You’d think the once-gray lady would have learned from the Edward Luttwak debacle earlier this year, when its public editor was forced to apologize for the paper publishing an op-ed premised on utter nonsense. But no. Instead, the paper asks us to take seriously a manic rant from Israeli historian-turned-hysterian Benny Morris, warning that “Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.”
For a man who once applied the historian’s method of carefully weighing evidence from a wide variety of sources to establish the complex motives at work in historical conflict, the reasoning in Morris’s rant was shockingly adolescent, and bereft of precisely the craft through which he made his name.
It’s mostly a transparent kvetch about the fact that the U.S. is unlikely to start another war in the Middle East, suggesting that Israel will “almost certainly” do something really crazy if the U.S. doesn’t. “Israel, believing that its very existence is at stake — and this is a feeling shared by most Israelis across the political spectrum — will certainly make the effort.”
Well, no, Benny, actually, anyone with a historian’s take would recognize that despite the rhetoric of Israel’s leaders, few of those in the security and strategic echelon actually believe Israel’s existence is threatened by Iran’s nuclear program. That’s the packaged message for the American and international audience; the Israelis know firstly that their own 200 warheads are more than a match for Iran, and that Iran’s leadership — the clowning demagoguery of Ahmadinejad notwithstanding (although even he has taken to making clear Iran has no intention of attacking Israel) are national-interests-driven pragmatists.
I guess Benny didn’t get that email. He writes: “Given the fundamentalist, self-sacrificial mindset of the mullahs who run Iran, Israel knows that deterrence may not work as well as it did with the comparatively rational men who ran the Kremlin and White House during the cold war. They are likely to use any bomb they build, both because of ideology and because of fear of Israeli nuclear pre-emption.”
Benny the hysterian would have us believe that the last 30 years — for some period of which, by the way, Israel actually armed these “self-sacrificial” fundamentalist mullahs, and for much of which they cooperated pragmatically — have all simply been a preparation for the goal of launching a suicide attack on Israel. They’re likely to use any bomb they build out of ideology? Blimey! In the fevered mind of Benny Morris, the very raison d’etre of the regime in Tehran is to destroy Israel, knowing they’ll be destroyed in the process. The evidence for this uniquely self-centered apocalyptic view has yet to be produced, but that doesn’t seem to bother Morris — or, for that matter, the editorial page editors of the New York Times, who seem to be willing to believe just about anything they’re told about Mad Mullahs. Like the New York Post.