Neo-cons under the bed


If Michael Rubin truly wants someone to beat up on for beating up on tough-minded Iran policies, he might turn his attentions away from little old moi and look at this Robert Dreyfuss posting at The Huffington Post.

Dreyfuss argues that the incoming Obama administration is stacked with attack-Iran apologists, and cites not only the Bipartisan Policy Center paper I mentioned in my earlier post, but a Washington Institute for Near East Policy paper over the summer called "How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge."

Dreyfuss’ post is exhibit A in how bloody-mindedness is not the province of any particular politcal party or pesuasion: The WINEP paper, as I read it, argues precisely his point, that the United States needs to make clear to Israel that unilateral military action against Iran is not an option, nor in anyone’s interest.

Dreyfuss acknowledges as much – "WINEP is correct that the United States must communicate closely with Israel about Iran." But because the writer has a bee in his bonnet (or a bug crawling around a less pretty cavity) about Israel and WINEP, he suggests it really means the opposite, and only because Dreyfuss is apparently unenamored of WINEP:

"Practically speaking, however, a U.S.-Israeli dialogue over Iran’s ‘nuclear challenge’ will have to focus on matters entirely different from those in WINEP’s agenda. First, the United States must make it crystal clear to Israel that under no circumstances will it tolerate or support a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran. Second, Washington must make it clear that if Israel were indeed to carry out such an attack, the United States would condemn it, refuse to widen the war by coming to Israel’s aid, and suspend all military aid to the Jewish state. And third, Israel must get the message that, even given the extreme and unlikely possibility that the United States deems it necessary to go to war with Iran, there would be no role for Israel."

"WINEP’s agenda," at least in this paper, is Dreyfuss’ first point, so I’m not sure what he is referring to. Or perhaps his second and third points make it clear what he is referring to: Any U.S. communication with Israel, in Dreyfuss’ view, must necessarily abandon any conventions of respectful country-to-country dialogue for humiliating, absolutist directives. In this, Dreyfuss sounds more like his feared bugbear – neoconservatives – than he might imagine. But then he has an alarmingly broad definition of "neoconservative," throwing into the mix Tom Daschle (who as health secretary will make what case exactly on behalf of attacking Iran?) Tony Lake and Susan Rice (!).

In the months since the WINEP report appeared, Israeli officials have all but conceded that a strike against Iran is not a forseeable option. This probably has more to do with conversations in May with President Bush and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it couldn’t have hurt that WINEP marshalled bipartisan heft to its reasoned warnings against unilateralism.

Civility, notwithstanding Dreyfuss’ schreying, often pays off.

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