One critical element leads me to the conclusion that the United States will not go to war with Iran, nor allow Israel to do so. It is this: common sense.
It is true, of course, that common sense dictated against invading Iraq. But the very fact that we did invade Iraq, and that the Iraq war is almost universally considered a catastrophe, should add to the weight common sense carries this time.
Then there is the war in Afghanistan, which most Americans are now desperate to see end, especially after the recent massacre of innocent Afghan civilians. The polls show that Americans are sick and tired of both the Iraq war (which has thankfully ended... for us) and the Afghanistan war as well.
And then, on Monday, the New York Times reported on a classified Pentagon simulation exercise which concluded that an Israeli strike on Iran "would lead to a wider regional war, which would draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead." On the positive side, the Israeli attack would "set back the Iranian nuclear program by roughly a year." (Emphasis mine.)
It is inconceivable that the United States will get involved in a third Middle East war in a single decade.
That is why the New York Times front page story this weekend titled, "Hawks Steering Debate on How To Take on Iran" was so jarring. It seemed to accept war's inevitability.
(Worth noting. The Times likely changed the title from the original version "Pro-Israel Groups Differing Approaches on Iran" when it realized that most of the sources it cited were not so much "pro-Israel" as right-wing pro-war Republicans.)
In any case, according to the Times:
With Israeli leaders warning of an existential threat from Iran and openly discussing the possibility of attacking its nuclear facilities, pro-Israel groups on all sides have mobilized to make their views known to the Obama administration and to Congress. But it is the most hawkish voices, like the Emergency Committee's, that have dominated the debate, and, in the view of some critics, pushed the United States closer to taking military action against Iran and another war in the Middle East.
The evidence presented could hardly have been weaker. Here, in order, is a list of the luminaries that the Times cited for their conclusion that we are moving closer to war. (Note the absence of business leaders, like former Republican three-term Senator Judd Gregg — now a Wall Street analyst — who warned yesterday of the tremendous costs in blood and treasure of another war; this prediction is not surprising given that another war would cause oil prices to skyrocket and kill off economic recovery.)
- The far-right Emergency Committee for Israel and its vice-chair, the Christian right and GOP leader, Gary Bauer. The ECI's chair is William Kristol, a leading Republican;
- The House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the GOP's #1 spokesperson in Congress and close ally of Binyamin Netanyahu;
- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a hawk in almost all conflict situations and a vehement adversary of President Obama;
- "The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC; the so-called 'neocons' from the George W. Bush administration who were strong proponents of the war in Iraq...";
- Sheldon Adelson, the "billionaire casino owner" who is a primary funder of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign;
- The Republican candidates for president; and
- Richard N. Perle, the leading neoconservative who famously started pushing for war with Iraq within 24 hours of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Talk about your usual suspects.
Then, mid-story, the writers decided to conflate the Congressional supporters of Iran sanctions with those favoring military action, even though many backers of sanctions view them as alternatives to war. Lumping these legislators with William Kristol, Gary Bauer and Sheldon Adelson is ridiculous.
Besides, only one person is going to make the decision about war, and that is President Obama — who has repeatedly said that, for him, war is a last resort. That is certainly the case given that the military is so strongly opposed to it. Retired General (and former CENTCOM commander) Anthony Zinni puts it like this: "If you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you'll love Iran."
As for Congress, even the most hawkish will not likely jeopardize the lives of their constituents in uniform who are already deployed in the Middle East and whose lives would be endangered by a U.S. or Israeli attack. That became obvious when, after announcing at AIPAC that he would immediately introduce a resolution authorizing war, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) subsequently pulled back, understanding that his war resolution would not sail through the Senate with anything like the (sometimes unanimous) support of previous sanction bills.
Come on. Is Barack Obama really going to surrender to the pro-war lobby either in the run-up to November or in a second term, especially when most of the war lobby is comprised of his political opponents who are doing everything they can to deny him re-election?
This is not to flat-out predict that war cannot happen. It can and it might. But common sense, political calculations and, above all, the president's commitment to the national security of the United States — and to the brave men and women who keep us safe — dictate against a war with Iran.
In short, the Times gets the story all wrong. Except for this one thing (which we need to worry about):
In the standoff with Iran, it is the hawkish groups supporting military action that wield more money, political clout and high-profile names than do the advocates of a diplomatic solution.
In all, pro-Israel political action committees and donors affiliated with them have given more than $47 million directly to federal candidates since 2000, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group. They rank among the top contributors to a number of prominent Democrats and Republicans, and pro-Israel groups have hosted many lawmakers on expense-paid trips to Israel. When Aipac featured Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu at its conference this month, more than half the members of Congress attended.
That is alarming. But it does not outweigh other considerations, prime among them that Americans want to extricate themselves from Middle East wars. Neither Sheldon Adelson, John McCain, Gary Bauer, nor William Kristol (and their neocon network) can change that, especially if the rest of us make clear that the very thought of a another war in the Middle East is intolerable.
And that this time, we won't take it lying down.