And it was the hotly debated question during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s just-concluded visit to Washington, where he addressed AIPAC and conferred with President Obama on this very topic.
Conclusion? Well, none really. Netanyahu continues to keep a unilateral airstrike by Israel on the table despite the president’s attempt to have it removed for 2012. Yet both leaders presented a unified front when they met the media (even though it’s pretty obvious they don’t care for one another).
But back to the question: Should, there be an airstrike on Iran? The Islamic republic seems bent on pushing forward with its nuclear program, which it continues to claim is for peaceful purposes only, and which most of the Western world tends not to believe.
Well, as Jennifer Mizrahi of The Israel Project said in a recent statement:
“For years now, The Israel Project has been warning about the threat of a nuclear Iran to Israel and the world. We have sensitized the press, public and policymakers on issues concerning the Islamic regime and its fanatical quest for nuclear weapons. We have strongly supported efforts to resolve this issue peacefully through sanctions and diplomatic engagement (emphasis hers). However, it is an unfortunate truth that military action against Iran may become necessary to curb the nuclear program.”
But when asked by the Chronicle if it is TIP’s position that Israel has the military capacity to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, spokesman Alan Eisner said, “We endorse the position of the Israeli government, which is that we hope that sanctions and diplomacy can work but that all options must remain on the table. We are not military analysts and cannot comment on Israel’s military capacity.”
But that is still the question — the very pragmatic question: Can military action work?
We’re not so sure.
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy faced the stark reality that bombing the Soviet missiles there would not work — that some might survive, forcing a U.S. invasion of the island and perhaps a third world war.
And those were missiles on the surface of the island, not beneath it and well decentralized, as Iran’s program is.
Have things changed since 1962?
Well, Israel launched an intensive bombing campaign of Hezbollah positions in 2006, intent on destroying the weapon launchers and arsenals the terrorist group was using to launch attacks on northern Israel. But the rockets continued to fly until the last day of the war.
Admittedly, we’re not privy to Israel’s military secrets, but we still wonder what has changed since then to make anyone believe an air force that couldn’t destroy a rocket arsenal in Lebanon could set back a nuclear program in Iran.
It’s a legitimate question.
Like most people, we want Iran’s nuclear program quashed; we’re just not sure military action will accomplish that mission. Likely, an air strike will only harden Iran’s resolve, spur popular support for an increasingly unpopular regime and, worst of all, lead to retaliation against Israel and U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf. We could be fighting in Iran before the end of the year — another protracted war in the region, the results of which no one can predict.
Kennedy and his advisors ultimately fashioned a response short of war that resolved the crisis and maintained U.S. standing in the world. That’s what Obama should strive for now.