Monday, November 8, 2010

Punishing Deterrence

Nothing irritates an aggressor so much as a weak opponent getting away with deterrence.

In about as concise a description of Israeli foreign policy as one could make, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated at the recent Halifax International Security Conference that “the objective is to defy, deceive and deter the whole world.” He was, of course, speaking of Iran, rather than his own country.

Defiance is understandable if one is under threat of aggression, as Iran surely is. Israel is not; Israeli troops are colonizing Palestine, not the other way around, and while Iranian leaders might well like to see Israel disappear, Iran is hardly threatening Israel with aggression; again, it is the other way around.

Deception is charge that does appear to hit the target. Iran always manages to leave at least a little doubt about its sincerity. But for a country that pretends it is not a nuclear power and pretends it is not an aggressor and pretends it is not practicing apartheid and pretends it is not a colonial power and pretends that it is not racist to criticize an adversary for practicing deception is really a bit much.

Barak’s killer point is to charge Iran with deterrence. Yes, here he gets it right. Iran is trying to deter aggression that must indeed feel to Iranians as though it is coming from “the whole world,” with Israel in the region and running submarines presumably carrying nuclear cruise missiles (see Harretz report) off Iran’s Indian Ocean coast while the U.S. is the proud owner of that archipelago of military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How dare those arrogant Iranians try to deter U.S./Israeli aggression? Let them get away with it, and the next thing you know, Lebanon will start trying to deter Israeli aggression, then Palestinians will…well, you see how things could unravel if deterrence is allowed to go unpunished.

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