Israel’s doctrine of the talking dog / What is the best way to stifle Iran’s nuclear ambitions? (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OP-ED) Richard Cohen 03/21/12)
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Articles-Index-Top
Nations have doctrines. The Soviet Union had the Brezhnev Doctrine
and the United States had the Monroe Doctrine, among others. Even
little Israel has one. I call it the Maybe the Dog Will Talk
Doctrine, and it is based on a folk tale of the rabbi who makes a
preposterous deal with a tyrant: If the tyrant spares the lives of
local Jews for a year, the rabbi will teach the tyrant’s dog to talk.
When the rabbi tells his wife what he has done, she calls him a fool.
But, he says, “A year is a long time. In a year, the tyrant could die
or I could die” — and here he gives her a sly, wise rabbi smile — “or
maybe the dog will talk.”
All sorts of people either have not heard of the Maybe the Dog Will
Talk Doctrine or do not recognize its importance. (It was cited to me
by an Israeli official.) Both President Obama and Gen. Martin
Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have
characterized any Israeli attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program
as a short-term affair. An Israeli raid “wouldn’t achieve their long-
term objectives,” Dempsey said on CNN — and he is surely right.
But Israel also has a short-term objective — and that is to play for
time. Israel notes that its 1981 bombing of a nuclear reactor in Iraq
set back Saddam Hussein’s program — and did not result in some sort
of massive retaliation. Something similar happened with the 2007
bombing of a Syrian installation. Neither operation was conceived as
a long-term solution, but both accomplished short-term goals.
A note of exasperation can be detected in much of what is written
about Israel: Why can’t it just hang on? What’s wrong with
containment? It worked with the Soviet Union. It has worked with
North Korea. Pakistan has bombs galore, but no one is taking shelter
in the basement. How is Iran different?
Because it has explicitly threatened Israel. It supports Hezbollah in
Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, both terrorist groups with a
penchant for lobbing the occasional rocket into Israel. It acts
irresponsibly, plotting just recently to assassinate the Saudi
ambassador to the United States.
To understand Israel’s predicament, the book to read is “Start-up
Nation” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. Israel has a humming economy
with a marvelously vibrant high-tech sector. The statistics are
astounding. For instance, Israel, with fewer than 8 million people,
is second only to America when it comes to companies listed on the
Nasdaq — ahead of India, South Korea and even China.
Talent, though, is fungible. It can come to the United States, where
Israelis, as it happens, swarm all over Silicon Valley. Everyone has
a different figure, but at least 250,000 Israelis live in the U.S. —
maybe a lot more. These Israelis are in America for a variety of
reasons, but some of them may like the fact that nowhere in America
do rockets rain down or terrorists run amok. If Israel is to keep its
talent, it must provide a safe environment.
As long as Iran supports anti-Israel terrorist groups, Israel
remains — to one degree or another — a dangerous place. An Iran with
nuclear weapons becomes a more potent protector of its client
terrorist groups — maybe bolder and more reckless as well. Life
becomes less secure. This month, rockets hit cities in the south of
Israel. Had this happened in the U.S., we would be at war. Why Israel
is expected to live under such conditions is beyond me.
Sanctions may cause Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, if
indeed that’s where it is now heading. But critics of Israel’s
approach have to understand that Iran’s program looks different from
Tel Aviv than it does from Washington.
In the long run, an Israeli attack on Iran will accomplish nothing.
In the short run, it could accomplish quite a lot. (© Copyright 2012
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY