Among the ideas most thoroughly discredited by the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the notion of "preventive war" to avert supposed future threats. Now, as the nation approaches the 10th anniversary of that disaster, a bipartisan group of legislators isn't just seeking to commit the United States to another preventive war, this time against Iran. Their non-binding resolution advocates giving Israel the power to make that decision.
One day after the U.S. and five other powers concluded talks with Iran over its nuclear program, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) unveiled a new Congressional resolution in support of possible Israeli strikes against Tehran. Among other things, the resolution co-sponsored by 14 other Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY):
Urges that if Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States will stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.That's not all. Departing from President Obama's stated policy that the United States will "prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Senator Graham instead said America must "prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability." That much lower threshold advocated by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would require (or may already require) the destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities. And in Lindsey Graham's formula, if Israel believes it is "compelled to take military action in self-defense," Washington must come to its aid:
"The people who want to destroy Israel very much have us in their crosshairs, too. So our fates are tied together here...
Now, this resolution is not a declaration or authorization to use force. It is a statement that in the event that Israel acts in self-defense -this is not a green-light to Israel to do anything other than defend herself--if the Israeli people believe they have to act in self-defense against the existential threat of a nuclear capable Iran, we will be there."
To be sure, a nuclear Iran would alter the balance of power in the Middle East and likely trigger a regional arms race with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But Israeli and American national security interests are not identical. For the United States, a "nuclear capable" and a "nuclear armed" Iran are two very different things. While President Obama apparently shares the Republicans' belief that a nuclear Tehran cannot be contained or deterred, that's a debate the American people must have. And that's a debate Americans must have before the United States finds itself fighting a regional conflict as a result of a new preventive war launched by Israel.