Liberal Jew Wants War
- Liberal Richard Cohen Advocates Craziness in an
Israel First War Policy
by Stephen Sniegoski
While we are explicitly told by anti-war commentators such as Juan Cole that the only type of American Jews pushing for war on Iran are right-wing ones, it is apparent that Jewish liberals such as Richard Cohen are also in the pro-war camp. (See: http://tinyurl.com/JuanColeonIsraelLobby )
Now Cohen, just like a number of rightist neocons, does not directly call for an attack on Iran, but rather advocates a policy that certainly would lead in that direction. Specifically, he says that it is time for Obama to start acting "crazy" toward Iran because of the alleged failure of diplomacy. (Iran and the Crazy Factor, Washington Post, February 23, http://tinyurl.com/cohencrazy )
Such a recommendation of craziness is predicated on Cohen's belief that Ahmadinejad and the Iranian leadership in general are crazy and that the only way to fight crazy people is by likewise acting crazy: "fight crazy with crazy."
Cohen writes: "I have no idea whether Ahmadinejad merely acts crazy or is crazy. I do know, though, that Iran seems intent on getting
nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. I also know that nothing the United States and its allies have done has dissuaded Ahmadinejad (or the mullahs or the Revolutionary Guard Corps) from his goal. It may be time for Barack Obama, ever the soul of moderation, to borrow a tactic from Richard Nixon and fight crazy with crazy. The way things are going, it would be crazy not to."
It is rather odd that Cohen would pick Nixon's advocacy of madness as a model for emulation, since Nixon, and especially his bellicosity, were hardly admired by liberals such as Cohen during his presidency. Moreover, Cohen acknowledges that Nixon's crazy strategy "while cunning, didn't work on the North Vietnamese." Desiring the adoption of a previously failed strategy is hard to fathom.
Furthermore, Nixon's rationale for acting crazy would not seem to apply in the milieu depicted by Cohen. Nixon actually predicated his madman strategy on the rationality of his adversaries. The rational person, presumably, would make some concessions to the madman to avoid destruction. However, Cohen claims that the Iranians are irrational. There is no reason to think that acting crazy would cause them to turn rational, but rather that it would cause them to act out their craziness, which in the particular situation that exists in the Middle East today would mean an all-out war.
To try to put Cohen's argument in a rational context, this must mean that he sees a war with Iran at the current time to be preferable to one in the future when Iran would have nuclear weapons and which would likely involve Israel.
The reasons Cohen gives for taking a "crazy" stance toward Iran have little to do with any threat Iran poses to the United States, but actually seem to revolve around Israel and Jews. Cohen cites Ahmadinejad's "Holocaust denial" and his call for Zionism to be "wiped out." Cohen acknowledges that these words might have nothing to do with the launching of war-" On the face of it, these statements could be nothing more than the ranting of a demagogue intent on appeasing the mob." But then he points out that Israel,
having experienced Hitler's anti-Semitic words leading to the Holocaust, would naturally think otherwise. "Israel, of all countries," he asserts, "has little faith in the rationality of mankind. It simply knows better. So the question of whether Ahmadinejad is playing the madman or really is a madman is not an academic exercise. It has a real and frightening immediacy that too often, in too many precincts, gets belittled as a form of paranoia."
So it might be understandable for Israel to be terrified of a nuclear Iran, at least according to Cohen, but what about a threat to the United States?
"An Iranian bomb," Cohen contends, "is not a matter that concerns only Israel. It would upend the balance of power throughout the Middle East and encourage radical/terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas to ratchet up their war against Israel. Other Middle East nations, not content to rely on an American nuclear umbrella, would seek their own bombs. An unstable region would go nuclear." It is telling that even in purportedly dealing with threats to countries other than Israel, Cohen almost immediately gets back to threats to Israel by writing that a nuclear Iran would "encourage radical/terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas to ratchet up their war against Israel." For Cohen, Israel's safety is certainly on his mind, first and foremost.
But regarding the US, the dangers presumably consist of countries in the unstable Middle East obtaining nuclear weapons. These developments, while undesirable, are hardly dire threats to American national security. And we are only dealing with the chance of Iran developing actual nuclear weapons, though it is more likely that it will develop nuclear capability. And in the most extreme case with all major countries in the Middle East obtaining nuclear weapons, it is not even clear whether such a development would lead to a terrible war or whether it might actually enhance regional stability.
Certainly, the existence of nuclear weapons served to prevent a major war between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And the
possession of nuclear weapons have not caused India and Pakistan to be more aggressive toward each other. Of course, the loss of its nuclear monopoly would weaken Israel's position in the Middle East.
What Cohen does not even make an attempt to show is that in regard to
American security the danger of not attacking Iran outweighs the terrible impact of a war in the Middle East, which would be a likely result from his recommendation that Obama act crazy. It would seem to be a general consensus that a war on Iran at the present time would have terrible consequences for the already-battered world economy, which would certainly affect the US. It should be pointed out that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, reflecting what has been the consensus view of the American military leadership, has expressed strong opposition to any military strike on Iran and desires the continuation of peaceful diplomacy.
In sum, it would appear that the liberal Richard Cohen does not differ
substantially from his co-religionists on the Right in his militant position toward Iran. And there is nothing particularly new about this. Cohen had supported the war on Iraq and only later recanted, after the war had become unpopular, but included Israel in his explanation for his earlier pro-war position: "Saddam Hussein was a beast who had twice invaded his neighbors, had killed his own people with abandon and posed a threat - and not just a theoretical one - to Israel." ("The Lingo Of Vietnam," Washington Post, November 21, 2006, p. A-27) It would seem therefore that the safety of Israel always looms very large in the minds of even liberal Jews.
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