The future of Iran’s nuclear weapons program depends on one of those strange alignments of justice and personal gain that create eclipses and flood tides when planetary bodies are the actors. It’s important that the world understand these strange circumstances.
A likely outcome of the world’s standoff with Iran is an American attack in late summer or early fall, with the grudging support of at least some American allies.
First: Those who tell us that an Israeli attack on Iran is apt to fail (“improbable and ineffective,” an American analyst said recently) aren’t merely showing their naiveté. They are endangering Israel and the world at large (though, obviously, not on purpose).
The naiveté is obvious. The one thing you know about an Israeli strike is that it will not be as you picture it. The Israeli Defense Forces have not protected the Jewish state against a boundless sea of cutthroat murderers for 60 years by being stupid.
Israel has been going out of its way to make clear that it can and (if things continue on course) will attack Iran, soon. (Thus, for example, the detailed report on Israeli TV last week, with full Air Force cooperation.)
The message is aimed, obviously, at Iran. But it is intended even more for the United States.
After all, an Israeli attack would be followed inevitably by months of war, danger and hardship for Israel, and the world at large. War in Israel against Iran and Hezbollah, and a temporarily re-united Syria. Chaos in the skittish oil markets would be bad news for Europe as she tries to steady her financial nerves. And one more EU brush with death will be bad for the whole global economy. Of course we can count on a boiling-over of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism concurrent with a world economic crisis and an uptick in terrorism. Anti-Semitic riots in European capitols, one imagines, would be likely. (London? Paris? Oslo? Brussels?)
But an American attack would of course be far less dangerous for the world (let alone Israel), because American action to slap down revenge counterattacks will be taken for granted. And clearly an American attack could do greater damage to Iran’s arsenal—and be more likely than an Israeli attack to bring about an Iranian revolution.
Now Obama’s is a European-style appeasement administration. How can the world possibly hope for decisive action from this president?
Israel is bearing the brunt of making the argument. Obama is likely to act only if he is convinced that an Israeli attack is imminent. Then he might promise Israel an American attack, if Israel will cool it until the fall. Agreement would be a risky decision for Israel; but on balance, she will agree.
An Israeli attack this spring or summer would have dangerous after- effects for the world—and also make it even harder, maybe impossible, for the president to be reelected. But an American attack in the fall—obviously before November, but not by much—would lead to a more stable world, not only because of Iran but because of that reassuring reminder that America is on the job after all.
Of course an American attack would have at least one other consequence as well. It would probably lead to Obama being reelected. Americans would rally behind the president; and the unpleasant after-effects of the attack would still lie mostly in the post-Election Day future.
The reelection of Obama would be one of the bitterest pills conservatives have ever had to swallow in the interests of world safety and peace. Let’s hope for strong Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
David Gelernter is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.