term consequences of eternal occupation typically include Iran). Some situation do not have easy solutions:

    Pooh tried to think, and all he could think of was
    something which didn’t help at all. So he hummed it very
    quietly to himself.

    If Rabbit
    Was bigger
    And fatter
    And stronger,
    Or bigger
    Than Tigger,
    If Tigger was smaller,
    Then Tigger’s bad habit
    Of bouncing at Rabbit
    Would matter
    No longer,
    If Rabbit
    Was taller.

    To our establishment, Israel is Rabbit and Iran, Tigger. But Loh! big nasty Erdogan is the second Tigger! And what is brewing in Egypt? So now we have to contain Iran, Turkey, Egypt not yet, but be prepared, Russia and China, pretty soon India and of course, Pakistan. I think that reading Winnie the Pooh is a must (especially the relevant chapter about Tigger).

  8. seafoid
    November 7, 2011, 5:36 pm

    “Remnick favours containment”. Imagine if Israel could be contained, how different the Middle east would be. Imagine if the people in southern Lebanon could have kids knowing they will never see Jewish soldiers. Imagine Gaza.

  9. Keith
    November 7, 2011, 7:27 pm

    PHIL- “…the idea of containment after World War II that was pushed by wise man George Kennan.”

    You are quite correct. It was Kennan who pushed for containment rather than coexistence, confrontation rather than rapprochement. A famous quote follows.

    “We should dispense with the aspiration to ‘be liked’ or to be regarded as the repository of high-minded international altruism. …We should cease talk about vague … unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.” (George Kennan, 1948)

    Since the US has always operated according to straight power concepts, we can only conclude that this was a reminder for those who might otherwise take US propaganda seriously, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms for example.

  10. Avi_G.
    November 8, 2011, 1:08 am

    Both Meteorology and Geography are working in Israel’s favor.

    But, no one in the know actually bothers to write that because it’s simply not good for Israel’s political ambitions.

    In other words, the entire nuclear debacle is a red herring. That’s right. It’s a RED HERRING.

    Whether Iran develops a nuclear bomb or not is a non-issue for Israel. Israel is merely concerned that Iran will encroach on Israel’s regional hegemony.

    The US, in alliance with Israel and Saudi Arabia, is fearful that the entire region will fall under the influence of Iran. That would be detrimental to Saudi Arabia’s and Israel’s regional dominance.

    So the three found this red herring, this excuse, with which to undermine Iran.

    Now, scientifically speaking, should Iran attack Israel with nuclear weapons, the resulting damage to nearby Arab states from the fallout would be devastating.

    In addition, Iran cannot drop a nuclear bomb on any part of Israel without destroying Jerusalem.

    And, on top of it all, trade winds in the eastern Mediterranean travel from west to east. Every kid in Israel knows that after watching the weather forecast on the evening news every night.

    So, any nuclear attack on Israel would result in radiation contaminating Iran in less than 48 hours.

    If the damaged nuclear reactor in Japan was of negligible concern for Californians, a nuclear attack by Iran against Israel, would be a serious cause for concern for any Jordanian, Iraqi and Iranian.

    This, of course, does not take into account the deterrent factor of a counter-strike by Israel or its poodle, the US.

    What is unfortunate is that this entire fiasco has been keeping millions of people distracted and busy over the last 10 years and counting. The media and the politicians sure like it, though. It’s like the Lindsay Lohan of geopolitics.

    • annie
      November 8, 2011, 2:05 am

      i agree completely avi

      • Richard Witty
        November 8, 2011, 4:30 am

        And, the two of you are out to lunch on it.

        Israel encroaching on the status quo as a regional power, Saudi Arabia encroaching as a regional power, but Iran’s desire to expand its influence against the will of its neighbors is fine and dandy.

        First the gullible here declared, “Iran is not building a nuclear weapon. They are 100% in compliance with all treaties that they are signatories.”

        Now that the AIEA has determined that nearly certainly, Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, the gullible declare “Its not important. Its only a deterrent.”

        Then, “Its a deterrent that they would never use. Don’t worry.”

        As I and MANY others have stated, the deterrent effect is for the purpose of hostage-taking. The 70,000 (who knows how many) Hezbollah rockets are a deterrent against actions taken against Iran (or Syria even). The game is that if the US or England or NATO undertake any military action against Syria or Iran, the they will target Israel.

        The nuclear capacity is similar. Although the current prospective targets are Israel (the range of their current missile portfolio), they are developing consistently increasing range missile, so that double the distance is not out of the question. Double the distance is central Europe, Russia, China, India.

        The progressive view would be to urge that Iran NOT build nuclear weapons at all. If they are not needed, say it to them, not to US or Israel.

        Rather than proliferate nuclear weapons, the need is to reduce their presence on the planet.

        There is a tone of glee in your posts, no criticism.

        There is no question that there are conservative Israelis and Americans that are also using the red herring, but among the left the dismissal of the Iranian nuclear destabalization is also a red herring, an intentional blinder.

      • Woody Tanaka
        November 8, 2011, 9:09 am

        The reporting about the AIEA report, which hasn’t been released, does not state that “nearly certainly, Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.” The reporting suggests that Iran is developing the capability to develop weapons, in that it is studying weapons designs. That is two very different things. And given the belligerent nature of the Israeli regime, every sane government which finds itself in the Zionist cross-hairs would take whatever steps it could to prepare itself to develop nuclear weapons even if it has no intent to produce them. Preparing to arm yourself in the light of a maniacal Israeli state is common sense. Take, for instance, Japan.

        If you don’t think that Japan has studied weapons design and has, in place, the capability to produce a nuclear arsenal in very, very short notice, you are crazy. Does that mean that Japan is a threat to anyone? No. It means they are being smart and preparing for the day when they might need such a weapon.

        And, yes, if Iran were to acquire these weapons, it would likely use them to deter Israeli action against it and its allies in the region. So what? The US and Israel do the exact same thing. Do you think that Syria would continue to put up with Israel boots polluting the Golan and committing random acts of war against it if it weren’t for the deterrent effect of the Zionist arsenal?

        And, finally, your cries against the proliferation of nuclear weapons falls hollow when the US and Israeli both possess them. Where are you on record calling for the US and Israeli to destroy their stockpiles of WMD. If you are not prepared to do so, then you have no right to say that any other state does not have the same right to obtain these weapons.

        If you can say, like I do, that all states, including the US and Israel, must destroy their weapons of mass destruction, then you really don’t have a leg to stand on to say that one country may and another country may not.

      • LeaNder
        November 8, 2011, 10:24 am

        Woody, I vaguely remember that on Pat Lang’s blog, they once discussed the Israeli ability to attack Iran. I don’t know what nice little US tools beyond the busker bunker bombs the Israelis have added to their arsenal meanwhile. But at the time they had only one option, to use their atom bomb.

        Since Richard is aware that the world not necessarily wants to support: Israel’s encroaching on regional power, or Saudi Arabia’s, he has slightly enhanced the threat scenario into a pan-Persian threat to the whole world.

        The nuclear capacity is similar. Although the current prospective targets are Israel (the range of their current missile portfolio), they are developing consistently increasing range missile, so that double the distance is not out of the question. Double the distance is central Europe, Russia, China, India.

        I wonder why he leaves out the States, but maybe the US just as Israel is already threatened in his view, just as Saddam’s atom bombs ultimately threatened the whole world a couple of years ago.

      • American
        November 8, 2011, 11:16 am

        I don’t remember all the details of that discussion on Col Langs site but on the FAS site it shows, with a map, what the current range of Iranian missiles is, in other words, missiles that could deliver atomic warheads. They could reach some areas of Europe and of course Israel.
        But anyone who has paid attention over the years had noticed that Europe hasn’t been that hysterical about Iran having nukes and it’s only the US pressure and the Israel Lobby that has made it a big issue. The Europeans don’t actually believe Iran would ever launch nukes at them or even at Israel.
        All the ‘credible’ experts agree that Iran is eager to expand it’s influence in the region but threatening other countries with nukes is not part of their plan to increase that influence, it is obvious to anyone with half a brain that would be self defeating, nuclear capability is simply a deterrent to the kind of attack threats made by Israel and the US.
        The only mad mullahs in the Iran nuke threat scenario are the Israelis and the US zioneocons….few people notice are aware of the dozens of Iran overtures to the US to accommodate the US concerns or settle on a plan for Iranian nuclear “energy’ ..or that the US has ignored and/or adamantly refused to even respond to any of Iran’s offers or request.
        Every informed person who had followed this knows exactly what it’s about…more of the same “premptive war” doctrine, a follow up on PNAC and Clean Break.
        If our media wasn’t so controlled by the zio’s and neo’s and the elite establishment even the retarded in the public would be able to see it for what it is.

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