Abridged for publication in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) and Jewish Chronicle (Pittsburgh)
By Gidon D. Remba
April 16, 2008
A friend who spent the last year living in Israel recently wrote to explain why he won’t vote for Senator Barack Obama for President. He believes that “most American Jews just don’t get what is happening. We are in a fight for our lives, period. Ahmadinejad means to do us in if he can. He is a Hitler, pure and simple. I am supporting McCain,” he confesses, “because I feel he is the one president most likely to militarily go after Iran's nuclear facilities. I do not believe anything short of that or regime change will stop Iran from getting and using a nuclear bomb against our people.”
I am convinced that my friend woefully misunderstands the Middle East—and much else. Because Israel is in a fight for its life and American security remains in a parlous state both at home and abroad, it’s absolutely vital that we get it right, that we grasp what will and won’t help Israelis and Americans best protect ourselves from the threats we face.
“Who is the first American president to condemn the indefensible omission of conscience of not bombing the train tracks to Auschwitz?,” challenges my friend. “None other than cowboy Bush when he recently visited Yad Vashem; the Bush at whom American Jews look down their semitic noses for being so stupid and folksy and corrupt. They dismiss what he said as politicking. Not so. He meant it, for he is morally non-nuanced enough to understand that there is good and evil in the world and that not everything is relative. And this is why I voted for Bush in 2004 and why I support McCain now.”
By my friend’s logic, the leader who knows what is truly evil will crush our enemies and thwart their demonic plans. He would have bombed the train tracks at Auschwitz. He will now fight on in Iraq until we win, staying as long as it takes, as McCain has promised (not for 100 years, but until we achieve our goals, as he has indeed vowed). If push comes to shove, he will blow Iran’s nuclear plants to kingdom come, as McCain has pledged.
There is just one small problem: to many of the best American military minds these martial “solutions” will conjure up a fool’s paradise.
President Bush plays on historic Jewish vulnerabilities by lashing out at the Allied failure to “take out” the tracks to the death camps during the Shoah. Jews who vote with their kishkes instead of their kopfs (their guts instead of their heads) will hail such stalwart men and women as the battle-hardened defenders that Israel and America need to be safe. But those who favored striking out against the greatest evils were dead wrong during the Holocaust; they are even more recklessly wrong now.
Jewish historian William D. Rubinstein devoted an entire chapter to “The Myth of Bombing Auschwitz” in his book The Myth of Rescue: Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews From the Nazis. He notes that “Recent military historians have looked at…claims about the possibility of bombing Auschwitz with critical eyes, and concluded that the options put forward were highly impractical and most unlikely to have succeeded.” He concludes: “Because of the inaccuracy of bombing raids in 1944, if a raid had somehow been launched against Auschwitz in 1944 it is probable—even likely—that such a mission would have been seen, then and now, as a complete fiasco, an ill-considered and dubious exercise, carried out for political rather than for military reasons, in which many hundreds of Jews and other captives were killed but which utterly failed to halt the Nazi death machine.”
Most Pentagon generals view an assault on Iranian nuclear facilities—promised by McCain if Iran does not halt its march towards nuclear weapons—as not only ineffective but likely to entangle us in another protracted war that we cannot win and may well lose. Senior American military officials believe that an attack on Iran “could set off Iranian retaliation without halting Tehran's nuclear program for long,” reported the Los Angeles Times. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and much of the Pentagon brass “have concluded that a strike against suspected Iranian nuclear sites could be counterproductive,” according to senior U.S. Defense Department officials. “War with Iran would result in Iranians rallying around the flag...The government would be strengthened instead of toppled. The Iranian nuclear program would most likely accelerate than be destroyed,” warns Iran expert Trita Parsi.
Reporting from the Persian Gulf, David Ignatius intimated in the Washington Post that “the United States doesn't have good military choices now -- and the Iranians know it. That's one reason they are being so provocative; they believe that a U.S. military strike would hurt America more than Iran.” Iran could “lure the United States onto a battlefield where its immense firepower wouldn't do much good. The Iranians could withdraw into the maze of their homeland and keep firing off their missiles -- exacting damage on the West's economy and, most important, its will to fight.” A war with Iran, many top US military officials have concluded, would be a trap. And that is the trap our bomb-happy friends, and their favored presidential candidates, tout as the miracle drug for what ails us.
Senator McCain pays lip service to the need to use “all elements of our national power” in the war on terror, including diplomacy and economic development. But when confronting the chief purveyor of Middle East terrorism he would have the United States face Iran with very few arrows in our quiver.
The Jewish dogma we most need to throw overboard is our blind faith in Bar Kochba-like politicians as our saviors. The less a candidate has sound mooring for his policies the more apt is he to manipulate us by invoking our cherished symbols and comforting slogans. Those who promise that they will keep “Jerusalem as the eternal united capital of Israel,” or pulverize “Ahmadinejad’s nuclear sites” may be telling us what we want to hear, but not what we can sustain in the world in which we must live.
Those Jews who would cast their vote for the most battle-tested politician or bellicose plan would have brought upon America, the Allies and world Jewry a military embarrassment in the struggle against Nazism. What we needed then as now is sober strategy and a cool hand. All signs point to the wisdom of Senator Obama’s carrot-and-stick approach to Iran, Iraq and Syria, and to the folly of the even more ambitious Mideast wars urged on us by Senator McCain. Former Reagan Administration defense official Larry Korb warns that McCain “would employ military force to the exclusion of other options.” America and Israel will be ill served by Bush on steroids for the next four years.
Gidon D. Remba, a veteran Israel activist and commentator, is Editor-in-Chief & Publisher of the new Jews for Obama e-Newsletter. He blogs at http://tough-dove-israel.blogspot.com/ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
JTA published an edited version of this piece here--with an opposing viewpoint by smear-monger Ed Lasky.
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