According to Michael Gerson, it's not good enough that the President of the United States evaluate the intelligence provided by U.S. intelligence agencies, consult with U.S. military leaders, and form a U.S. foreign and military policy based upon U.S. goals and interests.
Here is a paradox for President Obama to ponder while traversing the Iranian minefield: If the Israelis were confident that America would act decisively against the Iranian nuclear threat in the greatest extremity, they would be far less likely to act themselves. Lacking that confidence, they may conclude, once again, that delaying the threat is good enough.No, here's a fact of life. President Obama, like President Bush, is entitled to conclude that a military attack on Iran would not be sufficiently effective to stop a nuclear power program, would not bring about a delay in that program that is significant to justify military intervention, would potentially cause blowback and complication of the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention complicating the situations in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories), and would otherwise be contrary to U.S. foreign policy interests. Israel is a sovereign nation, is entitled to disagree, and is entitled to form its own military policy.
There's no "paradox" on the U.S. side. If Israel chooses to exercise its right as a sovereign nation to attack Iran, despite having been instructed by two consecutive Presidents that the U.S. opposes any such attack, that is their right. We don't owe them a promise that there will be no consequences for such an attack, let alone insinuating that we might carry out an attack so that they "don't have to". Gerson wants to get us into something that could end up like Georgia, round II - a U.S.-backed political leader takes provocative military action in anticipation that the U.S. will back him militarily if that action provokes a strong response. I'll again emphasize, Iran's response could be to complicate or jeopardize the U.S. missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Gerson offers this understatement:
If Israeli planes were to fly over Iraq, the reaction against America in that country could get ugly. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would probably be forced to step away from talks with Israel. Iran could escalate the crisis, with missile launches against Israel and attacks from terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah.Does Gerson have even the slightest idea of what would happen if Iran's border suddenly became porous, whether due to a real or contrived redirection of Iranian military forces to actions other than border defense, enabling hit-and-run attacks against U.S. military supply lines?
If Gerson or certain hawkish Israeli leaders see this, or the Administration's other efforts to advance U.S. military and foreign policy interests in the region, as "inject[ing] considerable suspicion into the American-Israeli relationship", that's really not Obama's problem. Sometimes our goals will conflict with those of even our most reliable allies, and yet we pursue them anyway.
As Gerson admits, his beloved former master, President Bush, held the same position as Obama on military strikes against Iran, and followed "the same basic approach" in dealing with Iran. Moreover, it seemed to be a point of pride for Bush to thumb his nose at the warnings and skepticism of our nation's historic allies. Perhaps Gerson should instead be contemplating how Bush's war of choice in Iraq likely both accelerated nuclear weapons programs in nations like Iran and North Korea, and has painted us into a corner in regard to Iran.