So Netanyahu Doesn’t Like The Agreement. So What?

Whether or not Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likes our nuclear agreement with Iran shouldn’t matter. He wasn’t in the room while the deal was being made. And if he had been, we’d likely be at war right now. You see, it’s clear by now that Netanyahu doesn’t want peace in the Middle East. It appears that he won’t be happy until Israel has annexed all of the Palestinian territory and blasted its neighbors back to the stone age.

Not even world opinion has swayed him from his expansionist goals. Not the world outrage at Israel’s disproportionate response to Palestinian rockets. Not the international outrage at the increasing number of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Not the Obama administration’s outrage at the break in protocol when Netanyahu accepted the Republican invitation to speak to the US Congress.

For certain, Israel has the right to exist and a right to live in peace. But, just as certainly, Israel’s leader does not have the right to dictate foreign policy to the US or any other nation. Neither should he have any say in the just announced agreement between the US, Iran and other world powers. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from trying to derail the deal. From the very beginning of the talks, Netanyahu has appealed to the Republican chicken hawks in Congress to use force to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Never mind that the use of force would almost certainly backfire (quite literally). A military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations, would incense Iran and much of the rest of the world. Worse, it would give Iran even more incentive to complete a nuclear weapon.

After all, military powers, even superpowers, tend not to attack countries that possess nuclear weapons. For good reason. The consequences are simply too dire. And a nuclear-armed Iran that has been previously attacked would likely feel justified in supporting more terrorism and pursuing retribution against its attackers. Moreover, the sanctions against Iran…even the proposed increased sanctions…were not hindering Iran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb. The sanctions were only hurting innocent Iranian civilians and entrenching Iran’s antagonism with the West.

The fact is, the nuclear agreement was by far the best of all of the available options. At minimum it delays Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It provides a framework for inspections. And it opens the door to more negotiations and more cooperation.

Make no mistake, the new agreement is not a one-sided concession to Iran. The agreement calls for Iran to submit to inspections and to dispose of nuclear fuel in exchange for the lifting of the current sanctions by international community. That is not only fair. It is a positive for everyone involved. Indeed, history has shown that such agreements are far more productive than the alternatives. For example, as a result of our engagement with China, it has gone from a Cold War enemy to our largest trading partner in just 3 decades. In contrast, our get-tough expansion of NATO and deployment of missiles on Russia’s doorstep has led to increased tensions and armed incursions by Russian troops into Ukraine. And we all know what has happened as the result of our ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. Not only has it destabilized Iraq and much of the Middle East, it has led to the creation of a much more dangerous enemy – ISIS.

So Netanyahu thinks the nuclear agreement with Iran is a historic mistake? So what? Let’s not let him derail the agreement and lead us, along with the Republican warmongers, down the path to yet another war. He can continue to bluster and act the spoiled brat. It really shouldn’t matter. And, if Netanyahu threatens to do more than whine, we should ignore him.

Check that…we should make it clear that any attempt to derail the agreement will be met with a suspension of US support and an embargo on weapons.

NetanyaWho?

As has been widely reported, the Prime Minister of Israel spoke to a joint session of Congress for the third time. Only Winston Churchill has matched that number. However, as you know, this is the first time a leader of another nation has requested and received an invitation to appear before Congress without first going through the diplomatic channels of the State Department and the White House.

His appearance was an obvious insult to the Office of the President by both Israel and our Republican leadership.

We know why the Prime Minister requested the opportunity to speak: He and his handlers believed it would help his re-election campaign. And we know why Republicans extended the invitation: It was another opportunity to provoke and demean President Obama.

What I don’t know is why we pay attention to Netanyahu at all. His predictions of doom by a nuclear-armed Iran have seemed unnecessarily alarmist for many years. Indeed, they seem little more than a scare tactic to assure his re-election. Further, since US taxpayers provide Israel with more than $3 billion per year in direct foreign aid and an estimated $12-17 billion more in indirect aid, his offering counsel and advice to US leaders seems like the tail wagging the dog. And, if Israel is frightened at the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, imagine how Iran feels about Israel’s nuclear bombs. Imagine how Iran feels about the threat of US nuclear arms and our so-called “special relationship,” especially when one of our senior (both in tenure and age) senators jokes about “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran?”

It’s time to end this charade. It’s time to negotiate our own deal with Iran and other Middle Eastern nations. It’s time to stop listening to Netanyahu and to stop sending foreign aid to Israel. It’s time to stop looking the other way as Israel steals more and more of Palestinian land. It’s long past time for the US to stop giving military hardware to Israel. It’s time to demand that Israel end the civil rights abuses of Palestinians and negotiate a true settlement. It’s time for Palestinians to stop sending rocks and rockets across the border. It’s time to demand an end to Israel’s disproportionate military response to Palestinian terrorism. It’s time to end our UN Security Council veto of the recognition of Palestine as a separate state.

In short, it’s time the US grabbed both of these nation states by the scruff of the collar and demand that they start acting like adults in the 21st century. The 1967 war is over! It’s time to make peace…a real and lasting peace.

In addition, there should be a political penalty for Netanyahu’s arrogance. Any semblance of a “special relationship” between the US and Israel should now be over…ended by the politics of destruction practiced by people like Netanyahu, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Unless the people of Israel vote Netanyahu out of office and relegate him to history alongside their other mistakes, and unless Israel sends a formal and very public apology to the White House, we should provide Israel no more support than we provide other allies, such as France, Germany and Sweden.

Further, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry should all but ignore Netanyahu’s bombastic bluster while negotiating a treaty with Iran…a treaty that does more than benefit our ill-mannered little brother.

Men (And Women) Of War.

Now that the political upheaval in Ukraine is reaching a critical juncture, the usual warmongers are blustering and calling for military threats. At the same time, they’re blaming President Obama for “weak foreign policy.” Exactly which foreign policy do they consider weak? The policy that ferreted out and killed Osama bin Laden? The policy of targeting al-Qaeda leaders with drone strikes? The policy of providing air support for Libyan rebels? The policy of mandatory inspections and destruction of chemical weapons in Syria?

Or is it the policy of allowing the people of other nations to select their own government and leaders? Is it the peace negotiations with the new moderate President of Iran who requested a dialogue to end the severe economic sanctions in exchange for Iran ending its ambition for nuclear weapons? Or is it the resumption of US-led peace talks between Israel and Palestine? All of these are positive steps that stand as a welcome contrast to the Bush administration’s “you’re with us or against us” black and white approach to foreign policy.

The world is not merely black and white. It’s nuanced and complex. For example, Russia still has thousands of nuclear warheads with the capability of extinguishing all life on this planet. The US, Great Britain, France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea all have nuclear weapons. And all but North Korea have long-range delivery systems for their warheads. As a result, military threats and war are seldom the best solutions.

Without using nuclear warheads, which could escalate into the complete destruction of our planet, our options are limited. We have seen what happens when we involve our military in nation-building projects such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. We have seen what happened when we used our CIA to overthrow leaders in Chile, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and too many Caribbean and Pan American countries to count. We have seen what happens when we serve as the world’s largest arms and munitions dealer.

All of these tactics have created anti-American sentiment, anti-American terrorists and legions of heavily-armed militias who are determined to fight us and each other. Yet this reality seems lost on the neocons who still cling to Cold War beliefs and the ideals of the Project for the New American Century…a plan to expand the American empire by using our status as a superpower by bullying and threatening other nations to obtain an endless supply of cheap raw materials and underpaid labor.

It was neocons from both parties who led us to arm the Shah of Iran to help him oppress his people in exchange for selling us cheap oil. It was Teapublican neocons like Donald Rumsfled who armed Saddam Hussein to fight Iran. It was the neocon Richard Perle who convinced Ronald Reagan to rebuff Mikhail Gorbochev’s attempts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. It was the neocons who led us to arm and educate the radical Islamists of western Pakistan to fight the Soviets. It was neocons like George H.W. Bush, Oliver North, Elliott Abrams, Caspar Weinberger and Richard “The Dick” Cheney who arranged to sell arms to Iran in exchange for the illegal funding of death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua. It was the neocons who supported the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in hopes that the Taliban would allow US oil companies to build a pipeline across Afghanistan so that they could gain access to Caspian oil and gas. It was neocons like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby and Condoleeza Rice who used the attacks of 9/11 to lead us into Iraq in order to ensure access to Iraqi oil.

More recently, neocon-lite Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for direct military involvement in Libya and Syria despite the fact that many of the militias involved in the war to overthrow Assad in Syria are allied with al-Qaeda. McCain, Graham and other warmongers from both political parties have called for increased sanctions on Iran – even as serious negotiations are underway – a move that would be likely to result in war with Iran. And now, the neocons are calling for confrontation and intervention in Ukraine. They are claiming that the problems in Ukraine are the result of the Obama administration’s “weak” foreign policy.

Seriously?

What do they want the administration to do? Invade Ukraine despite the fact that Ukraine has long been allied with Russia? Such an intervention rightly would be seen by Russia as an act of war. Since the end of the USSR, we have already broken our promises by moving NATO to the very doorstep of Russia, a move that is seen as a very real threat. We have already deployed our missile defense system in Europe, an act that is also seen as a threat to Russia by making a US first strike seem like a real possibility.

Any threat to use military force in Ukraine would, in effect, create a reverse version of the Cuban missile crisis. And there’s no guarantee that Putin is as realistic as Nikita Kruschev and as determined to avoid nuclear war.

The Project for the New American Century ended in 2006 in the aftermath of the group’s disastrous plan to invade and remake Iraq. Unfortunately, its members and proponents, including Richard “The Dick” Cheney, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, William Bennett, Jeb Bush, Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle and many others continue to sell the same bad ideas. Their ideas need to be relegated to the toxic waste dump of history where they belong. While we’re at it, we should bury the racist notion of American “Exceptionalism” along with the top-down economic policy known as Reaganomics, aka Trickle Down theory, Horse and Sparrow economics, and Voodoo economics. It’s time to leave the military and economic thinking of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries behind us.

It is a new century with new possibilities. It requires new thinking and new strategies.

Let’s Sit This War Out.

By my calculations, the US has been at war all but 33 years of our existence. And that doesn’t even include many of the “police” actions and minor intrusions into other nations.

Now many in Congress are beating the war drums again. They want us to do more to help depose Syria’s al-Assad by creating a no-fly zone and providing even more weapons to the rebels. But which rebels? Al Qaeda? Hezbollah? Those who cut out the hearts of their enemies and dined on them?

Fact is, there are some very bad actors involved in the Syrian killing fields, including President al-Assad’s forces. Moreover, Russia has decided to support al-Assad by providing more sophisticated weapons, including ground-to-air missiles.

Do we want to provoke a conflict with Russia? With neighboring Iran? Do we want to embroil the entire region in the conflict? Do we want to sacrifice the lives of even more of our soldiers? Do we want to pour billions more of our taxpayers’ money down a Middle Eastern rat hole? I think not.

It’s not cowardice to refuse to fight a war that lacks a clear objective and a predictable outcome.