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14 November 2010

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Fred

2nd Op,

It would be more accurate to say a deep hostility to Israeli Policy, which is quite different than what you imply.

confusedponderer

Re: Israel & F22 - it has been talked about, every now and then and still is since this WINEP fellow apparently likes the idea a year ago.

David Habakkuk

F B Ali,

Actually I would not claim to understand Israel – never having visited the country, let alone live there. However, Britain, like the United States, was a place of refuge for Jews fleeing from persecution on the continent of Europe in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th, and the lives of my own family and my wife's have been involved with those of British Jews – mostly refugees and their descendants – for upwards of a century.

Before Hitler, European Jews did not have very much in common – neither a common language, nor a common set of political beliefs, nor indeed a common religion. And they certainly were not united in enthusiasm for Zionism. The Balfour Declaration was adopted in the face of strong opposition from leading British Jews, notably the prominent Liberal politician Edwin Montagu, who at the time had recently been appointed Secretary of State for India.

The crux of the argument of Montagu's vitriolic memorandum opposing the Declaration – which he entitled 'On the Anti-Semitism of the Present (British) Government' – was that Jews did not have the kind of common identity which found natural expression in a nation. To suggest that they did, he argued, was both false and pernicious – in that to do so was by implication to endorse the traditional anti-Semitic view that Jews were a fundamentally alien presence among non-Jewish peoples, and so open the door to 'ethnic cleansing'.

(The memorandum is available at http://www.zionism-israel.com/hdoc/Montagu_balfour.htm. )

Clearly the situation was transformed by the Holocaust – an attempt to wipe out a group does give its members something fundamental in common, and in my experience has resulted in Jews having a very much stronger identification with the fate of their fellows in other countries, and in particular in Israel, than would earlier have been the case. However, in other respects the differences between Jews in Britain remain much more salient than the similarities.

It may be misleading to read Israeli experience through the prism of British. But my suspicion is that Israel is doubly condemned to base its national identity on the Holocaust – on the very deep trauma this created is superimposed the practical problem that beyond the experience of catastrophe there really is no common identity uniting Jews, and it is not clear to me that Israel has managed to create one uniting Israelis.

Basing national identity on the Holocaust reinforces the propensity to see the very real hostility of Arabs and Muslims – which would pose intractable problems for Israeli strategists even if soberly interpreted – through the prism of Nazi-style eliminationist anti-Semitism. But if one sees the Middle East as populated by people animated by lust to murder Jews, it becomes difficult to avoid the question of whether or not such an urge is still latent in Western Europe and the United States.

Whichever way one answers this question, one ends up in a cul de sac. If one accepts that genocidal anti-Semitism is a thing of the past in the West, then while some conceptions of Jewish identity provide good grounds for sticking with the Zionist project, others do not. Those whose attachment to Israel is animated by ethno-nationalist or religious fervour may still have good reason to stay. But for those not so animated, the traditional view of Israel as a refuge is turned on its head: if one wants to keep eliminationist anti-Semitism at a safe distance, the place to be is New York or London – even indeed Berlin – rather than Jerusalem.

So if the Israeli polity is not to disintegrate, it is necessary to believe that eliminationist anti-Semitism remains a real threat in Western Europe and the United States. But to ask Jews in these places to support Israel on this basis is to ask them to view their gentile fellows with a mixture of distrust and manipulative contempt – as I think there is reason to believe that Netanyahu does. And at that point, the concerns of Edwin Montagu regain relevance,particularly given the intense antagonism liable to be created when people decide they have been played for suckers.

The point of this rather extended digression is that it seems to me that Israel – egged on by Jewish leaders in the United States, and also elsewhere, who have busily doled the country out rope with which to hang itself – has got itself in a cul-de-sac from which I have difficulty seeing any viable exit. And this is precisely the kind of situation in which people take what might otherwise seem ludicrous gambles.

As to Netanyahu, I think he has boxed himself in. Time and again Israeli leaders have suggested that the Iranians are attempting to push Israel into collapse, by frightening the 'best and brightest' into emigration. If this is so, one has to ask whether Netanyahu, by portraying the implications of an Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons in such apocalyptic terms, is not playing the role of Tehran's 'useful idiot'.

Having created a situation where failure to do anything about the Iranian nuclear program appears to leave Israel exposed to horrendous vulnerability, he may well feel impelled to try to do something, even if more sober Israelis think this is a mistake. But then I suppose it is also possible he will turn out simply to be a windbag, and will do his best to get the United States to do his dirty work for him, but not actually take the risk of of attacking Iran without the certainty that the war will widen.

But as I say I have no personal experience of Israel. It may be that those who do can find cogent reasons to be more optimistic about the future.

Basilisk

Sorry I have been away.

No "loan" of F22s to Israel ever. No trained pilots, no exposure of embargoed F-22 related technology (at least as US Government policy). The idea of pilots simply "jumping into" top of the line jets they have never flown and embarking on a complex strike operation is simply unbelievable.

The whole story of a combined air operation between the French and Israelis for all sorts of specious reasons seems to me to be a fantasy. I would say go back and vet the source.

mac

Interesting new twist to Harper's post is what the BBC is reporting from Tehran today....apparently there was a confrontation at the embassy of a certain European country....

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11768199

John Christopher Sunol

I feel that an attack on Iran by Isreal is justified considering the rhetoric and angry Speech the president of Iran made against Isreal in conjunction with the Incumband Clerical leaders of this theocratic dictatorship.
Combined with the dangers of North Korea supplying Iran Nuclear weapons, it is just to much and an attack needs to be launched

Patrick Lang

JCS

So, you think that bellicose and angry rhetoric is a sufficient causus belli?

As for the "theocracy" bit, is not Israel effectively a theocracy as a state devoted to the interests of a single religion? pl

schwifty

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/10/19/the_end_of_the_affair?page=full

This article paints such a dismal picture of Sarkozy's domestic political situation that "Wag the Dog" comes to mind. He's tacked hard right against flagging poll numbers and an ineffectual foreign policy, to include a stillborn mediation "summit" with his now-resigned foreign minister.

Basilisk,

I think the idea is that there would be French pilots in those French planes, but such an operation still seems incredible. It seems nearly impossible to pull something like that off without rehearsal, and equally impossible for such a rehearsal to be invisible. If anyone has any insight into the operational challenges it would be appreciated.

To that end:

http://jdb.marine.defense.gouv.fr/post/2010/11/14/Le-Charles-de-Gaulle-franchit-Suez

The CdG will be in the region for four months, with 10 Rafales (the bird that needs combat credibility for sales), 12 attack aircraft, and two carrier-based AEW aircraft.

Patrick Lang

schwifty

"equally impossible for such a rehearsal to be invisible." Why would the reheasals have to be "invisible?" And, to whom? pl

Mike C

Col. Lang,

Aircraft in US markings being flown by Israel is not unheard of, I'm thinking of F-4s in Operation Nickel Grass. The Israeli F-22 story though is unlikely for a number of reasons. The Raptor has never come off the 'banned for export' list. None of the dedicated aviation sites like Aviation Week or FlightGlobal had a hint of such a thing happening, nor did any of the gossip boards, like F-16.net. Israel's history with US tech is well known, and so any rumor would have blown up on those sites. In 2005 Israel got itself suspended from its observer status on the F-35 program for helping the Chinese with their (IAI built) Harpy drone.

The USAF tends to treat the Raptor like a spoiled kid does a new toy. Only last year they had their first mock dogfights against foreign air forces outside the US at Al Dhafra Air Base, with rumored ROEs being 1-v-1 visual fights only. There have been two exchange pilots serving in US Raptor squadrons; Flt Lt Dan Robinson (RAF) with the 27th FS, and Sqn Ldr Matthew Harper (RAAF) with the 90th EFS.

-Hope this is helpful.

FB Ali

David Habakkuk,

Thank you for the enlightening analysis of the background to the fix in which Israel finds itself today. I think your assessment is accurate that Netanyahu will do his best to get the United States to do his dirty work for him, but not actually take the risk of attacking Iran without the certainty that the war will widen.

I believe it would be a fair assumption that the Israeli leadership (and its advisers) do consider the eventuality of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons to be an existential threat. The paranoid faction probably see this in apocalyptic terms, with a mad Ahmedinajad willing to commit national suicide in the process of obliterating Israel. The saner lot would see the threat as arising from Iran acquiring the deterrent capability to prevent Israel from taking strong action (such as its 2006 war against Lebanon and its 2008-09 attack on Gaza) to stop continual attrition by its Arab neighbours, which would lead to the disintegration of the Jewish polity that you mention. They also cannot discount the possibility of a hostile regime coming into power in Egypt in the future.

Israel has done its best to get the USA to stop the Iranian nuclear program. It has probably concluded that the US will not go beyond sanctions, and that these are unlikely to succeed. Israel does not itself have the military capability to destroy Iran’s entire nuclear program, but it does have the ability to launch an attack that would draw the US into a war with Iran. This would happen whether the Iranian riposte was against Israel alone or also included US military assets in the region. The only case in which this wouldn’t happen would be if the Iranians did not react with any overt military action, an unlikely eventuality (and one which could be remedied by further Israeli action).

Thus, one is compelled to conclude that launching an attack on Iran would appear to the Israeli leadership to be a perfectly logical strategy, indeed, the only choice open to them. It is not a case of some ‘crazies’ hijacking the decision process. (That the entire idea is, in fact, totally crazy, even from the Israeli point of view, is a whole other discussion, and irrelevant to what is actually going on).

The consequences for the US (and the West) of such a war breaking out in the ME would be grave. It is only the United States that can stop this coming war from happening. Will it?

Equuleus

Ignoring the political rights and wrongs for a minute, we should notice the local strategic trends.

The Israeli's are likely looking at their future situation as one very analogous to Seoul's. The North Korean's have the ability to level that place with artillery very quickly. The Iranians will soon be in that same position vis a vis Israel, if they are not already.

Only difference is, the Israeli's situation will be an order of magnitude worse since the 'artillery' will be operated by trigger happy third parties.

Those guys look to me like they are well down the road to checkmate - unless they were to pull off a 'Hail Mary' of some sort.
Hence, seriously considering an attack on Iran doesn't look so crazy to me. Well, not so crazy for them. We aren't likely to be happy with the results, no matter what shakes out.

Jake

Here is another scary thought. Gates is on his way out. Connecticut is having a political crisis and there is strong indications that Joe Lieberman will not make it in 2012.

So? is it SecDef Lieberman? If you believe in prayer. Pray that does not happen.

schwifty

Colonel,

The CdG was in refit during Israel's practice run in June 08. DoD described that run to the press within a few weeks, declaring the 100+ aircraft "impossible to miss." CdG transited the Suez again last Thursday, and if they took the opportunity to run a similar rehearsal I'm sure it would have been picked up on.

Of course, it's not a given that the plan would even require much rehearsal. IDF pilots will know KC-135s well enough. The Rafales and AEW, if the CdG is even involved, would likely only be tasked with coralling French tankers (out of UAE perhaps) anyway.

It's this reason that I'd like to hear someone who can weigh in on the operational possibility of this, as I am just making uneducated assumptions.

I see your point. If the source's scenario is real then the fix is already in for Iran, rehearsal or no. The U.S. and others will wait and feign ignorance, announce their reaction to the shocking events, etc. The only thing that could prevent it would be public outcry in advance. That is ostensibly the source's hope, anyway, and ours.

In that light I see the aid package as a last ditch bribe, though in this case it would be closer to extortion. I hope they'll take the money and walk.

confusedponderer

MikeC,
the Harpy drone was conceived as the DAR, Drohne Anti Radar (german), by Dornier during the late cold war. Germany didn't procure it, wouldn't export it into a crisis region. Thus, sticking to principle, Germany instead allowed the sale of the blueprints. The Israelis then proliferated and exported the technology, into other crisis regions, and to India and China. There is both irony and a lesson in this.

A pity Germany did that, and that that Germany didn't procure DAR. As far as weapons programs go, that would have been comparably cheap and effective.

Clifford Kiracofe

schwifty,

The fix was in for the Iraq war conceptually during Bush's campaign. He was advised by the pro-war "Vulcan Group" of Wolfie, Condie, etal.

If we are to believe Gen. Wesley Clark's report about Neocon (and thus other pro-Israel hardliners) Middle East designs and broader war aims, an Israeli strike against Iran would seem in the mix.

If we take General Clark's revelations as a starting point, then we could expect the Neocons and their ilk to aim at a broader reorganization of the Middle East through war and subversion.

Iraq has been taken care of leaving, for example, Iran, Syria, and Egypt to be dealt with.

Syria can be set back some with within the context of yet another Israeli invasion of Lebanon together with other moves targeting Syria.

I wonder about the Egyptian reaction to all this will be. To me it would be logical for Egyptian elites (civilian and military) to shift somewhat toward Islamist and reach out to China thereby eliminating the US factor.

The Israeli game with Egypt, it appears for the last five decades arguably, is to undermine Egypt via pressure in the greater Nile Basin region and ultimately to destabilize Sudan. At least this is how a very senior Egyptian official described it to me.

There is more here than just Iran...it is a broader game IMO played by the powers which brought Israel into being.

David Habakkuk

F B Ali,

Your analysis meshes very closely with what I fear may be the case, although obviously I hope that, to quote the Victorian poet A. H. Clough, 'if hopes were dupes, fears may be liars.'

My sense – which may also be unreliable – is that very frequently, in the West at least, neither Israel's sympathisers or its detractors fully grasp quite how problematic the situation that country now finds itself in is. In a situation where a country's leaders feel – and this may be a matter of conscious analysis or of only partly conscious suspicion – that they are reaching a dead end, sane men are liable to contemplate extreme solutions, and there is also a pervasive temptation to retreat into fantasy.

Whether the dangerousness of the situation is adequately appreciated in Washington – as also in London, although obviously we are of quite secondary importance in this situation – seems to me questionable. If it is, obviously, very serious thought will be going on as to how to counter any attempt by the Israelis to set in motion the escalatory dynamics you describe.

As to the potential implications of these escalatory dynamics, again one may hope that 'fears may be liars', but I certainly find them hair-raising. From a narrowly British point of view, of course, it is extremely material that we have a very substantial Muslim population, much of it from the subcontinent. Accordingly, developments in Pakistan are liable to have rather significant repercussions for us.

In general it seems to me that 'national security' commonly begins at home – and preserving the coherence of their own society should be a key priority for leaders in any country: among other things, it is commonly a precondition of an effective response to external threats.

For Britain, this meant that we have had a particularly strong interest in two forms of 'dual loyalty', which have always been in potential conflict, not being called into question – that of British Jews, and that of British Muslims. A key to this was a two-state solution in Palestine. At the moment, there is still widespread denial here, as in the United States, about the fact that prospects for such a solution now appear to be remote, to put it mildly.

So it is hardly surprising that not very many people are seriously trying to think through some of the more unpleasant scenarios which are now opening up.

J

What has/is helping to keep an Israeli attack on Iran at bay is Israel's IDF's attack/murder of Turk Citizens aboard a Turk flagged vessel in international waters. Now that Turkey is no longer in Israel's military sphere, has been an important factor in Israel's planned ingress/egress attack routes.

Mike C

Confusedponderer -

Thanks. I hadn't tracked the story back that far. Quite a contrast to the US 'Tacit Rainbow' which died of mismanagement like so many of our programs do now.

FB Ali

David Habakkuk,

I am sorry that you find my analysis to be realistic! I had half-hoped that you would be able to pick some holes in it. Or, perhaps, identify some other option available to Israel which its saner leaders could adopt instead of the suicidal one all of them now seem to be following. Given the policy that Israel adopted (partly by choice, partly by it being forced upon them) of ensuring its security and prosperity through military domination of its neighbours instead of peaceful co-existence, this dangerous course is now the only logical one left open to them. (Rabin glimpsed the abyss lying at the end of this path and sought to change course, but....).

I’m afraid I see no sign in the US of any serious thought.... going on as to how to counter any (such) attempt by the Israelis. Instead, what I see is Defence Secretary Gates’s rather forlorn plea for a return to sanity (talking to the WSJ’s CEO Council). He sounds like a man who has lost the debate, which has now moved on, leaving him behind. That debate within the administration probably is now whether it is better for the US to wait for an Israeli strike and then join in, or to pre-empt it by attacking Iran itself!

It appears that the same neocon views that so disastrously influenced the US’s Iraq war policy are now back in the discussions regarding Iran. The blowback this time will be something to watch!

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