By NicK Riebel II Staff Writer
Though I like to think that I am generally knowledgeable about geopolitics, this week’s column is about a thorny topic. Please bear with me. The United States and Israel could be said to share a close, special, even unique relationship (and for some background about that relationship, I recommend two articles on forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2015/01/25/bibi-netanyahu-aka-the-republican-senator-from-israel-may-have-made-a-fatal-political-mistake/ and http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2015/01/25/bibi-netanyahu-aka-the-republican-senator-from-israel-may-have-made-a-fatal-political-mistake/ ).
That said, it should be understood that the relationship of our president, Barack Obama, and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been rife with tension. Israel is fairly reliant on the United States from protection from serious threats, and is widely supported by both Congress and the American people. However, the provocative actions of Prime Minister Netanyahu have gradually worsened the American-Israel relationship. Netanyahu’s decisions are all the more surprising given the forces (such as AIPAC, the very influential and bipartisan American Israel Public Affairs Committee) that push our president to support Israel even as it ignores our advice on settlements in the West Bank around Jerusalem, amongst other things. You would think their leader would be at least somewhat respectful to his patron.
Yet, our Speaker of the House John Boehner and Prime Minister Netanyahu organized for the latter to speak at a joint meeting of Congress. The two men completely neglected to inform the White House or even ask permission at all, in what the White House seems to think is a major insult and diplomatic faux pas. You may not like our president, and I myself am not his strongest supporter for a variety of reasons, but you have to at the very least respect his office and position here in our nation. Boehner and Netanyahu, apparently, decided not to.
The first Forbes article I’ve shared, written by the infamous Steve Forbes himself, praises Netanyahu as a modern-day Winston Churchill, fighting against our modern Nazi Germany equivalent, Iran, the world power hell-bent on world conquest. This casts our president as Neville Chamberlain, naively and foolishly hoping for peace in his time.
My parents have told me to be very careful in pointedly insulting someone. That being said, Mr. Forbes is, to put it mildly, either an idiot or a liar. There is more to his article, which I will get to, but that is the main point of it. He is the naive one, holding a white-and-black, overly simplistic and (frankly) utterly stupid view of the world: to him, weak and isolated Iran is somehow a threat to Western civilization, President Obama is cowering in fear of the mullahs, and only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fearlessly leads the struggle to save his people.
The truth is we could effortlessly topple the Iranian regime and end not only any nuclear weapons program, but any governmental activity of theirs at all. It would be somewhat tougher than defeating Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but it would not be difficult. Isn’t it much more likely that the President is trying to avoid war, not because he fears a war with Iran will destroy the United States, but because he is trying to avoid unnecessary bloodshed?
If you doubt me, consider this: we have the most powerful military in the world, our military spending is beyond gigantic, and our military technology and hardware is arguably the best on Earth. Would Iran, which a few years ago struggled to put down its “Green Revolution” and has few allies that would come to its defense at the risk of going to war with the United States, really be making our president worry if it came to a military conflict?
It should also be noted that throughout the article, Forbes never explains why the Obama opposes Netanyahu’s actions regarding Iran, only that he does. This makes it seem like he is condemning the president for reasonably wanting peace instead of a war in which no side would truly “win,” in which Iran would have its infrastructure destroyed and many of its people killed, and which would ensure that we would be responsible for occupying another Middle Eastern nation at our own expense. To put it simply, Forbes doesn’t know what he is talking about: he is merely fear-mongering, using crude propaganda to make us scream for war with Iran, which has shown repeatedly in the past that it is not pursuing nuclear weapon development.
The other Forbes article is also worth reading. Rick Ungar shows how Netanyahu and Boehner made a deal in which they would both benefit: Netanyahu would use his speech to help with his failing campaign for reelection, Boehner would relish this opportunity to embarrass and harass Obama further. They went out of their way to keep the White House in the dark until the speech was officially announced, solely to insult and attack the president of the United States. As Ungar notes, the fact that the Speaker of the House would so “embarrass” his President by “using the Israeli Prime Minister” is nothing short of shameful.
Iran may well be working towards developing nuclear weapons. It does not appear to be the case, but I will concede that it is possible. But it sounds eerily similar to the case to attack Iraq to me. We have been warned for a long time that the Iranians are developing atomic bombs, no easy task, and difficult to keep it secret (see, for instance, how we know that Israel has nuclear weapons even though they officially deny it). And considering that President Obama has access to the best intelligence agencies in the world, it seems highly unlikely he would ignore this, and just hope for the best. Even Iran is developing nuclear weapons, wouldn’t it be better to convince them to give them up willingly, like we did with South Africa?
I understand this article may not convince many people. But do not accuse me or our president of not supporting Israel: there is no chance he will allow Iran to destroy or harm Israel if there is anything he can do to help it. The cynical know this: this would destroy his legacy and party, at the very least. Despite Netanyahu’s best efforts, the United States and Israel will continue to be allies and friends, helping and protecting each other against terrorism and other security threats.
If Forbes wished to be accurate in his article, he would have recognized that Barack Obama is Barack Obama: the state senator who warned against unnecessary wars, like our war against Iraq to stop them from developing and using weapons of mass destruction against Israel, our allies, and ourselves. Iran is Iraq: suffering under an oppressive government, but more of a threat to its own people than to others, (although I acknowledge they do support terrorist groups which contribute to the suffering in the region, which they should immediately cease doing). And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than the new Winston Churchill, is Israel’s George W. Bush, who successfully used the Iraq War to get re-elected.
War and the threat of war is always useful for securing one’s re-election, but one should pay the price if you are unable to have a war to guarantee your political future. Prime Minister Netanyahu, we understand very well the danger of saber-rattling, unpredictable, even rogue nations with nuclear weapons and the ability to use them against its enemies. We know you do as well.
After all, you are the only nation in the region fitting this description. This is not an attack against your nation, Prime Minister, it is a criticism of you and your policies. All we ask is for a modicum of respect for our leader and for diplomacy, which is much preferable to a war which could escalate much like our adventure in Iraq did.
Remember, Prime Minister: at the end of the day, our president, whom you seem to disrespect and hate so much, is still our Commander-in-Chief. You are not.