Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gates Warns Israel Against War but Supports Iran Sanctions

Is Obama playing "good cop, bad cop" or is he confused and losing control of his appointees or is he really just a more "civilized" version of Cheney? However you interpret administration behavior, on the heels of Obama's speech opening the door a crack to improving relations with Iran, Gates hardly sounds accommodating. Rejecting war but supporting economic war is still speaking the language of force; it is still relying on negative incentives alone and ignoring the many positive incentives available to persuade Iran, in Gates' own words, that possessing a nuclear weapon "absolutely detracts from their security rather than enhances it." These words are right on target, but economic warfare is a very narrow and historically a very ineffective method of eliciting desired behavior. Moreover, the state that truly needs to be taught that possessing a nuclear weapon detracts from rather than enhancing security is Israel.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that any sort of
pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would create a
disastrous backlash and that only tough economic sanctions will
convince the country to abandon a nuclear weapons program, which it
insists it is not pursuing but which administration officials say is
well underway.

“The only way we can prevent Iran from getting a
nuclear weapon is for the Iranians themselves to decide that it’s too
costly,” Gates said during a Monday meeting with students at the Marine
Corps University at Quantico, Va., where he went to discuss his
controversial 2010 budget proposal. “And that it absolutely detracts
from their security rather than enhances it.”

Gates, who has
previously advocated for sanctions, said a military strike on Iran’s
nuclear facilities, considered a good idea in some circles, would have
lasting negative consequences.

“If we or the Israelis or somebody
else strike Natanz” — the site of a uranium enrichment plant —
“militarily, in my view, it would delay the Iranian program for some
period of time, but only delay it, probably only one to three years,”
Gates said. “You would unify the nation, you would cement their
determination to have a nuclear program, and also build into the whole
country an undying hatred of whoever hits them.”

Nevertheless, in comparison with the junk-yard dog tactics of trumpeting that "all options are on the table" or Netanyahu's ravings about the need for war, Gates' support for continued U.S. economic warfare against Iran (yes, sanctions constitute economic warfare) at least was voiced within the very important context of a clear warning to Israel against launching military aggression. Did Gates perhaps have in mind American Jewish thinker Norman Finkelstein's recent description of Israel as "this warmongering country, which has frankly become a crazy state, and which says war, war, war?"

I suggest that Obama and Gates put their money where their mouths are and announce that the U.S. armada in the Persian Gulf is there not to threaten anyone but to turn the Persian Gulf into a lake of peace and that the armada's commander is authorized to attack any offensive force of aircraft or missiles crossing Persian Gulf airspace in any direction. That would be a neutral stance designed to protect the security of all that could be criticized only by...well...a warmonger.

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