I used to think that the left and the realists were going to make a grand bargain. It hasn’t happened (and I’ve fallen between two stools) but there are still inklings. In “Washington’s new antiwar movement,” Jordan Michael Smith at Salon praises the realist group inside the establishment for opposing an Iran war.
Read the whole piece at the link; it describes an important antiwar article (paywall) by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer in the Financial Times and includes Mearsheimer musing on how long it’s been since he was printed in the NY Times. As for the wisdom in my headline, I heard this first from an Iranian at the Penn BDS conference– Israel is getting exactly what it wants out of this uproar, distraction from the Palestinian issue and diminution of its regional competitor. Realists in the leftwing…
Walt and Mearsheimer speak for an entire class of long-silenced voices in Washington’s policy debates: the realists. These are the men and (a few) women who were prominent in the Eisenhower, Nixon and George H. W. Bush administrations, but who have been marginalized with the GOP’s hard-right turn. They believe the United States should narrowly define its national interests, but they also believe America itself has to be restrained, which makes them opposed to the promiscuous use of force.
Here we have Robert Merry, editor of the National Interest, where many of the realists are housed, warning against a war with Iran. The Washington Post published a full-page advertisement this week, paid for by the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), which took the form of an open letter to President Obama warning him against war. It was signed by eight former U.S. military and intelligence officials, including Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, and Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA analyst, who amplified his views in the Washington Monthly. If Washington has an antiwar movement opposing an attack on Iran, today, these conservative thinkers are in its vanguard.
I spoke with Walt and Mearsheimer, separately, about why they decided to reenter perhaps the most delicate ring in the American political debate. The Op-Ed came about because the British-based FT asked the two political scientists to write it.
“I think it is extremely unlikely that the New York Times would ask us to write such a piece,” Mearsheimer said. “It’s hardly surprising that a newspaper outside the United States asked us to write on Netanyahu’s visit, and an American newspaper like the Times or the Washington Post did not.”..
Interestingly, Walt and Mearsheimer believe that Israel will not attack Iran, and that the United States will not, either. “Israel’s air force capabilities can’t do enough damage to destroy Iran’s nuclear program; they can slow it down but they can’t stop it,” says Walt. “Neither can we, although we can do a lot more damage.” Additionally, Israel has consistently gotten a message from the United States saying it is opposed to a war, and it would be wary of doing something America has explicitly told them not to do. “They would like to keep rattling sabers on the issue to focus attention on the issue, bring the United States into it, and get backing from the Europeans on sanctions, but at the end of the day, I don’t think they will do it.”