Alliance or Enablement?
Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on “Good Morning America” Tuesday. ABC News’ Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.
“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” Clinton said. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”
It is, of course, a good thing from time to time to remind folks that an attack on one of our allies is something that we would retaliate against. To that extent, I have no issue with what Clinton said.
Still, one thing that I think bears mentioning is that the tone of her response is a little too aggressive for my taste, considering that Clinton isn’t talking about retaliating against an attack on the United States, but rather Israel. For one thing, I’m a little disappointed that Clinton didn’t take GMA to task for the premise of the question. Namely, the fact that Iran doesn’t actually possess any nuclear weapons to attack Israel with.
Secondly, I find it a little problematic that Clinton offered an unequivocal commitment to “obliterate” Iran in the event that Iran attacked Israel. What if Israel attacked Iran first? Would we back them unequivocally then? No matter what the cause or reason for Israel’s attack?
I am all for having alliances with nations who share our values and interests, and I don’t have too much of a problem with providing defensive commitments for those countries. But we do need to consider the tone and nature of those commitments. Clinton is hardly alone in her aggressive defense of Israel–it’s a pretty common consensus inside the Beltway, and it bears a lot of similarity to our overtures of support in the event of Taiwanese independence and other similar situations. But I do wonder at what point, that our willingness to defend an ally enables them to be more aggressive. If we firmly supported Israel, but without the unequivocally aggressive stance, to what extent might that encourage Israel to seek a more diplomatic rapprochement with other Arab nations? Maybe some, maybe not at all–I’m just thinking out loud about the issue right now, and my thoughts aren’t fully formed on this.
Still, I suppose I find these statements troublesome because, quite frankly, the United States has its own interests in the Middle East, and not all of those interests coincide with Israel’s. Consequently, I feel like there’s a possibility that statements like this make supporting our own interests more problematic.