A Dangerous Resolution

Neoconservative Joe Lieberman is leading a group of nearly one-third of the U.S. Senate in demanding that President Obama stop Iran from achieving even a nuclear weapon “capability.” But ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar says such loose rhetoric can put the country on a dangerous course toward war.

By Paul R. Pillar

Delineating the nation’s interests starts with the basics: the security and well-being of our citizens in our own homeland. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, those sorts of things. There is no controversy about this, and the nation would and should spare no costs or risks to uphold these core interests.

National interests go far beyond the core to include as well many other things overseas. But few of those other things are so vital that they would be worth incurring every conceivable cost or risk to bring them about. Some things that are not in U.S. interests the United States may need to live with, because there is no way to avoid them short of measures that would damage U.S. interests even more.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, with other senators, speaking about sanctions on Iran

Congress, as representative of the American people, has a proper and important role in declaring what is or is not in the interests of the United States. But if such declarations are not to be a useless and potentially endless laundry list of nice-to-haves, members of Congress need to do a couple of other things.

They need to explain why something is in U.S. interests, preferably by relating it to the core life-and-liberty stuff. And they need to stipulate to what lengths, and at what costs and risks, the United States should go to pursue the objective in question.

A sense-of-the Senate resolution on Iran that Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, along with numerous cosponsors, introduced last week does neither of those things. The key operative language in the resolution “affirms that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability” and “rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran,” further calling on the president to “oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

The resolution’s preambulary language, with 19 “whereas” clauses, runs through a familiar litany of things people don’t like about Iran, from the Iranian president’s anti-Israeli rhetoric to weird alleged plots to assassinate ambassadors in Washington. But nothing in the resolution identifies how or why containment of a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran would be different from the status quo in any way that would damage a “vital national interest” of the United States.

It would be easy to imagine a similar resolution about the Soviet Union when it was about to get its first nuclear weapon in the late 1940s. There certainly would be plenty of good material for the preambulary clauses. “Whereas the USSR is ruled by a bloodthirsty dictator who has killed millions and enslaved many more, has used force to subjugate half of Europe,” etc. the Senate “opposes any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Soviet nuclear threat.” George Kennan, rest in peace.

The new resolution, despite ostensibly aiming for an agreement with Iran, would damage the prospects for negotiating any such agreement. The resolution calls for terms that are understandably nonstarters for Iran.

In referring to “the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities,” the resolution appears to rule out an Iranian enrichment program under international supervision and inspection, which almost certainly would have to be part of any formula that could gain the agreement of both Iran and the Western powers.

Incredibly, the resolution also calls for “the verified end of Iran’s ballistic missile programs.” This goes beyond any United Nations resolutions on Iran, which talk about nuclear capability of missiles, and even beyond anything ever demanded of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for which range limits were imposed. It would be understandable if Tehran reads such language as further evidence that the United States is interested not in any negotiated agreement but instead only in regime change.

By declaring “nuclear weapons capability” rather than acquisition of a nuclear weapon to be unacceptable, the resolution also blurs red lines in a way that may flash green lights to Israel to launch a military attack on Iran.

This resolution also walks the United States farther down a path to launching its own war against Iran. This stems partly from the resolution’s very silence on how far the United States should go to try to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, implying that anything goes. It also stems from the usual way in which declarations of national interests or objectives are subsequently exploited.

Such declarations are habitually invoked by those pushing for action, obliterating any distinction between core, defend-at-all-costs interests and other objectives. The exploiters say, “If we agree that this is in our national interest, then why aren’t we doing whatever it takes to attain it?”

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

9 comments for “A Dangerous Resolution

  1. Judah tje Lion
    February 29, 2012 at 12:42

    Wisse: Harvard’s Latest Assault on Israel
    Promoting the Jewish State’s destruction at a school dedicated to ‘democratic governance.’
    Ruth Wisse..
    Wall Street Journal..
    28 February ’12..

    In 1948, when the Arab League declared war on Israel, no one imagined that six decades later American universities would become its overseas agency. Yet campus incitement against Israel has been growing from California to the New York Island. A conference at Harvard next week called “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution” is but the latest aggression in an escalating campaign against the Jewish state.

    The sequence is by now familiar: Arab student groups and self-styled progressives organize a conference or event like “Israeli Apartheid Week,” targeting Israel as the main problem of the Middle East. They frame the goals of these events in buzzwords of “expanding the range of academic debate.” But since the roster of speakers and subjects makes their hostile agenda indisputable, university spokespersons scramble to dissociate their institutions from the events they are sponsoring. Jewish students and alums debate whether to ignore or protest the aggression, and newspapers fueling the story give equal credence to Israel’s attackers and defenders.

    A featured speaker at Harvard’s conference is Ali Abunimah, creator of the website Electronic Intifada, who opposes the existence of a “Jewish State” as racist by virtue of being Jewish. A regular on this circuit, he also keynoted a recent University of Pennsylvania conference urging “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) of, from and against Israel. Ostensibly dedicated to protecting Palestinian Arabs from Israeli oppression, BDS has by now achieved the status of an international “movement,” some of whose branches exclude Israeli academics from their journals and conferences.

    But the economic war on Israel did not start with BDS. In 1945, before the founding of Israel, the Arab League declared a boycott of “Jewish products and manufactured goods.” Ever since, the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office has tried to enforce a triple-tiered boycott prohibiting importation of Israeli-origin goods and services, trade with any entity that does business in Israel, and engagement with any company or individual that does business with firms on the Arab League blacklist. Although the U.S. Congress took measures to counteract this boycott, and the Damascus Bureau may be temporarily preoccupied on other fronts, the boycott momentum has been picked up by Arab students and academics.

    Freedom of speech grants all Americans the right to prosecute the verbal war against Israel. But let’s differentiate toleration from abetting. Harvard may tolerate smoking, butits medical school wouldn’t sponsor a conference touting the benefits of cigarettes because doctors have learned that smoking is hazardous to health. The avowed mission of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, host of the upcoming conference, “is to strengthen democratic governance around the world by preparing people for public leadership and by helping to solve problems of public policy.” How farcical that instead of seeking to strengthen democratic governance, its students hijack its forum for “studying” how to destroy the hardiest democracy in the Middle East.

    The pattern of anti-Israel attack, administrative embarrassment, Jewish confusion, and media exploitation of the story will continue until all parties realize that the war against Israel is fundamentally different from biases to which it is often compared. Once Americans acknowledged the evils of their discrimination against African-Americans, they abjured their racism and tried through affirmative action to compensate for past injustice. Arab and Muslim leaders have done the opposite. Having attempted to deny Jews their right to their one country, they accused Jews of denying Arabs their 22nd. After losing wars on the battlefield, they prosecuted the war by other means.

    Students who are inculcated with hatred of Israel may want to express their national, religious or political identity by urging its annihilation. But universities that condone their efforts are triple offenders—against their mission, against the Jewish people, and perhaps most especially against the maligners themselves. Smoking is less fatal to smokers than anti-Jewish politics is to its users. Remember Hitler’s bunker.

    Ms. Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, is the author of
    “Jews and Power” (Schocken, 2007).

  2. Frank
    February 26, 2012 at 10:52

    Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

    William Shakespeare

  3. Carax
    February 25, 2012 at 12:31

    I’d like to hear in the news: Obama mounts an offensive and leads that same one third of the Senate against Lieberman. But Obama doesn’t have the character to crack down on that fear-monger. Americans have only themselves to blame for voting and keeping these sociopaths in office. With all the cloak and dagger activities going on out there, you’d think there’d be at least a dozen ways to get rid of that sociopath Lieberman once and for all.

    • neo-realist
      February 27, 2012 at 00:49

      Lieberman is the “Man from AIPAC”. There is no way a weasel like Obama will challenge the power of the Israeli Lobby in an election year and risk being called anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic.

      We’ll have to hope that Netanyahu loses his nerve and calls off any attempt to bomb Iran, particularly since we’re not going to help them and we don’t want any part of Iran in a war.

  4. Mick
    February 25, 2012 at 01:08

    For the life of me I cannot believe we are putting up with this. What is worst is I am sure many Americans agree we should attack Iran. Quite simply at this rate World War 3 is just around the corner. Something that is incredible considering we really have no enemies!

  5. Otto Schiff
    February 25, 2012 at 00:41

    Lieberman and Netanyahu are fascists.
    The congress and the president should have no problem to deal with this problem. President George Bush caused untold misery and death with his war policies. Lieberman and Netanyahu are warmongers and must be stopped.
    Aside of the misery these constant military adventures are bankrupting us.

  6. Hillary
    February 24, 2012 at 21:09

    Zionists main support is from their “crazed” Christian supporters.

    Commonly referred to as “Jews for Jesus” Christians , they believe in Wacky Biblical Rapture ,Gog Maygog & other prophesies in their Messianic madness.

    Orthodox Jew Joseph Lieberman is proud to be a super neocon , who is not ashamed in having a first loyalty to a foreign power and who with his lies promoted the invasion of Iraq resulting in over 300,000 dead ,crippled and diseased Americans.

    In a logical society this would amount to treason but in the sureal U.S.A this scenario is being repeated by Lieberman and his ilk who instead of being behind bars are allowed to promote MORE war against Iran which is in nobody’s interest except that of a rabid right wing Likud section of Israel.

    Do Zionists put the interests of Israel ahead of the interests of the countries they live in ?

    BTW –Joseph Lieberman yet another who thinks anyone who disagrees with him is antisemitic

    • Judah the Lion
      February 28, 2012 at 19:07

      Israel Apartheid Week: Teaching Hate on College Campuses

      : Online Documentary Exposes Anti-Israel Incitement on Campus During “Israel Apartheid Week”

      2012 marks the 8th annual “Israel Apartheid Week,” which takes place in February and March on dozens of college campuses and in cities around the world.

      The event, which will be held in the United States between February 27 and March 3, is a well-organized political assault designed to delegitimize, demonize, and cause the collapse of Israel by falsely portraying it as an apartheid state and applying double standards of moral conduct.

      As part of this week, a series of events will be held in cities and campuses across the globe in an attempt to characterize Israel as an apartheid state and to build support for the growing global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

      In response, United With Israel is joining JerusalemOnlineU.com, to present a free screening of their powerful 30-minute documentary film Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes to Campus, which exposes and counters this growing anti-Israel movement. Crossing the Line, produced by JerusalemOnlineU.com and part of their 5 part film series campaign, Step Up For Israel.

      Step Up For Israel is chaired by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and former Ambassador of Israel to the United Nations Dore Gold. “Films like Crossing the Line play a critical role in the information process by spotlighting basic truths about the Arab-Israeli conflict that are often ignored,” says Professor Dershowitz. “When students hear allegations about Israeli brutality or illegally built structures being leveled, they will now have the resources to respond in an informed and effective manner.”

      Click below to watch the video:

      Your browser does not support iframes.

      Please follow these three easy steps to spread this SHOCKING film:

      STEP 1 – Embed the following Widget on your website/Blog by copying and pasting the code:

      STEP 2 – Email the following text to your contacts (copy and paste):

      2012 marks the 8th annual “Israel Apartheid Week,” which takes place in February and March on dozens of college campuses and in cities around the world. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that this event exists. It is for this reason that we at United With Israel have teamed up with JerusalemOnlineU.com to make their, Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes To Campus, available FREE online. Crossing the Line tells the full story of what is happening on college campuses across the U.S and Canada and is the lead film in the Step Up For Israel film-series campaign. The Step Up For Israel campaign is co-chaired by Alan Dershowitz and Dore Gold.

      STEP 3 – Promote and share with your Facebook friends.

      Sign up to learn more and take Step up For Israel’s mini-course by clicking here.

      We urge you to contact Harvard University which will be hosting the “One State Conference,” organized entirely by student groups that advocate the elimination of the Jewish character of Israel. WE URGE YOU TO TELL HARVARD THAT THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.

      Email Harvard University directly at:
      [email protected]

      Click ‘LIKE’ to express your OUTRAGE of “Israel Apartheid Week.”

      Please ‘SHARE’ this shocking video with your family and friends!

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