For many years, people in the United States, Europe and Russia lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Then the Cold War seemed to end as quickly as it began, and our fear faded into memory. Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu invoked and stoked the fear of thermonuclear war again this week.
In an extraordinary display of chutzpah, the Israeli prime minister, bypassing the President of the United States on the invitation of partisan Republican leaders, denounced a deal with Iran that doesn’t yet exist. Hectoring the American people on how “Iran’s regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem” was a new low, even for Bibi Netanyahu.
Given Netanyahu’s warmongering tone, which is the greater threat: Iran using undeveloped nuclear weapons against Israel, or Israel using its actual, unacknowledged and unregulated nuclear weapons against Iran?
On one hand, we have Iran’s vassals, Hezbollah and Hamas’ stated purpose of “wiping Israel off the face of the earth.” On the other hand we have Israel’s demonstrated ability to reduce prostrate Palestinians under its penal control in Gaza to rubble.
To call Netanyahu, as Republicans did after his speech, a latter-day Churchill warning against the moral equivalent of Hitler in the form of Iran’s Ayatollah is preposterous.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo, made a strong point when he said Israel has “a government that has built a stockpile of nuclear weapons, rejected calls to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, made military incursions into neighboring states and flouted international law by keeping the lands of other nations under occupation.”
Of course, Iran’s support for the butcher Assad, who has slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people with every weapon at his disposal, including barrel bombs, hardly means Persian hands are clean.
Iran is now a de facto US ally in Iraq fighting alongside American-backed Shiite militias (who used to blow up American soldiers with IEDs supplied by Iran) against fanatical, Hydra-headed Sunni jihadists, born out of Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq and Obama Administration negligence in Syria, which gave rise to Islamic State of Syria, Iraq and the Levant. Don’t try to wrap your head around that mess.
The issue at hand is not just further militarization but nuclear proliferation in that madhouse of a region. It’s true, as Thomas Friedman intones, “if Iran gets a bomb, there’s a good chance the whole global nuclear nonproliferation regime, already frayed, would totally unravel.” However, focusing on Iran, to the exclusion of Israel, as the linchpin to keeping the whole nuclear nonproliferation regime intact virtually guarantees it will unravel.
Wiping nuclear weapons from the face of the earth looked like it was truly beginning when the Cold War ended, but it is now clear that the Clinton years were but a squandered interregnum. Is it too late to clip the wings of the Israeli and American hawks, despite the reasonable and workmanlike approach to negotiations with Iran of President Obama?
Barack Obama, bless his Spock-like heart, may be the last test of whether human reason can prevail over man’s irrationality. That always was a Hobson’s choice. There is a true alternative: awakening insight in human consciousness.
It’s comforting to think that the worst we’ll have to face is a drawn-out media, bombing and droning war with blood-spattered jihadists. But history may well record that this period marked a predictable escalation to the development of nuclear weapons, in which case the failure of liberals and progressives to prepare a new course for humanity will be almost as unforgivable as right-wing extremists clamoring for war.
The alternative to Netanyahu/Republican militarism is not some vague notion and ideal of peace, but the principle of de-militarization for all nations in the de facto global society.
However the ideal of peace is no match for the actuality of militarism and war; indeed, the ideal goes away from the fact, rather than confronts it. Therefore response to militarism and war has to be at once spiritual and political, individual and collective.
There are junctures where the course of history cannot be altered, only foreseen and prepared for. The foundation for the alternative to war (as contrasted with the phony, perpetual global war against terror) has to be poured now, before the old order collapses completely under a mushroom cloud.
That doesn’t mean the international system has to be scrapped, or that the United Nations has to be replaced by a new institution of genuine global governance. It means there is great urgency to create and convey the philosophical, psychological and political insights that supersede and complement the international system, rather than continue to try to prop up a world order that already belongs to history.
Netanyahu’s “countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare” chillingly rings like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The world is a single global society now, and that renders the language and mentality of fixed enemies an atavistic lie.
Deliberately trying to set the bar so high that Iran and President Obama cannot clear it and make a deal, Netanyahu and his axis of weevils is unwittingly compelling decent people of all faiths, backgrounds and nations to come up to the mark.
It’s not the warmonger’s world unless we allow them to keep filling the vacuum. It’s ours for the taking and re-making when they inevitably fail.