Ask Beinart Anything: Will Israel Bomb Iran Soon?


Peter Beinart is a long-time friend of the Dish and author of the critically needed book, The Crisis of Zionism. From one of my many defenses of the book against its knee-jerk critics:

The notion that Beinart ignores the standard and fair criticisms of past Palestinian leaders is simply wrong, as any reader will see. Yes, he presses the case that the Israelis and their American patrons have recently led the Jewish state into a dead end – but his book is an argument, not a history. He lacerates one side – persuasively, I might add – but doesn’t excuse the other. … The real shift in US policy toward Israel has been the embrace of the settlements by the Christianist base of the GOP over the last decade and their continuing power. The real development is the fusion of Jewish and Christian fundamentalism around the cause of Greater Israel. Which means to say that a democratic Israel is living on borrowed time. And Peter’s book will one day be seen as one lone protest, a marker that not everyone acquiesced in Israel’s degeneration, not everyone put blinders on. Just most.

Read his latest writing at Open Zion, where he last week dissected Netanyahu’s UN stunt (the above video was taped just prior to it):

In his argument for why the United States and other world powers should draw a “clear red line” specifying when Iran’s nuclear progress would trigger military action, Netanyahu approvingly cited NATO, whose charter “made clear that an attack on one member would be considered an attack on all.” According to Bibi, “NATO’s red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century.”

Yes, but NATO established a red line against Soviet attack. If the USSR invaded West Berlin, to use the most often-discussed scenario, the United States would be obligated to come to West Germany’s defense. What NATO self-consciously did not do was draw a red line against a Soviet bomb. To the contrary, the Truman administration rejected calls for a preventative military strike aimed at stopping Moscow’s quest for atomic power. Then, during the Kennedy administration, the U.S. and its NATO allies rejected calls to establish a red line that would have prompted military action against communist China before it joined the nuclear club.

Netanyahu may believe that NATO’s policies of containment and deterrence won’t work against Tehran because its leaders—unlike Stalin and Mao—are bloodthirsty tyrants who sometimes speak in messianic, apocalyptic terms. But people whose historical memory extends beyond breakfast should remember that NATO’s “red line” was not the equivalent of preventative war; it was the alternative to preventative war.