The seven million people of Israel always seem to be ever present in our public conversations, but right now they are in the spotlight as never before. That’s because the Obama administration has made Israel its focal point for blame for everything wrong in the Middle East.
It’s hard to misinterpret the president when he calls relations between Israel and her neighbors a “vital national security interest of the United States” and that the conflict there is “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure”. In this assessment, rockets can rain down on Israel with impunity while Israel’s defensive measures create a cost to the United States in terms of ‘blood and treasure.’
David Petraeus, our top soldier in that theatre, listed the Middle East conflict as one of his reasons for instability in the region. He noted that the conflict unresolved ” does create an environment….does contribute, if you will, to the overall environment within which we operate”. Made in the context of his Commander in Chief’s remarks about ‘blood and treasure’, this too creates an inappropriate focus on the Jewish state.
Predictably, there came attempts to make these remarks more acceptable. In actuality, however, they reinforced the administration’s Israeli obsession. Jeremi Ben Ami of Soros-funded J Street, Brooking’s Martin Indyk, and former Congressman Robert Wexler joined the official government voices of Secretaries Clinton and Gates in reinforcing the misguided focus on Israel.
One downside of all this attention, as pointed out by New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, is the ripple effect of this rhetoric. He points out that some “…hear Obama’s policy as a license… to spew their hate.”
All of this goes on while it is Iran that presents the clear and present danger to the U.S. and the rest of the world, not Israel.
The heavy emphasis on Israel is more than just public debate. It is policy and, as such, a distraction that takes us away from appreciating the grave danger presented by Iran’s nascent nuclear capability. It’s ironic, but if Iran were to frame a strategy for avoiding scrutiny and deflecting attention from her progress in developing nuclear power, then getting America to focus on housing units in Jerusalem instead of reactors in Qum would be a good way to do it.
The real blame for our predicament resides at home and is another product of misplaced concerns and priorities.
With an abundance of energy resources and the ability to develop them if we choose, we’ve backed away from doing so for reasons having much more to do with domestic political calculations than security. This leaves us dependent for our energy on unstable regimes who don’t like us. More menacingly, we are in a place where the lengthening shadow of a nuclear Iran posits a threat to us of huge proportions.
Iran threatens us in two ways.
A nuclear Iran presents us with an intractable enemy who, if it could, would think nothing of depriving the world – including the U.S. – of energy. In July 2009, we wrote that Iran sits astride 12 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Light up those fields with radio activity and the world would be deprived of that resource, today’s precarious balance of supply versus demand for oil would be disastrously altered, and economies around the world would go dark. The world’s oil supply minus 12 percent would be a shock to the system that economies could not take. It would literally destroy many countries, while grievously damaging the rest.
Then there is the threat to Americans in the region. Americans on the ground in the Middle East would be hostage to a nuclear Iran. One need only look back a few decades to the tragic 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon that cost 241 American lives, or the destruction of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that took 19 American lives.
Now as then, aggressive terrorist activities cause our troop deployments to be clustered together for safety, but in the doing they provide tempting targets for belligerents like Iran. Our fleets in the seas around the oil-producing Gulf also provide a target as they cruise in the confined areas around the Middle East’s rich oil producing areas. With nuclear capability, Iran has the opportunity to inflict far greater damage than it does with conventional truck load bombs.
A nuclear Iran would not only have Israel, the Little Satan, in its sights, but could cause tremendous pain to the Big Satan, too. After all, it’d be a lot easier to kill thousands of Americans in the Middle East than to deliver a nuclear weapon to North America for the same purpose.
Richard Hass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has grasped the point of the United States’ misplaced efforts in the Middle East from another perspective.
“The danger of exaggerating the benefits of solving the Palestinian conflict is that doing so runs the risk of distorting American foreign policy. It accords the issue more prominence than it deserves, produces impatience, and tempts the U.S. government to adopt policies that are overly ambitious.”
By making Israel the center of its concerns in the Middle East, America ignores the real problems we face there. Scapegoating Israel does little to address them.