Netanyahu's Greatest Insult Is to the American People

Netanyahu’s Greatest Insult Is to the American People

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, in which he called Obama’s negotiation a “very bad deal,” generated plenty of umbrage in Washington. The Congressional Black Caucus protested the speech, Nancy Pelosi was insulted, President Obama dismissed it as containing ‘nothing new.’ All of this is significant for demonstrating that the Republican Senator from Israel gave such a deeply controversial speech to Congress that he threatens to make his country’s half-century alliance with the United States a partisan issue for the first time. But Netanyahu’s greatest slight was not to the government or the Democratic party or any particular leaders. Bibi’s greatest insult was to the American people.

In 2008, Barack Obama came out of nowhere to edge out The Inevitable One, Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton had voted to authorize war in Iraq, Senator Obama had not. The rest is history. Obama’s promise to pull out of Iraq defeated McCain’s promise to stay there forever. Obama’s insistence on diplomacy with Iran checkmated Romney’s insistence on confrontation, along with a meddling Netanyahu and the powerful American Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson egging them on. As president, Obama has expanded Bush’s drone war in the badlands of Waziristan, swooped in and bodybagged bin Laden, has wound down the war in Afghanistan more slowly than expected, has yet to close Guantanamo, helped Europe topple Gaddafi, is bombing ISIS in support of the Kurds, and is flexing NATO muscle in the Baltics. These are arguably products of the turbulent times he inherited, produced in no small part by Bush’s interventionism hastening the end of America’s ‘unipolar moment.’ But most importantly, he will leave office with net fewer hot wars than Bush got the US into, and without having committed American ground forces to an extended engagement, fulfilling an implicit promise to the American people. That is, unless Benjamin Netanyahu gets his way.

Nuclear proliferation in the cauldron of the Middle East poses a long term existential threat to civilization as we know it. For this reason, a nuclear armed Iran is officially unacceptable to the security apparatus of the United States, and that of much of the world. The US is officially prepared to go to war to prevent Iran from getting a bomb. Obama, and the UN Security Council plus Germany hold that it would be far better that we never have to find out whether the US would actually go to war with Iran. Make no mistake, a war with Iran would be absolutely nothing like the war in Iraq. Given China’s and Russia’s economic and military interests in Iran, Iran’s hard power capabilities, its proxies and allies around the region, and its ability to blockade a third of the world’s oil flow at the Strait of Hormuz, it would be a confrontation potentially more dangerous and unpredictable than any since World War II. This is arguably why the CIA put the brakes on the Bush administration banging the war drums on Iran in 2007, by revealing that Iran had, in fact halted uranium enrichment in 2003.

The American people, I believe, fundamentally understand this. They understand that the Iraq war was a strategic debacle for the ages, and learned the painful lesson writ in flag-draped coffins, that the Middle East cannot be remade through war. More to the point, the American people are a naturally isolationist people. In spite of the American government’s seemingly endless temptation to foreign misadventure, the American people always default to wishing to leave the world alone. Our Founders cautioned us to avoid entangling alliances, and not to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. This was as much a reflection of American values as received wisdom both then and now. After every big war, America turns inward for nearly a generation. Seeing the danger of the growing menace in Europe, Franklin Roosevelt probably provoked Japan into attacking the US in order to move the American people, deeply isolationist following World War I, into mobilizing for war. Obama’s entire administration has been in a similar position. He was elected and reelected by a nation fed up with the neocons who had lied us into the killing sands of Iraq. And he is constrained in his ability to use force abroad, because the American people would broadly oppose it.

When Netanyahu undermines the entire foreign policy process of the United States by crashing into Congress like the Kool-Aid Man to tell the clapping seals of Congress that he doesn’t like the negotiations that are currently underway, he isn’t just seeking to co-opt the Republican Party, he isn’t just trying to kneecap the President, what he really wants is the Pentagon. Iranian power in the Middle East is trending upward, while Israel’s is static. This is mostly because Bush’s invasion of Iraq allowed Iran to largely fill the horrendous power vacuum it created. Obama applied sanctions to arrest Iran’s progress. This brought the mullahs to the table. The US, and much of the world have agreed to ease sanctions if it will shelve an Iranian bomb. If Iran can be held to its promises through carrots and sticks, then even a relatively short breakout time to an assembled bomb of more than a year and a half, would leave the world enough time to catch the Ayatollah and threaten him to stop. This should be viewed as an acceptable compromise that avoids a bloodbath. Iran will never be powerful enough to directly threaten the US. And as long as Israel maintains normal relations with the US, Iran will never be able to threaten Israel without inviting its own destruction. But this isn’t good enough for Netanyahu. He wants to maintain Israel’s regional hegemony. Israel is not powerful enough to peg Iran back by itself, but the US is, albeit at great cost. Netanyahu wants America to punch Iran in the face so that he will hold greater power in the region than the Ayatollah. That Iran can punch right back is meaningless to him.

This is a profound insult to the American people. We pay taxes, we vote, we protest, we bleed and die, to maintain, restrain, and, when called upon, support the world’s most powerful military. But it is a legitimate military only insomuch as it is our democratically controlled military. It is hard enough to rein in our own elected leaders from the temptations to excess of power that the Pentagon presents. Netanyahu came into our house uninvited, at least by protocol, lectured us with old news about how scary the Iranian government is, just like Bush did to gin up fear about Saddam, and presumed to tell us that he knows what our military is for better than we do. To be told by a foreign leader that we should prepare to use our military, sacrifice our sons and daughters, at his behest, before exhausting all the diplomatic and peaceful alternatives that we voted for, is an astounding, and I dare say, unprecedented, slap in the face of the American people. The Israeli people may be an ally to the American people. But by insulting our intelligence, Benjamin Netanyahu has proven unequivocally that he is anything but an ally.

Feature image via YouTube.

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

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Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App