Monday, June 1, 2015

Obama and Israel: rationality, self-interest and hatred by Michael Berenbaum + an important question is : What would happen if we allowed Iran to develop nuclear weapons AND the current regime was overthrown?




Subject: In praise of Dr. Michael Berenbaum's article: Obama and Israel-rationality, self-interest and hatred. Jewish Journal 6-1-15


This is a great article. Dr. Berenbaum and the Jewish Journal  deserve  high praise for this contribution to this  very important discussion.

Pres. Obama  assumes that the  current governing regime in Iran will be stable.  He hopes that by  re-engaging the Iranian regime in world diplomacy, the US  will help move the   current regime  toward being more liberal .He  assumes that if the current regime is overthrown, it will be overthrown by democratic forces, and that these democratic forces will remain in control.

 Thus, an important question is : What would happen if we allowed Iran to develop nuclear weapons AND  the current regime was overthrown?    This question is one that President Obama has not addressed when  he discusses the pros of  the US understanding of the proposed framework agreement with Iran.

The Obama administration is assuming that the Iranian regime will continue to rule the area, but the Bashar Assad and  Muammar Gaddafi regimes were at least  as strong, and so were the regimes in Egypt and Yemen. 

The Persians are actually a relatively weak force.The Persian birthrate has declined radically. Also, many of Iran's minorities (such as the Kurds) are seeking territorial unity with their kinsman in neighboring countries.

Many believe that ethnic war in Iran is only a matter of time .{ Population statistics from US government sources: 1. CIA World Factbook, the ethnic breakdown of Iran is as follows: Persian 61%, Azeri 16%, Kurd 10%, Lur 6%, Baloch 2%, Arab 2%, Turkmen and Turkic tribes 2%, other 1%; 2.the Library of Congress  states Iran's ethnic groups as follows: Persians 65 %; Azeri Turks 16 %; Kurds 7 %;  Lurs 6 %; Arabs 2%;, Baluchis 2 %;Turkmens 1%; Turkish tribal groups such as the Qashqai 1 % and non-Persian, non-Turkic groups such as Armenians, Assyrians, and Georgians (less than 1%).

Imagine the Islamic Republic falling apart like Syria, Iraq, Libya or Yemen in a civil war with armed militias – and nuclear facilities all over the area…. Who will take over the nuclear facilities faster and who will also use them? Because forces like ISIS have no responsibility or limits, what a danger of mass destruction that will be. It doesn’t have to be ready bombs. With radioactive materials one can prepare “dirty nuclear bombs” or other means of horror, and we already know that there is no mercy between the Sunnis and the Shiites – they just don’t have a nuclear weapon yet.


OR THIS EXAMPLE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT IRAN SCENARIO:

As a majority of Middle East analysts predicted, Iran was able to develop nuclear weapons.  {Delivery of these weapons was never a problem. Aircraft delivery had been solved in 1945. Trucks and ships were always possible. Missile range had been adequate since 2012. Warhead development  was well underway and may have been completed.  Iran and Hezbollah had violated Israel's territory with drones.}
At that point, bombing Iran would be fruitless since it would not destroy Iran's nuclear capability, but would invite retaliation.
Whether through concern about retaliation (assured mutual destruction theory) or rational calculations“ or for some other reason, Iran had not struck Israel.
Regime change  now appeared to be happening and the ruling Iranian regime appeared isolated and likely to be overthrown.
The question on everybody's mind became: “ IF THE IRANIAN REGIME IS IN DANGER OF BEING OVERTHROWN, WILL THEY USE THEIR NUCLEAR WEAPONS  AGAINST ISRAEL?"
The temptation had always been there, but now the logic of such a strike—a jihadist Hail Mary—might become persuasive.
AND IF THE REGIME, AT ITS DYING BREATH, COULD  AT LEAST  FULFILL ITS CORE AMBITION TO DESTROY THE JEWISH STATE: WOULD IT NOT BE A WORTHY CAPSTONE FOR THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC? SUICIDE IS A SIN, BUT THIS WOULD BE AN ACT OF MARTYRDOM ON A WORLD-HISTORICAL SCALE.

Obama and Israel: rationality, self-interest and hatred

by Michael Berenbaum 6-1-15


This past week President Barack Obama went on a Jewish offensive trying to gain support for the forthcoming agreement with Iran by giving an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg, the wise and deeply committed Jewish writer for The Atlantic, and by speaking at Adas Israel Congregation, the largest and most prestigious Conservative Congregation in Washington, D.C. While others have focused ad naseum on his remarks to the synagogue, I want to concentrate on a brief but highly instructive exchange with Jeffrey Goldberg.
Obama: You know, if you look at the history of anti-Semitism, Jeff, there were a whole lot of European leaders—and there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country—
Goldberg: And they make irrational decisions—
Obama: They may make irrational decisions with respect to discrimination, with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool. At the margins, where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest... (italics mine)

The president presumes that anti-Semitic leaders indulge their hatreds at the margins of national policy but when push comes to shove, they follow rational self-interest.
Would that it were so!
History suggests otherwise. Examples abound, let me offer three from recent memory.
This past week I received an important new book by an Israeli historian Yaron Pasher entitled "Holocaust versus Wehrmacht: How Hitler’s Final Solution Undermined the German War Effort."  Pasher is an expert in military logistics. His basis argument is simple, his evidence exhaustive, meticulous and irrefutable. During the times of greatest stress on the German military, the moments when fighting was fiercest and their logistical needs most acute, Germany launched its most intense efforts to murder the Jews.
In early 1942, Germany was fighting deep within Soviet territory. Expecting a short war and an easy conquest comparable to their experience in Poland and Western Europe, Germany had not supplied its fighting men with winter gear; its equipment was breaking down in the cold of the Russian winter, its 600,000 horses were not being fed, and its soldiers literally freezing to death. At that moment, the death camps were opened and during the next winter, spring and fall and into the following winter, the death trains rolled on unabated whileThe Wehrmact forces did without vital, urgently needed supplies.
The murder of Hungarian Jews is the second instructive instance: according to German documents, 437,402 Jews were shipped on 147 trains primarily to Auschwitz between the 15th of May and the 8th of July 1944. At this time, German forces were collapsing and the D-Day invasion of the European continent had begun, still the trains were secured. The deportation of Jews took priority over the war effort.
These were not marginal issues to Germany, but essential to the survival of the regime. Hatred often banishes rationality in policy decisions and anti-Semitism is, in the words of the late Robert Wistrich, the longest hatred.
Even before the war, anti-Semitism was more powerful than self interest. If territorial expansion and world conquest were Hitler’s highest priority, he would not have gotten rid of Jewish scientists. His own economics minister argued that ridding Jews from German industrial life would leave Germany underprepared for war. Germany lost World War I because it could not keep up industrially, and still it risked defeat again in order to be rid of its Jews.
By all rational calculations, the leaders of Iran know that Israel has second-strike capacity, and that should be sufficient to restrain them. When Iran first threatened Israel with nuclear annihilations, Israel acquired from Germany two nuclear submarines. It now has more. So any leader of Iran must calculate that a nuclear attack on Iran would result in the annihilation of his own citizens and destruction of Iran. For a rational regime, Mutual Assured Destruction should take the use of nuclear weapons off the table. Unless…
Unless Iran’s leaders truly believe that this is a worthy price to pay for the damage they can inflict on Israel.
Unless its religious leaders believe that the world to come is more important than this world, and that, like the suicide bombers before them who willingly sacrificed their lives in attacks on civilian Western and Jewish targets, a martyr’s death is greater than life itself.
We do now know their calculations, and the President is being overly simplistic if he believes that irrationality is only pursued at the margins. He may be revealing to us more about the discipline of his own thinking, his own rationality, than about his adversaries.
And let me remind my Jewish readers who so easily routinely, and thoughtlessly, compare the situation of Jews in our time to the Holocaust, the idea that Israel poses an existential threat to Iran is credible and demonstrable, while the Nazi fear that Jews posed an existential threat to Germany in the 1930 and 1940s was sheer madness.
I concede that the Iran agreement may the best of all the current alternatives, but the argument that rationality and self interest overcome hatred is not a convincing argument