Is Ari Shavit crying wolf?

Ari Shavit in a loud, almost crying wolf op ed piece in today’s Times is saying the world peace that we have mostly enjoyed since the end of WWII, is near collapse. And the collapse, he says, will come about during the next nine months in one of two ways, either by Iran gaining possession of the bomb and as a result becoming a deadly threat to its neighbors with all that would mean, or by Israel, ostensibly seeking to prevent this from happening, unilaterally attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

All our fault, he says, the fault of the West. For neither did we apply, when we could, sanctions tough enough to stop Iran, nor did we provide sufficient security guarantees to Israel to prevent it from ever acting unilaterally in its own defense.

In the following list of six points I have summarized his argument:

1) An Iranian atom bomb will force Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt to acquire their own atom bombs.
2) In fact, An Iranian bomb will bring about universal nuclear proliferation, even the Third World joining the club, and the 60-year-old world order that guaranteed world peace will collapse.
3) An Iranian bomb will give radical Islam overwhelming influence, through the union of ultimate fundamentalism with the ultimate weapon.
4) If Israel strikes Iran it will change our world no less, dragging the US into another war it can’t win.
5) The cardinal strategic challenge of the last decade has been how to prevent two threats: (an Iranian) bomb and (an Israeli) bombing. Yet the West failed to rise to the challenge in time.
6. Within nine months the Iranians will be immune to an Israeli air strike. By Christmas, Israel will lose the military capability to stop the Shiite bomb. As it will be existentially threatened, the Jewish State will feel obliged to take action….

So the summer of 2012 now seems to be the summer of last opportunity.

Wow! Is he crying wolf? Or is he correct, and the wolf is out there? How valid are his six points? And should President Obama immediately seek to impose much tougher sanctions on Iran, while giving Israel our guarantee that any attack on their territory would be treated as an attack on the United States.

Actually, long experience, including long experience with sanctions, has taught us that neither choice, tougher sanctions or solid gold guarantees, would be the right choice for President Obama. For don’t we know that sanctions, anything less than an invading force, will not keep Iran from developing the bomb? And Israel, even if President Obama were willing to accept Netanyahu’s security demands upon us, is not (yet?) a state of the United States.

There’s absolutely no way that we could or would honor, probably Israel’s ultimate security demand upon us, that we in their defense accept being dragged into a costly war not of our own making, and not in our own interest —as if they were one of our own. They’re not.

So, what to do? Nothing. We should do nothing at all. In spite of what Ari Shavit would have us believe, he doesn’t know, nor do we, what would be the behavior of the rulers of Iran if they did have the bomb. In fact, it could turn out well for everyone.

Unequal relationships are much more threatening than those where the opponents are of equal strength. The Soviet Union thought this was the case throughout the cold war, whether or not it was true (it wasn’t) that we were somehow equal, in our both having the bomb. This, perhaps, more than anything else prevented us from going to war with one another. Why would Iran and Israel, both in possession, be any different?

Ari is giving us his nuclear version of the domino theory. Well if country A gets it, then so will country B, and C, and on and on until everyone is nuclear and the chances of one or more of all the bombs out there somehow going off will have risen exponentially. But this doesn’t have to happen. Iran’s getting the bomb may be, for all those Arab and Muslim countries without the bomb, just enough to enable them to remain without, knowing one on their side is in possession.

So it just may not be true as Ari seems to believe that Iran’s having the bomb will bring about universal nuclear proliferation. Nor is there any basis to say, as Ari does, that an Iranian bomb would give Iran overwhelming influence in the Middle East. Israel has had the bomb for at least a generation and its influence in the Middle East hasn’t been helped or strengthened thereby.

In fact, Israel probably has as little influence now as it did before having the bomb. And also, it’s probably less its having the bomb, that its close friendship with the United States that has most protected it throughout all these years.

Finally, there is one place where I find Ari Shavit convincing. This is where he describes the truly far-ranging and devastating effects of an Israel attack on Iran. I would say that this is what we should seek to avoid at all costs, even more than Iran’s nuclear capability. Nothing good could possibly come from it. And in some important respects the bomb itself would be less destructive that the chain of events sure to take place throughout the Middle East, Europe, and probably even the United States, following an Israeli attack on Iran.

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