Iran’s bomb: why should we be MORE afraid than Israel?

Everyone, especially the AJC, is terrified of Iran’s nukes. Except Israel.

I have little to add to this terrific post by Steve Clemons at TPM Café. Short version: it seems that while U.S. hawks are worried about a nuclear Iran, Israeli hawks are more worried about the consequences of a deranged U.S. attack on Iran.

This morning’s New York Times contained an alarmist, and charmingly old-fashioned, concentric-circle ad by the American Jewish Committee. (Sorry, I can’t find a link to the ad itself, but a low-res version is on the AJC home page. The basic idea is that Iran’s projected missiles could carry its hypothetical bomb to all kinds of places.) The ad, it’s worth noting, shows Iran potentially threatening some of the biggest military powers in the world, including many with their own piles of nukes—Britain, France, China, Russia, India—but is for some reason running in the newspaper of a country that nobody thinks will be in range. Now that we know that the main country that Iran really might threaten seems more worried about destabilizing Yanks than about nuclear mullahs, there’s even less reason to act as the world’s pre-emptor.

To be sure, Israel’s defense minister took the opposite tack at an AJC fundraiser (if one believes that the AJC’s brief summary is unbiased, which one is free to do). But that doesn’t impress me. In fact, if Clemons is right, then the fundraising speech saddens me. Israel has to keep its own U.S. supporters happy by hyping threats that Israeli experts themselves aren’t all that worked up about. Israelis long for a world in which Israel is secure. Israel’s U.S. supporters, to keep their purpose in life, long for a world in which it is ever more threatened.

P.S.: Yes, I’m fully aware that making fun of the AJC on this, and trusting Israelis instead, makes both me and Clemons objective anti-Semites, credits to Hitler, and all that. Any comments to that effect will be utterly logical and highly original.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

7 thoughts on “Iran’s bomb: why should we be MORE afraid than Israel?”

  1. I view the defense minister's speech not as keeping Israel's American supporters happy, but as evidence that Israelis understand how the US deals with global security threats. Israel, which has been under siege for 58 yrs and counting (77 yrs if you start from the Arab riots in 1929), views threats in a measured way: sometimes they're urgent, sometimes less so, but they always need to be monitored and, if possible, mitigated. America has only two possible states of mind in response to threats: terrified and comatose. So if you don't make us terrified, we'll ignore the problem, until it's way too late and we have no choice but to be terrified. Some case studies: terrorism (comatose, then terrified), communism (perpetually terrified), global warning (still comatose).
    Mofaz understandably realizes that it's better to have a terrified America, ready to impose sanctions etc on Iran so that the threat can be contained, than a comatose one, even if that means a slight risk that America will go totally batshit and let the bombers fly (presumably he's confident Israelis can warn GWB off that if it gets that far).

  2. I have read that Mofaz says that if the problem can't be handled diplomatically Israel would handle it militarily.
    So we should be afraid of Iran because they can do a lot of terrorist attacks on US interests? I thought Iran didn't support terrorism. So suppose they get a bomb and support terrorism more intensely. Then what?
    BTW Jews weren't afraid (in great numbers) of the ravings of a certain Austrian corporal. He fooled them, didn't he.
    They have stated their intentions. We should take them at their word. No matter what the Israelis think. We going to let our policy be driven by them?
    BTW interesting story Clemons tells about intel. In my completely unsupported opinion it is all disinformation.

  3. It's pretty clear that the reason we don't want Iran to get the bomb is because it will make it impossible to simply have our way with them. Israel has, what… 150 nukes? Most likely submarine launched, certainly long range missiles and bombers capable of delivering them. It's easy to see why Israel is far more worried about American non-linearity than Iran's acquisition of something they already have in spades perhaps 10 years from now.
    And with respect to the dreaded "destabilizing the region" argument, it seems that "destabilizing the region" was actually a pretty doggone good argument against the war in Iraq, and considering that it's done a most excellent job of destabilizing the region – and lord only knows what will happen when we finally submit to reality, withdraw and full blown civil war engulfs the region.
    On the scale of things that destabilize the region, I'm pretty sure we've already done one of the worst. If things haven't completely gone to hell in a hand basket in 10 years when Iran gets their nukes, then I'm sure we'll be able to handle it.

  4. If your view is anti-semitism, I wish it were the kind of anti-semitism that were voiced more in this country. Of course, it's nothing of the sort, but the moneyed-AIPAC crowd has effectively silenced the sane U.S. Jews, and I'm sick and tired of it.

  5. Yes, my reaction when I saw that AJC ad with Iran (and to me, it looked as much like putting Iran in the bullseye of a target as anything: maybe that was its intent) – was amazement that the NYT would even run such an alarmist piece of dreck. Except that the names at the bottom had to real people, I would have taken it for a spoof or satire: and one with a vaguely antisemitic cast to it at that.
    WHAT are these people thinking??

  6. And how would you know what the Israeli experts are or are not "worked up about"?
    Oh yes. Someone told a blogger. It MUST be so!
    It would be amusing, if it wasn't so dangerous.
    1) How could Israel NOT be extremely concerned about Iran – a sworn enemy – getting the bomb?
    2) Why do talk about this as if the only way Iran becoming a nuclear power could possibly be a threat to the USA is if they could launch a missile with a nuke onboard that could reach the USA? There are many other ways that this could have a huge negative impact on the USA, without it being a direct strike on US soil.
    I'm not sure anything can be done about it anyways. An airstrike would have it's own consequences, and would only set Iran back a few years. Regime change would be preferable, but the USA doesn't have the stomach for that. (Can't blame them for that).
    But let's not pretend that Iran becoming a nuclear power won't have serious consequences for the region. The fact that they can't strike the USA direclty (yet) is important, but doesn't mean there aren't other very serious possible consequences as well.
    As long as the USA – and the world – is so dependent on ME oil, the balance of power in that region concerns us all.

  7. Geez Louise……. how can anyone call that anti-Semitic?
    Seems to me the Israelis have their own reasons to be concerned about Iran and their own plans what to do about it. I think they also believe the less said the better. If you recall, when Begin had the Osirak reactor destroyed, it's not like anyone had advance knowledge about it. I suspect the Israelis are concerned the US would botch any attack on Iran, and that the first target the Iranians would go after once the botched attack was behind them is Israel. In any case, they're not talking, and they are probably wise not to do so.

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