Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Israeli Subversion of U.S. National Security?

Is Israel not just a national security burden but an adversary intentionally causing the U.S. harm? So a careful reading of the Stuxnet evidence suggests.

A debate has been blazing through the dry tinder of American denial and political correctness for a couple years now, even at the highest levels of government, about the degree to which Israel may be harming U.S. national security. The usual argument concerns whether or not having Israel as an ally harms U.S. national security because of the baggage associated with supporting Israel's policy of security through strength, over-the-top hostility toward Iran, and blatant repression/ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. That is bad enough, but it gets worse.

A far more serious argument concerns the degree to which the Israeli government may intentionally cause harm to U.S. national security. Israel's attack on the U.S.S. Liberty and associated murder of 34 Americans comes to mind as an old example. Washington should have learned then that Israel was a country not to be trusted with powerful weapons. But of course Washington did not learn anything of the kind and evidently even went so far as to cooperate with Israel to jointly plan covert cyberwar against Iran - the very state that has over the past decade been, upon occasion, cooperating with the U.S. against Sunni extremists! And we wonder why some Iranians seem to feel they should have the option of acquiring powerful weapons of their own.

Now, it appears that Israel may have deliberated sabotaged the highly sensitive and dangerous (both politically and technically, given the ultimate harm Stuxnet might do to any of the world's nuclear reactors) U.S. cyberattack on Iran. According to David Sanger of the NYTimes [6/1/12], who broke the scandal wide open:

the N.S.A. and a secret Israeli unit respected by American intelligence officials for its cyberskills set to work developing the enormously complex computer worm that would become the attacker from within.

As reported by Philip Weiss [ Mondoweiss 6/12/12], it may well be that Israel:

coded StuxNet to escape, without telling the Americans, so as to undermine American attempts to occupy them with cyberwar to prevent hot war. That is, the implication of Sanger’s article (which he now seems to be trying to retract) is that the Israelis deliberately exposed our cyberwar attack so as to make it more likely they could start a war with Iran...
A myth haunts the American political scene - that Israel and the U.S. share values. As with all good myths, this one has a basis in fact: in the early days, many Israelis greatly resembled American pioneers trying to build civilization and find peace in a new land. But the regional nuclear superpower that Israel has become through the shortsighted support of the American taxpayer is no longer a pioneering society, and the values its current ruling clique espouses are less democratic and more expansionist than those of many of America's foremost adversaries. 

The Stuxnet attack has greatly harmed U.S. national security both by handing Iran all the justification it could ever need for developing weapons of mass destruction to defend itself and by establishing the precedent that the so-called leader of the free world (I apologize to readers too young to recall the meaning of this old phrase) thinks cyberwar is not just consistent with international law and decent human behavior but also an activity that the President should be permitted to engage in without the express approval of Congress. ("It ain't unconstitutional because it ain't war as long as we use virtual means, even if the resulting industrial destruction or even potentially nuclear catastrophe is very real indeed.") 

Sanger noted that Iran has now:
announced that it had begun its own military cyberunit, and Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization, said that the Iranian military was prepared “to fight our enemies” in “cyberspace and Internet warfare.” 
The U.S. will surely come to rue the day it encouraged its adversaries to engage in cyberwar, a field in which--unlike conventional armaments--the U.S. has no natural advantage and, given its old and poorly organized infrastructure, many natural disadvantages.

And now it appears that Israel may have intentionally contributed to making this harm to U.S. national security even worse...in order to trap the U.S. in not  just a cyber war (and economic war) but also a traditional military war with Iran. Israel, then, stands accused of doing exactly what bin Laden apparently tried, with such success, to do by attacking the World Trade Center - suck the U.S. into a foreign war.

Perhaps all this is inaccurate, but the American people will never know unless we shine the piercing light of transparency on this scandal. If the Netanyahu regime is innocent, then let it make its case for all the world to hear...in the courtroom where it belongs. It is not the identity of the leakers that should be investigated but the truth of what the Obama and Netanyahu regimes have been doing. Even more important, American national security clearly requires a public debate about the pros and cons of associating with Israel, the nature of the harm that association may do to U.S. national security, and the degree to which extreme right-wing Israeli factions may intentionally be causing harm to the U.S.

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