Tom Friedman's Crack

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Cracks in Iran’s Clique [?]


In today’s NYT, Thomas Friedman begins a piece under that title (without the question mark) with this opening paragraph:


“For the first time since Iran began enriching uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon, we have a glimmer of hope for a diplomatic solution to this problem — as long as we are not too diplomatic, as long as the Iranian regime is made to understand that biting economic sanctions are an absolute certainty and military force by Israel is a live possibility.”


LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/opinion/23friedman.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=friedman&st=cse 


This is a skillfully constructed beginning because its qualifiers destroy the apparent message, while encoding the real one:  The Obama administration will not act decisively or effectively to eliminate Iran’s nuclear bomb threat.  Friedman expands on the qualifiers, that “biting sanction” must be “an absolute certainty” and that “military force by Israel is a live possibility”.   I’ll return to those qualifiers in a moment.




TO: Thomas Friedman: 
More Spine in your Column, please...


I like Tom Friedman.  He is a sensible liberal.  His columns are intelligently written and more often contain useful insights.  But he suffers from the archetypical timidity of the self-aware moderate.  And, like most contemporary, conventional liberals, he suffers from the “let’s try a bluff” syndrome. 


As an intelligent observer of the Middle East scene, Tom Friedman already knows two things with bright line certainty: (1) The US lacks the capacity to impose effective unilateral economic sanctions on the rogue Iranian regime.  (2) The current US administration lacks the will to unilaterally impose effective military sanctions. 


This leaves the end game to our only reliable ally in the region, Israel, whose fierce, but tiny air force might or might not be able to act effectively.  This is an ally about which one of President Obama’s advisors (former Carter National security guru) Zbigniew Brzezinski, has just advocated denying Israel over flight privileges if it chooses to attack Iran. “Zbigniew Brzezinski said the United States should make clear that it will attack Israeli jets if they fly over Iraq on their way to attack Iran. ’We are not exactly impotent little babies,’ said Brzezinski 

LINK: http://jta.org/news/article/2009/09/21/1008006/brzezinski-us-must-deny-israel-airspace-to-attack-iran  


Here’s the deal:  The ‘threat’ of “biting” International sanctions is an embarrassing joke, in the category of a nine year old bully-victim threatening a thug gang with retaliation by “granny”.   The threat of unleashing Israel is immoral and cowardly, much like that same nine year old turning to his six year old sister – smaller but far braver – for help, saying, ‘I’ll look the other way, if you take them on for me”, knowing all along that sis will be beaten to within an inch of her life.


In an earlier piece, I made this point in an ‘open letter’ to the president’s chief of staff’


“As you know, the Israeli government is currently debating the timing issue, i.e., how long dare they wait before attempting to mitigate the threat by bombing the known nuclear weapons infrastructure facilities and missile emplacements in Iran. 


“You and they know that this effort may not succeed because the technical and logistical demands (well within US capabilities) are at the outer limits of the IDF’s reach.


“You and they also know that any attack by the IDF on Iran will cause retaliation on Israel.  The estimates of the retaliatory casualties inflicted on the Israeli population are about 100,000, unless and until defenses are hardened, in which case the estimates fall to a “mere” 10,000 or so.  So the timing issue is complicated by intelligence uncertainties and defense preparedness logistics. 


“Americans need to understand the scale of the threat to the Israelis, as I’m sure you do.  The US population is about 305 million while Israel has only 7.5 m.  The multiplier is 40.666, which means that 100,000 dead Israelis is the equivalent of 4.666 million dead Americans, a “symbolic” holocaust to be sure, the cause for great rejoicing in Teheran.  What would be the scale of casualties in the event of nuclear missile attacks on Israel?  A true holocaust for sure: Jerusalem has .73 million inhabitants, Tel Aviv .38 m, Haifa .26 m, Rishon LeZion .22 m, and so on, all within a relatively compact area.


“The reason that the Iranian regime will not back down is that they see only two scenarios, and either scenario is glorious. In the one where nuclear weapons are acquired by the Zion-hating mullahs, Iran becomes the world’s ethnic cleanser-in-chief and the untouchable terror-export bully. This would mark the beginning of a nightmare that would make the cold war standoff of the last century seem like a pleasant dream.  The scenario where Israel is provoked into a preventative air strike, followed by a punishing counterattack is equally glorious.  The Israelis are too civilized to inflict unnecessary civilian casualties, but the Iranian regime considers killing Israeli civilians a worthy goal.  The image of America, sitting idly by while its “evil” friend suffers a retaliatory “symbolic” holocaust, is the jihadist wet dream.  


“As long as there is nothing much to fear from the USA, Iran’s ruling clique gets to choose between win-win scenarios.  A decisive US strike, done without Israeli involvement, would be jeered by all of the chattering classes, but covertly cheered among key Arab leaders.”




Here is where Mr. Friedman tips his hand.  “We need to keep alive the prospect that Israel could do something crazy.”  Crazy? Just exactly what is crazy here?  A desperate attempt to prevent the next holocaust, when abandoned by the international community and spurned by one’s biggest ally, is crazy? 


I recall that Mr. Friedman, and a number of other admirable liberals, initially supported the threat of force against Iraq, then bailed when it was actually used.  Why?  (1) Because thug regimes and fanatics will game you and often win because they will always suspect a bluff.  (2) Because many liberals actually think that a bluff is a legitimate thing to try, only to be abandoned when it doesn’t work. 


What does tom Friedman REALLY think?


From the same column:


“I would hope by now that the murderous crackdown on Iran’s mass democracy movement by the country’s oil-funded ruling cartel would have removed the last scales from the eyes of those Iran watchers who think this is simply a poor, misunderstood regime that really wants to repair its relations with the West, and we just have to learn how to speak to it properly. This is a brutal, cynical, corrupt, anti-Semitic regime that exploits the Palestinian cause and deliberately maintains a hostile posture to the West to justify its grip on power. A regime that relates to its own people with such coercive force is not going to be sweet-talked out of its nuclear program. Negotiating with such a regime without the reality of sanctions and the possibility of force is like playing baseball without a bat.”


Here’s my question to Mr. Friedman and the other liberals, moderates and timid conservatives? What would Harry Truman do?


I rest my case....








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