A Tale of Two Wars

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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The Arab Spring seems to be everything that Israel is not, a transnational transformation, the soul of Europe invested in a Middle Eastern body. A great leap forward that will lift the region out of its backward fanaticism and move the world closer to the modern place it ought to be. Then with some selective sanctions in Asia, laptops for every child in Africa, and some really good books on human potential, the entire world will be just like the European Union. If Israel doesn’t louse it up this time.

The progressive philosopher-kings aren’t stupid, their knowledge of history is. They believe that their wonderful system was not the product of a civilization, but of political protesters demanding change. If the political protesters demanding change are similarly empowered in the Muslim world, then they will end up with the same results.

To the left a theory of history in which a humanitarian society is created through the overthrow of the status quo makes perfect sense. To the American liberal right, a similar theory favoring democracy as the key element has almost as much appeal. Both agree on the notion that if their native process is exported, then the results will be the same.

There’s a certain kind of technocratic sensibility to it, that if you build the same machines and use the same recipe, then anyone can make Coca Cola. Which is true, except that people in different parts of the world prefer versions of Coca Cola that taste differently. Exporting the process of democracy does not export the outcome of democracy. It only helps the local create the sort of government they really want. Egypt and Tunisia have already shown us what kind of government that is.

Washington is not interested in Israel’s selfish need to be nuked. It isn’t in this for existential reasons and it doesn’t see why Israel should be either. If the United States can sacrifice thousands of lives for the greater good to promote peace, tolerance and respect for international law, then why can’t Israel risk a few million lives, especially when there are foreign policy experts who will explain slowly and distinctly to the dunces in Jerusalem why it is very unlikely that Iran will actually detonate a nuclear bomb.

Israeli leaders have a diminishing interest in grand theories of history arising from DC or Brussels. Small nations can’t afford grand theories of history. They make do with keeping the rain from leaking through the roof. The Israelis aren’t interested in another war, which is exactly why they want to launch a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program. In response Iran’s terrorist proxies will do their part by shelling Israeli towns and villages, but that’s part of life. Not the good part, but the part about living in a region overrun by terrorist militias that anyone can sponsor for a dollar.

They are often stupid, but they are rarely stupid in the way that American and European leaders are stupid. Israel can’t afford its own version of Blair, Sarkozy or Obama. The closest thing to them, Shimon Peres, was quickly voted out despite wearing the cloak of martyrdom and has been relegated to a ceremonial office which allows him to explain his vision of the New Middle East dominated by nanotechnology and free trade zones to foreign visitors who are impressed by this visionary.

When Israel looks at Syria, it doesn’t see a potential gateway to regional progress, it sees a local civil war backed by its neighbors, which will result in instability and one side or the other gaining Syria as a pawn. It sees Assad’s weapons stockpiles ending up in the hands of terrorists, terrorists flocking to fight in the civil war, and it even sees Alawite refugees desperate enough to flee across the border. What it does not see is the glowing symbols of the Arab Spring.

And when it looks at Iran, it doesn’t see a rogue state, it just sees a bunch of fanatics about to get their hands on nuclear weapons. And time running out in which their efforts can be aborted or at least slowed down. It will do something about it not because it wants to change the region or advance human civilization, but because it knows the exact casualty count from a nuclear detonation over Tel Aviv.

Washington desperately doesn’t want anything interrupting its rush to war in Syria. Jerusalem has run out of patience and will go it alone in Iran. The consequences aren’t unpredictable and won’t be much fun. But that is also the difference between responsible and irresponsible leadership. Responsible leaders can take a hit now to avoid much worse consequences down the road. Irresponsible leaders take refuge in philosophy and chase after theories of history, rather than keeping the rain from leaking through the roof.

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  • Alvaro

    An Iran with nukes will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

    In countries with responsible governments it does not really matter if they have atomic weapons. But in the hands of lunatics it is the recipe for atomic war.

    Iran must be prevented from getting atomic weapons, by any means necessary.

  • crackerjack

    Israel has neither the intent nor the capabilitiy to "……go it alone in Iran…". If it had, it would have done so long ago, without prior notice.

    Israel can't go it alone and the US can't go it with Israel.

    • WildJew

      Israel has the capability. The question is whether Israel's leadership has the will in the face of international and primarily U.S. pressure to stand down.

      • crackerjack

        Nonsense. Israel does not have anything close to the capability to week, if not month long air campaigne against Iran. Israel would have enough on its plate hitting once or twice with a few random bombs, after which it would probably run to the cover of the UN, and cry victim to get the West to defend it.

        Let's stop pretending Israel is a superpower.

        • UCSPanther

          Try telling that to Gamal Nasser, and there ain't no UAR alliance now.

          • crackerjack

            Israel is a regional power only by will and mercy of the West and the USA. Take away AIPAC, and Israel is in dire straights.

            And by the way : The present UAR , led by the House of Saud, would love to see Persia fall. But the moment there is even the slightest hint of allegience with Israel, the Arab Spring trained masses will take to the streets and hang their leaders from the highest trees available. Decades of humiliation and confontation count more to the Arab masses than the rise of the Shiite.

          • UCSPanther

            You need to read some history. Israel has been isolated for decades and it single handedly took on and defeated nations that were both numerically superior and better armed than they were. They dominated Gamal Nasser's UAR alliance in '67 and fended off Anwar Sadat's surprise attack in '71, and had no outside help in doing so.

            It just blows your mind that Israel is a prosperous, wealthy and free nation, while the Arab world around it wallows in self-inflicted poverty and chaos.

          • crackerjack

            Henry Kissinger and hundreds of thousands of tons of US arms aid, emergency flown in by Galaxys and Starlifters on over 500 flights won Israel's war.

            The oil crisis of the 70's, staged by OPEC is protest of Western aid for Israel, was the result.

  • davarino

    The egg heads toy with nations and screw them up with their little experiments. No one is held accountable and unfortunately this "global government" wont step up to make things right for Israel when their nation is turned to glass. That is why Israel cannot rely on these egg heads, they have to go it alone.

  • WildJew

    D. Greenfield wrote: "….affinity between the neoconservatives and Israeli leaders was always going to be limited."

    How do you know if a person might be a neoconservative? The following are some good indicators:

    1) After President George W. Bush enunciates a vision for a Palestinian Muslim-enemy state in Israel's historic and strategic heartland, he continues to strongly support Bush because even though the president betrayed a friend, he is implanting democracy in Iraq.

    2) He writes a piece in the Washington post entitled, "Egypt protests show George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world," (January 2011)

    3) Newt Gingrich says (publicly) the Palestinians are terrorists; an invented people dedicated to Israel's destruction. In response, Mitt Romney says Gingrich is a bomb thrower. A neoconservative sorts out the disagreement with a hit piece on Gingrich ("And Reagan") in behalf of Mitt Romney in National Review Online. Another neoconservative who supports Romney says Gingrich's remarks about the Palestinians are "provocative" and "irresponsible."

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  • tagalog

    "Israel fights wars because there's somebody shooting missiles at it." Priceless. The United States used to think that way most of the time.

    • mrbean

      Stupid is as stupid does in your case, tagalog. Iran admitted publically that it did indeed supply 6000 Zelzal missles and 100 long-range Zelzal-2 missiles to Hizbullah. The longer-range Zelzal missiles, manufactured by Iran and are capable of reaching Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva in the Negev. Iran reinforced the purpose was in a statement of "wiping Israel off the map" and though bullets are not flying yet between Israel and Iran, both nations are very much at war.

  • tagalog

    I think if you had read my post, you probably would have left out the "stupid is as stupid does" thingie, mrbean.

  • Nakba1948

    But why stop at just two wars?! Let's start a third! Yemen is looking like a pretty attractive target these days. And while we're in the area, let's bomb the heck out of Iraq again just for kicks. It's easy to be a cheerleader for embroiling America in war after war when your first and only allegiance is to Israel. Let the Apartheid State do its own dirty work and reap the consequences.

    • Viewpoint

      The term, “Apartheid State” can not be justly, rationally applied to Israel… because Israel is not racially segregated. Arab Muslims not only hold positions of power in the Israeli Parliament, they are free to go into any part of Israel without fear of injury, or homicidal attack. This is not the case for Israelis. What is the likelihood that an Arab government would ever allow a Jew to hold office? Israelis that accidently crossed into Muslim-dominated regions in Israel suffered great detriment and even paid with their lives. This past week, a couple of British teen boys ventured into a part of England that the Muslims now claim as theirs… the boys were nearly beaten to death.

    • Viewpoint

      Perhaps you meant, “Occupier”… but this is also unjust and irrational… because it was Israel that was repeatedly attacked by the very ones that now whine about incrementally losing the entire half allotted to them by the U.N. Partition Resolution of 1948. Surely, it is beyond dispute, that if one nation attacks another repeatedly with the intention of completely annihilating the attacked nation, the attacking nation can not then claim to be the victim of the very conflict they started and perpetuated. Surely, only those who are completely ignorant of the historical record and those who are completely blinded by anti-Semitism can so willingly fall for such an absurd deception.

  • Ghostwriter

    Hey Nakba1948! How about you slithering back to whatever pit you came from? The Israelis aren't just going to sit by and watch themselves get slaughtered which it seems that you want. Get used to it!!! The Israelis AREN'T going anywhere!!!!!!

    • Nakba1948

      I'm an American, dumbo. Unlike your country, Israel, mine isn't a "pit." No one is threatening Israel with total annihilation. It's all part of the elaborate paranoid delusion you call Zionism.

  • Guest

    Israel will attack Iran because it has no choice whatsoever. Over the last few years the Iranian mullahs have EVEN gone so far as to publicly discuss how they could afford to lose X percent of the Iranian population….as LONG as Islam is ADVANCED worldwide. This pseudo-religion WILL have no compunction about using a nuclear device on Israel. In the coming war (perhaps within months) the Iranians may be STUPID enough to use chemical weapons on Israeli cities. We could well see Israel responding (if it feels threatened enough) with a low grade nuclear weapon dropped on Teheran. As the great Jewish writer/Nobel winner Isaac Bashevis Singer once said: "We Jews suffer from many diseases. Amnesia is not one of them."