The Israeli Government’s Continuing Ineptitude

From comments by the Israeli foreign minister:

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Sunday that the world may have as little as “A few months” to avoid a nuclear Iran and called for sanctions.

I don’t understand this. Iran is a few months away from being able to produce enough fissionable material to build nuclear bombs, with which it has threatened to attack Israel, and the Israeli response is to call for multilateral sanctions that everybody knows will not work? This is Israel’s strongest diplomatic response to a straightforward threat of annihilation? It would have been much better if Livni had said nothing. Whatever military action Israel or the USA may (let us hope) be planning behind the scenes, this kind of public kabuki dance by western governments, and particularly by Israel, can only encourage the mullahs. Livni should say that Israel will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and leave it at that.

UPDATE: Here’s a finer-grained discussion of some of the diplomatic issues.

(Cross posted at 26th Parallel.)

15 thoughts on “The Israeli Government’s Continuing Ineptitude”

  1. The longer this saga with Iran continues, the higher the stature of the mullahs of Iran become in Islamic world. Dialogue, particularly religious dialogue (“my religion is better than yours” type of argument), is a complete waste of time with Islamic world and in fact it sends the wrong message with American soldiers paying the price for platform of the dialogue.

    I personally would prefer that the US took care of the problem for the state of Israel raises an extreme irrational hatred, including a hatred of Jews not associated with and/or critical of Israel, among people of faith in Islam. Even poli sci profs in the US (MIT & Chicago) have jumped on this bandwagon.

  2. The Israeli govt mayf or may not be inept, but they are a tiny country that had difficulties fighting Hezbollah. Why not the US as inept? Your country has the biggest military in history! Attack Iran? you lads having trouble with Iraq and Afghanistan…additionally, look to your own president and congress before you tell us that Israel has an inept government.

  3. The biggest military in history?

    The last time I checked, Finland’s army in WW2 was larger than the American army of today.

    The American army of WW2 consisted of roughly 100 divisions. We still have a small peacetime army, we’re just fighting wars with it.

  4. This calls back a comment by V.S. Naipaul a propos something: “When they say they will fight to the last man, that means they are about to surrender.” In this context: “When Israel starts talking diplomacy and talks, it means that preparations for military action are well under way…” The same with the USA: last year, Bush threatened military strikes. The threat didn’t work. Time for the real thing, with an element of surprise.

  5. As I understand it from people who have more knowledge of such matters, Iran is, in fact, further away than that from having any kind of nuclear weapon but one cannot, of course, rely on that. But, as I also understand it, we are not talking about one reactor like Osirac (or OChirac, as it was known) but many smaller, well-hidden targets. Precisely, what do you think the Israelis can do to eliminate the danger completely? Bomb Iran to smithereens?

  6. Jaroslaw: Let’s hope.

    Helen: I think Edward Luttwak put it best when he argued that 1) no one on the outside really knows how close Iran is to having a bomb, since the estimates are based on assumptions about things like numbers of centrifuges, which could easily be off by factors of two or more, and 2) the task is not to harm Iranian society but rather to interrupt a complex industrial process that has many weak points.

  7. Moreover, perhaps non-military solutions have proven to be the better course, given the world’s most recent military incursions based on faulty intel. At the very least, perhaps we want something a little more before committing to battle?

  8. Josh, that article is comparing the combined army/naval/air force sizes of the countries involved, without providing a breakdown as to what they are in that regard.

    And furthermore, that wasn’t the point I was trying to make.

    The US military isn’t “the most powerful military in all of history.” It’s a relatively small peacetime army.

    In WW2 we had about ten million people under arms, total. We had 100 divisions, more or less, of combat ground forces.

    Currently the army has about 10 active-duty divisions plus various regiment/brigade sized forces. I _think_ the Marines have three divisions.

  9. Phil, I get your point. Yet, it still stands at least as to “comparing the combined army/naval/air force sizes of the countries involved,” that we have second biggest force. Is it smaller than in WWII? Indeed. It would seem logical that for a war fought prior to the advances in military technology, when bodies still provided the brunt of the force, one would see troop sizes in the many millions. I would venture that Hiroshima put an end to the need for such sizes. Sort of like the advent of the crossbow made the longbow obsolete. Without even getting into a Rumsfeldian discussion of a smaller, fleeter fighting force, progression in military technology would indicate there will never be a ten-million-man military in any country.

    I find it hard not to conclude that our nuclear arsenal alone constitutes “the most powerful military in all of history.”

  10. “I would venture that Hiroshima put an end to the need for such sizes.” Not just need, utility or even sanity. Massive forces like that would invite a nuclear attack. Martin van Creveld wrote about this in several places. Since the advent of nuclear weapons we have seen a collapse in the size of militaries, with good reason. Nuclear weapons are the great pacifiers. Combat deaths in the second half of the 20th Century are miniscule compared to the industrial era wars. The peak was 1945 and it has been an accelerating decline ever since.

  11. Josh, your point about the relative sizes of militaries would matter more if we were sending out our infantry divisions to fight a duel with their infantry divisions in some empty field somewhere.

    And about the nuclear weapons… until we’re actually ready to preemptively use them on someone, or threaten to unless they meet our demands, they only have deterrent value.

    If I were defense secretary I would be trying to modestly increace the size of the military, and my budget, and I’d probably do some things differently than Rumsfeld, although I think he has done an admirable job of trying to persevere with limited resources.

    I don’t really have time to go into details now, and I think it’s outside the scope of this discussion.

  12. I agree with Lex and didn’t mean to get on a tagent with Phil. I was just commenting on his comment that ours is not “most powerful in military history.”

  13. “… most powerful in military history.” I’m not sure what this actually would mean. All power is relative, especially military power. Moeover, because power relationships are dynamic, relative military power is always in motion.

    Sometimes a fleeting disparity will allow a military to rise to an extreme level of dominance. The Portuguese dominance of the Indian Ocean for a few generations comes to mind. No one could lay a glove on them, due to the massive superiority of their sailing ships and cannon. See Carlo Cipolla’s Guns, Sails and Empires: Technological Innovation and European Expansion 1400–1700. That kind of thing can never last. On the other hand, sometimes a society can generate an advantage due to its efficiency and its foundational strengths that can last for a long time. The Roman empire and its legions are an example of this.

    If we define military power means being able to subject others to your will by force, the US military may or may not be the most powerful ever. I tend to think it is a contender, if only because of its massive reach. There is literally nowhere on the planet it cannot reach. On the other hand, it is not large by historical standards, and labor intensive tasks appear to be beyond it.

    So, are we more like the Porguguese or the Romans? I’d say the Romans. Further, has history taken a fork in the road with the advent of nuclear weapons that means that these issues will no longer be relevant? Some say so. I disagree. Free and wealthy societies by their very nature will always be surrounded by enemies and will always require defense, whether legions or fleets of men-o-war, or special operations forces hunting down nuclear terrorists.

    Finally, I tend to think that pound for pound the Mongol hordes were more powerful relative to their many victims, over a larger area, for a longer period of time, than any other organized military force that has ever existed. So, they would be my candidate for all time winner in the “most powerful military” category.

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