In September The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg published a lengthy article examining the case for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. While describing his position on his blog as "deep, paralyzing ambivalence," he nevertheless offered an extremely sympathetic ear to the most hawkish side, as well as a favorable context for its arguments. While Goldberg admitted the possibility that "'foiling operations' conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran's progress in some significant way," he dismissed this alternative as decidedly unlikely.
But hey, that's just what happened. According to a detailed report in the New York Times—far and away America's greatest news organization in these days of degraded reporting budgets—the Israelis, with help from Siemens AG, created a computer worm called Stuxnet that not only sent "Iran's nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control" but also "secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators" to hide what was happening. Now that a "number of technological challenges and difficulties" have beset Iran's program, Moshe Yaalon, Israel's minister of strategic affairs, explains, Iran's nuclear timetable has been "postponed."
This development ought to be a cause for joy among all people outside the Iranian leadership's anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying circles. A military attack, whether American or Israeli, might have postponed the timetable as well, but at a horrific cost in human and strategic terms. As Nobel Peace Prize–winning Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi recently warned, "The military option...is the worst option.... The Iranian people—including myself—will resist any military action." It would, she added, "give the government an excuse to kill all of its political opponents, as was done during the Iran-Iraq war." Ebadi even suggested that for these reasons, the Iranian government "wouldn't mind the U.S. throwing a missile at them."
The departing head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, gave a series of exit interviews in which he echoed this view, adding that an attack—as paraphrased by Amos Harel in Haaretz—"would make the Iranian people rally around the regime, would make Israeli-American relations extremely difficult and could result in a war, in which the Israeli home front will be bombed by thousands of rockets and missiles from Iran, Lebanon and Gaza."
So who are the people who wished to expose Israel and the United States to this fate, and who—like, quite possibly, Mr. Ahmadinejad—would have welcomed an American or Israeli attack? Not surprisingly, they are almost exactly the same folks who agitated for an American attack on Iraq—an attack, by the way, whose myriad catastrophic consequences involved vastly increasing the influence of Iran not only in Iraq but across the entire region.
Among the biggest boosters were Israelis, Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael Oren, writing in The New Republic (before the latter was appointed by Bibi Netanyahu as ambassador to the United States), along with armchair warriors William Kristol, Newt Gingrich, R. James Woolsey, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Lindsey Graham, Sarah Palin, Elliott Abrams, Daniel Pipes and David Broder. The last four made the argument in the context of trying to goad Barack Obama into a war for the purposes of improving his standing at home. Shocking, I know, but check the evidence:
Abrams: "The Obama who had struck Iran and destroyed its nuclear program would be a far stronger candidate, and perhaps an unbeatable one."
Palin: "I think people would, perhaps, shift their thinking a little bit and decide, 'Well, maybe he's tougher than we think.'"
Pipes: "A strike on Iranian facilities would dispatch Obama's feckless first year down the memory hole and transform the domestic political scene. It would...make netroots squeal, independents reconsider, and conservatives swoon."
Broder: "With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve."
While one expects such shamelessness from neoconservatives—most of whom to this day cannot admit their role in pushing the United States toward a ruinous war in Iraq—the willingness of Broder to resort to a "war is the health of the state" argument presents perhaps the saddest chapter in the decline of a once-respected pundit who should have been forcibly retired long ago.
The ability of the Israelis to find a peaceful, albeit temporary solution to the problem of Iran's nuclear ambitions—and contrary to the view of many on the left, it is a problem not only for Israel but for the entire world—ought to serve as a warning to Obama and company against listening to any of these incautious warmongers ever again. After all, Bolton went so far as to insist in August that Israel had only "eight days" left to initiate an attack before it was too late. Yet every last one of them has been proven wrong. The Stuxnet worm has helped to save the world from the horrific consequences described by Iranian human rights leaders and the recent head of the Israeli spy service.
You'd practically have to be Sarah Palin to imagine that the likes of Abrams, Kristol, Bolton and Broder know any better.