Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Crazy to Convince Your Enemy that You are Crazy

Ex-Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, as everyone who reads a decent newspaper cannot but know, is once again publicly drawing attention to what he sees as the danger of Netanyahu's extreme public hostility (the word "war-mongering" comes to mind) toward Iran. Does Dagan have reason to fear a disaster caused by Israel?

Given Dagan’s experience on the point of the spear confronting Iran, his recent characterization of Ahmadinejad as rational and his warning not to underestimate Iran needs to be considered carefully by the glib politicians in Tel Aviv so eager for a war to prevent Iran from…well…from continuing to lead the regional anti-Israeli front, to put it frankly.

Indeed, Dagan's portrayal of the ruling faction in Tel Aviv is rather less positive:

[he] castigated Barak's statement last month about Israel having a time window of less than a year for a military move to stop the nuclearization.
"I'm very troubled," he said. "What I understand [from Barak's statement] is that Israel must act within that time frame. I don't share that appraisal."...
Dagan last night expressed concern for possible mistakes made by Israel's leadership. He explained that if a decision takes shape to attack Iran, it is up to him to warn of the imminent disaster. He said an offensive now would be entering "a regional war with eyes wide open. This is necessary only when we're attacked or when the sword begins to cut the flesh." 
[Haaretz 12/2/11.]

Much can be said about this complex issue, but there is one really scary scenario that is seldom mentioned: the increasing probability of a miscalculation. I will just give one example.
If we accept Dagan’s assessment that Ahmadinejad is rational, then how must Ahmadinejad and the rest of the Iranian elite view Netanyahu, with his patently absurd comparison of Ahmadinejad to Hitler and the steady stream of Israeli threats to start a war? Would Iranian national security officials be likely to view Netanyahu as a “rational man?”

And if Iranian leaders become convinced that nuclear Israel is under the control of an irrational leader at the head of a religious and expansionist movement that hates Islam, what might such a perception of Israel tempt Iran or some of its sympathizers to do?

Dagan and Dikstra and Ashkenazi and other Israeli officials too low-level to dare to speak out have good reason to be concerned about the implications of Netanyahu’s warmongering. Whether Netanyahu is just bluffing or playing political games to con Congress into increasing aid or not may be beside the point. Convincing Iran that he is irrational is a very dangerous game.

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