Notes From the Margins…

Netanyahu’s Folly

  • September 17, 2012
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There’s a good article by David Remnick in the New Yorker on the horrendous Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to manipulate the US election campaign and drag the US and the West into an all-out war with Iran.

As few people can be unaware, Netanyahu has been pressing the US and the West to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities for months, with a litany of shrill warnings that depict Iran as a mad state, intent on unleashing a second Holocaust and transforming itself into a nuclear-armed suicide bomber.

These warnings have reached a hysterical crescendo during the US election campaign, as Netanyahu has cranked up the war rhetoric and   accused the Obama administration of ‘naivete’ for not coming out overtly in favour of a military option and declaring a ‘red line’ over Iran.

Remnick condemns these manouevres and is scathing about Netanyahu himself,   noting that

On a trip I took to Israel a few weeks ago for The New Yorker, the political philosopher Avishai Margalit told me that Netanyahu was a kind of “mythomaniac,” a politician utterly absorbed and guided by his sense of heroic mission, and dismissive of the opinions and analyses of even his closest advisers. This goes for his innate distrust of any and all Palestinians, as well as for the vast range of military and intelligence experts, both inside and outside the Israeli government, who are constantly telling him that a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear facilities will end in political, diplomatic, and military disaster.

It is difficult, if not impossible,   to imagine the representative of any other US ally intervening in a national election campaign in this way without being told in no uncertain terms to mind his own business.   But such is the hold that Israel has come to exercise over US domestic politics that Obama cannot condemn Netanyahu too strongly for fear of appearing ‘soft on Iran’,   risking criticisms from Republican warmongers and Israel First-ers of ‘betraying’ or ‘ abandoning’ Israel.

The result is that Netanyahu is able to torment Obama politically with impunity, and he is taking advantage of the opportunity with a cynicism that is only matched by his overbearing personal arrogance.   Netanyahu would obviously prefer to have a Republican president in office, especially someone like Romney, a politician as vacuous as he is, whose ‘moral clarity’ echoes his own appetite for war and violence and his disregard for the consequences.

But Obama’s more cautious approach to the military option against Iran does not mean that he is averse to the military option either.     This week the US and its allies are assembling warships in the Gulf for what the New York Times calls ‘ the most widely attended international naval exercise ever held in the Middle East’ – an exercise that is clearly intended to ratchet up the pressure on Iran.

There is therefore, a very real possibility that the US and its allies – including the Gulf States that the Obama administration has spent the last few years arming to the teeth – will eventually do what Netanyahu is demanding of them.

For Netanyahu may be a dangerous and reckless fanatic and a cynical and unprincipled political operator, but it is by no means clear that saner or wiser voices will ultimately prevail either in the US or the West in general.

And as long as the military option in Iran remains ‘on the table’,   and as long as US governments continue to cowtow so abjectly to Israel,   there is a very real possibility that the world will find itself sleepwalking into the conflagration that Netanyahu is itching to unleash.





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1 Comment

  1. Nik Hermann

    17th Sep 2012 - 9:35 pm

    “Hope” and “Change” (or at least what is left of them) might work with kill-lists, drone strikes and a little surge now and then but certainly wouldn’t with a full scale attack on Iran before the US elections. Hence my big surprise when I realized my agreement with one of the more despicable characters of the US political/pundit arena, Martin Indyk.

    According to him the US will go after Iran in 2013 ( So we can look forward to a back-to-stone-age bombing campaign for several years, with humanitarian consequences akin to those that devastated Irak in the years between Desert Storm and Operation Oily Freedom. That is _if_ they really chose to take any actions beyond sanctions. The consequences would be horrible, not only for the people in and around Iran, but also for the global economy.

    The sane men that we should hope for are to be found within the US military as far as I can tell. Not because they turned into peace loving doves, hell, they surely would love to “smoke out” another regional rival, but because they fully understand that the US military can not handle another war without painful retaliation on multiple fronts.

    So inspite of the fact that my rather pessimistic feeling makes me agree with Indyk, my hopes lie with the Pentagon – I can not believe I just said that.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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