In the past, most Americans have thought of Israel as a kind of "suburb" of Miami or New York City that just happened to be in the Middle East. Anti-semitism is largely a thing of the past in the US. What has taken the place of that particular bigotry has been a paternalistic affection for Israel as an outpost of Western and indeed American values in the Arab World. How did that happen?
Movies and television productions like "Exodus" have been a continuing feature of American life for at least fifty years. The Holocaust Museum in Washington is a major feature of capital region tourism and high school class trips from all over the country. Protestant evangelicals have a special place for Israel in their system of belief. The cumulative effect of these and similar phenomena has been to create the illusion that US and Israeli interests are identical and likely to be always identical. This notion is both sentimental and egregious.
Israel is a country which was established to foster the interests of a particular ethno-religious group over all others. In that way Israel and Pakistan have much in common.
The United States is a country that revers the idea of freedom of and from religion. The United States has always sought the melding of its populations into one, new and hybridized group. This has not always been successful but it has remained the "national" zeitgeist for a long time.
These ideological goals are fundamentally in opposition to each other.
Now we have the case of Iran and its putative nuclear weapons program. The US intelligence community judged in the latest NIE on the subject that the Iranians are far, far from the ability to design and manufacture a nuclear warhead that could be "mated" to the Shihab-3 missiles that Iran fired recently in what was probably a counter threat to the the US and Israel. Mitt Romney said on television this morning that he doubts the judgments of that NIE. What his qualification would be for making such a judgment is another subject. Could it be that a foreign intelligence service has briefed him on its own judgments and he prefers those judgments?
The Israeli government and its intelligence services do not subscribe to the logic of nuclear deterrence. Being possessed of only two major targetable population zones (Tel Aviv and Haifa) they correctly reason that they can not possibly"ride out" a counter-value first strike by an adversary. Following that logic they believe they must eliminate any potential nuclear threat before it materializes. The intentions of such an adversary and the ability to deter capabilities are not something they are willing to gamble on. Of even more immediate concern to the Israelis is the clear diminution in their ability to militarily and diplomatically dominate the future that would accompany acquisition of a deliverable nuclear capability by any of its neighbors or even the possession of a plausible and unpredictable future nuclear capability by any of the same countries.
The United States has very different interests in this matter. Iraq. Iraq. Iraq. The US project in Iraq pins the United States to the maintenance for some years of a substantial force in that country. That force is a kind of hostage to peace between the US and Iran. Logistics, and the sheer numbers of possible Iranian influenced combatants in Iraq are major potential threats to the US force in Iraq.
In addition; the vulnerability of the oil transport route out of the Gulf, the unavailability of US ground forces for a new war, the further wreckage that would be inflicted on the US political position in the world, and the havoc that would be wrought on the oil futures and spot markets are major factors that the US should consider in deciding on a course of action vis a vis Iran.
Most importantly, Iran is not anything like a threat to the United States. It might be someday, but that time is a long way off. The present threat is to the Middle East nd to Israel specifically.
Israel and its partisans are now engaged in seeking enough "leverage" to have the US do their will in this matter. Let us sober up in the United States and remember that we are the dog and they are the tail. pl