Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Afghanistan Debate is Surging, as is Israel's Anger

The Times of London reports on Adm. Mike Mullen's call (before the US Senate, no less) for more US troops to Afghanistan, and spins it as exposing a major rift within the US leadership.  Indeed, it does - with Mullen (and major Republican senators) calling for a new "Surge" a la Iraq 2007, Carl Levin and much of the Democratic establishment leaning the other way, and now, a number of respected academic and otherwise notable commentators sending Obama a letter questioning the entire Afghan enterprise.

As well they should.  The war-weary US public is no longer behind an enterprise that is costing billions of dollars that could otherwise be used for dire needs back home (crumbling infrastructure, vanishing jobs, health care, education, psychotherapy - cf. Serena Williams, Kanye West, Joe Wilson, Glenn Beck . . .).  (In fact, as a report in the CSM notes, "For the first time, the war in Afghanistan in the next budget year will cost Americans more than the war in Iraq. By the end of the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, the total military budget costs for both wars will have exceeded $1 trillion".)  Nor are most of the US's NATO allies, including Canada, all of whom seem to feel the losses of young soldiers more deeply than do we (again, cf. all the buzz - and attention - on the afore-named "celebrities").

Yet even as the debate about the Afghan war thickens, the pressure is being ramped up to launch yet another war, with Iran.  As Stephen Walt recently noted at Foreign Policy, the same crazies that were calling for invading Iraq seven years ago are now screaming their war-cries against Iran - most recently, Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal.  Today it's widely reported that the IDF plans to attack Iran if crippling sanctions aren't imposed on Iran - or diplomacy hasn't cowed Iran - by the end of this  year.  (PLEASE READ today's latest from Roger Cohen on the lunacy of that idea, and on how to proceed farther down that diplomatic road.)

And Israeli anger is growing not only in re Iran.  The release of the UN-sponsored report from Richard Goldstone on Israel's Operation Cast Lead campaign against Gaza last December and January has instigated a new round of howling and breast-beating there about anti-Israel bias, etc., etc.  As Haaretz reports, Israel president Shimon Peres (that once upon a time partner for peace with the Palestinians) claims that the "UN Gaza report makes mockery of history."  I've not read the report as yet, only some brief summaries, but the author's credentials are impeccable, and he points blame at both sides (the IDF and Hamas, though the IDF comes out the worse).   Nonetheless, Israel is rejecting it, out of hand.

The larger point here (although Israel's accountability for the horrors it inflicted on Gaza then, not to mention the blockade since then, are themselves a large point) is that by their actions (and this goes back to much earlier than Gaza 2008), the Israelis have turned world opinion decidedly against themselves, at a time when (at least in their official statements) they scream out to the world that they face mortal peril from a would-be nuclear Iran.  Odds are, they are not going to get the sanctions they want against Iran; nor is Iran going to give up its enrichment program; nor does the US public want a new war against Iran.

But if Israel bombs Iran, will Obama let Netanyahu drag the US down with him?

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