If Iran were to build a nuclear weapon, the result would be catastrophic. A nuclear Iran would spur a regional nuclear arms race and Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf, embolden Iranian terror proxies like Hezbollah, and actualize the threat of a nuclear bomb being dropped on the United States and Israel, or in the words of Iran’s leaders, on the “Great Satan” and “Little Satan.” President Obama has said, “When I say all options are on the table, I mean it,” but is this enough to assure Israel — who unlike the United States does not have the safety of distance, size, or an advanced fleet of bomber jets — that Iran won’t “wipe Israel off of the map?”
In his speech at the AIPAC Policy conference in Washington D.C. this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’75 read a 1944 letter from the World Jewish Congress that begged the U.S. War Department to bomb Auschwitz, a German death camp that was murdering up to 10,000 Jews per day during World War II. In response, the War Department replied that such an attack “would be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources” and that “such an effort might revoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.” A retaliation more vindictive than the Holocaust?
This episode clearly demonstrates why Israel must retain the ability to autonomously defend herself — because Israel, as the Jewish State, is charged with the responsibility of preventing further attempts at Jewish annihilation. Israel cannot hold back on military action out of fear of a “more vindictive action” from Iran since there is nothing more vindictive than a nuclear attack. Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would mean another Holocaust, so if “never again” truly means never again, then it is imperative that Iran be stopped from getting nuclear weapons.
Those opposed to a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities cite a number of criticisms, like an air campaign only delaying Iran for a few years, driving Iran’s nuclear program further underground, legitimizing the Iranian regime, and possibly of inspiring “more vindictive action.” However, it is important to realize that almost any industrialized country can produce a nuclear weapon in 4–5 years, so any successful military attack could only achieve a maximum delay of a few years. Furthermore, if the Iranian nuclear facilities are significantly damaged, there is a chance that they might never rebuild their nuclear program, as was the case after Israel bombed the Osirak Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and destroyed the Syrian reactor in 2007. If a precedent for military action is set, it will act as a lasting deterrent for more than a few years.
When Israel’s Netanyahu met with President Obama this past Monday, both agreed that it was imperative to stop the possibility a nuclear-armed Iran. The two leaders, however, seemed to disagree on a timeline; Israel insists that military action come before Iran acquires the capability to manufacture a bomb, as opposed to before it actually builds one.
The disagreement stems out of varying military capability. Because the U.S. has a much more powerful Air Force (with “bunker busting” capabilities) than Israel, the U.S. has more time to wait before taking military action. Israel, on the other hand, has fewer fighter jets at its disposal and therefore has a shorter window to prevent Iran from bomb-making capabilities.
Obama has discouraged Israel from unilaterally bombing Iran, and instead has asked for time to further pursue sanctions and diplomacy. What Obama must realize is that if Israel misses this limited window of opportunity to strike, then she is completely reliant in the United States for military action against Iran. Such dependence is unacceptable from Israel’s viewpoint, and rightly so. It would only take one nuclear bomb to decimate Israel, which is comparable in size to the state of New Jersey. Israel, as the one Jewish State, has the obligation to protect the Jewish people from threats of annihilation, and they cannot put such an enormous responsibility completely in the hands of another country — even if that country is a close ally like the United States.
In 1981, the world doubted Israel’s ability to successfully attack the Osirak reactor, and many thought it an impossible mission. Today the world, and especially Iran, should not underestimate Israel’s military resourcefulness.