This is a response to a comment posted to a nytimes.com article about Romney’s position on Israel, which he articulated during a visit to that country. I’ve posted this to my blog to avoid nytime’s character restriction.
Romney and Obama do not disagree about whether Israel has a right to defend itself. Where they differ is whether they would condone an Isreali attack on Iran.
The Isreali point of view that you describe can easily be turned around: The USA is currently the world’s only superpower. Our military spending exceeds that of the next 17 countries COMBINED (other sources say that number is even higher). Perhaps more to the point, we have thousands of nukes, while Iran (currently) has 0. Also unlike Iran, we have the capability to strike anywhere in the world with very little warning, thanks to the platform created by our fleet of ballistic missile submarines. At the same time, we have labeled Iran as part of an “axis of evil”. The message to Iran could not be clearer: if we had the chance, we’d wipe you off the earth. Sounds pretty threatening, doesn’t it?
Obviously, we need to do everything we can to stop Iran from developing nukes. That does not mean we should allow Israel free reign. As a responsible superpower, we should send Israel a clear message: an attack at this point would be out of proportion. The fact is that Iran is not on the cusp of acquiring nukes. According to our very own intelligence, Iran stopped trying to build a bomb in 2003. However, for the sake of argument, I will assume that Iran is secretly trying to develop a nuclear weapon.
Moreover, there’s a strong argument to be made that an attack would be counter-productive. One of the reasons that the Iranian has to internally justify a military nuclear program is the threat of an Israeli attack. If an attack were to actually happen, Israel would be giving political ammunition to Iran’s hard-liners who back a military nuclear program. At the same time, such an attack will not stop Iran’s nuclear program (this article quotes Admiral Mike Mullen, and is published by Israel’s oldest daily newspaper).
Conservative accuse liberals of abandoning Israel, particularly on Iran’s nuclear ambition. This is a lie. Conservative leaders should stop promulgating it, and followers should stop believing it. Americans across the political spectrum agree on the goal: stop Iran from acquiring nukes. Therefore, let us debate how to best achieve that, instead of distracting from the issue, accusing the other side of lacking commitment. Such ruses only help Iran to operate under the cover of US political confusion.