Monday, May 04, 2009

Newt Gingrich: neo-neo-conservative vs. Stephen Walt: of the realist school of foreign policy.

In these two articles, (links below) one reporting on a speech Newt Gingrich gave to AIPAC just yesterday and the other from Stephen Walt (at left), a well known Harvard professor of international relations, both Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama are accused of endangering Israel. Just who are we supposed to believe?

Gingrich accuses Obama of endangering the security of Israel and says the Obama adminstration is "weak" like the Carter administration. No mention of course that Carter actually brokered peace with Egypt, Israel's most credible external foe, which is galaxies beyond what any Republican administration has accomplshed in the arena. In the latter Walt posits that Netanyahu endangers the security of Israel by being too intransigent and if this stubbornness continues will lead to a much less favorable outcome for the Israelis.

If we look a little deeper, supposedly Newt is positioning himself for a run at the presidency in 2012 and one could be forgiven for thinking he's buttering some bread here and pledging fealty to AIPAC. Given the fact that the USA resoundingly rejected an intellectually and morally bankrupt not to mention failed right wing philosophy last November shouldn't that give us some kind of clue as to the validity of this particular argument? Walt, well known as one of the dynamic duo that penned "The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy" with John Mearsheimer, examines the case from an academicians perch with the freedom that his position allows.

Newt labels Obama's policy of constructive engagement with Iran a "fantasy" and "very dangerous" for Israel. Newt goes on and likens "... negotiations with the current Iranian regime to negotiating with Adolf Hitler, and called for "enforcing the disruption of gasoline supplies until the Iranian economy broke, the ayatollahs were ousted and a new regime was in place without a single shot fired." That earned thunderous applause." Well of course given the audience. Shades of Cheney's "we don't want the smoking gun to be in the form of a mushroom cloud" Newt is just as dangerous, maybe even more so because he's really quite intelligent and well spoken.

On the other hand Walt says that... "The prime minister [Netanyahu] and his allies keep harping about an "existential" threat from Iran, but this bogeyman is mostly nonsense. Iran has zero -- repeat, zero -- nuclear weapons today, and even if it were to acquire a few at some point in the future, it could not use them against nuclear-armed Israel without committing national suicide. Let me say that again: national suicide." Not to mention the fact that Iran hasn't invaded any countries lately unlike the good 'ol USA and its "coalition of the willing."

Who in their right mind actually believes Israel faces an existential threat from anyone let alone from Iran? As Walt says... "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said some remarkably foolish things about the Holocaust and repeatedly questioned Israel's legitimacy (as in his oft-mistranslated statement about Israel "vanishing from the page of time"), but he's never threatened to murder millions of Israelis (and Palestinians) with nuclear weapons. Just last weekend, he even told ABC's George Stephanopolous that if the Palestinians reached an agreement with Israel, then Iran would support it. Moreover, as Roger Cohen has noted, there is no evidence that Ahmadinejad has any particular animus toward Iran's own Jewish community. Despite his many offensive statements, in short, Ahmadinejad is not Adolf Hitler and we are not living in the 1930s." Contrast that with what Newt said yesterday at AIPAC where he "called for a military strike to destroy missiles in Iran and North Korea." How many innocents does he think he will kill doing that and what unintened consequences will ensue? Just who are the aggressors here?

According to the US government and the IAEA Israel "possesses between 75 and 400" nuclear warheads and chemical and bilogical wepaons capability as well.


The myth of an Israel facing destruction from 40 million Arabs every day is just that. Who would attack it? Egypt is at peace with Israel and Jordan, brokered by the Clinton administration, made peace in 1994. Lebanon is powerless and Syria is not a credible military threat. The USA guarantees Israel's security and Iraq conveniently neutralized. The occupation is a cancer that eats at the soul of Israel.

So what does Obama really want? I don't think anyone could find anything that suggests anything other than he (and the rest of the international community) wants is for Israel, as the far more powerful actor in this drama, to be a mensch and honor its many commitments and implement the central platform of the seemingly dozens of peace plans it has signed up for in the last 40+ years, which of course, is the oft mentioned two-state solution. As for Netanyahu his disdain for the plan is well known and in order to prevent an open split with the USA he prevaricates and obfuscates imposing new conditions on the Palestinians.

Me thinks Mr. Gingrich & Mr. Netanyahu engage in some garden variety right wing prestidigitation in an attempt to distract our attention from the real issues.
Here's the Jerusalem Post article on Newt:

Here is Walt's post on the Foreign Policy magazine website:

Read them both and let me know (if you wish and can take a few minutes) which is the more logical argument of the two.

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