Goldberg and Sullivan, in their own ways, try to be more pro-American and pro-Israel … doesn’t look good

The Goldblog-Sullivan Consensus

“Hillary Clinton has apparently chewed-out Bibi Netanyahu for allowing his rogue coalition partner, the Shas Party, to subvert Joe Biden’s trip to Israel, and more importantly, for creating conditions on the ground that subvert the moderate Palestinian government in Ramallah, and subvert any hopes for negotiations, direct or indirect. Hillary has picked a smart fight, which is to say, a fight that is not about Iran, a subject on which Israelis are unified, but a fight about East Jerusalem housing growth, a subject on which the majority of Israelis are ambivalent, or worse,” – Jeffrey Goldberg, yesterday.

Here’s the part of Goldberg’s post that’s uncomfortably not part of this golden consensus and which Andrew does not quote:

I might be over-optimistic here, but maybe this scolding will help Bibi focus on what’s important: Keeping Israel in America’s good graces so that the two countries can together figure out a way to neutralize the Iranian threat.

(Emphasis mine.) Unlike Jeffrey Goldberg, Andrew does not think it’s possible to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Instead, he thinks America’s interest in Iran is to wait, in benign passivity, for an democratic revolution in Iran, which could have profound democratic, pro-American effects across the Middle East.

But wouldn’t letting Iran get a nuclear weapon represent a victory for Ahmadinejad, and increase the regime’s domestic support? It’s incredible, but I don’t think Andrew hasn’t addressed this question — not even after prominent Greens have even warned us about the domestic consequences of letting Iran get a nuclear weapon.

Turning to Israel’s interests, Andrew seems to  have convinced himself that Israel is not threatened by an Iranian nuclear bomb. Furthermore, Israel can only be safer from Iran once (a) the victory by the Green Movement causes a whole Middle East sea change, a long-term possibility, and (b) Israel gets any Palestinian peace deal it can in the very short term, which would somehow undermine the military effectiveness of Iranian proxies in Syria, Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank. (Thomas Freedman has a throwaway line that seems to indicate “B” — “and the best way to isolate Iran is to take the Palestinian conflict card out of Tehran’s hand” — without any argument about whether it will be necessary to extra-isolate Iran and how this would undermine its military effectiveness.)

Andrew’s A+B is an incoherent viewpoint that shouldn’t win the confidence of many Israelis. The best Andrew can do is assure them they must take on faith (and on his mostly disavowed pre-2003 writing) that he is “pro-Israel,” and that he is merely trying to help “rescue the Jewish state from the perils of its own hubris and paranoia” … If that doesn’t work with 80% of Israelis, we know he’ll feel better once he condemns them as part of the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing.

Meanwhile, on Bloggingheads, David Frum and Robert Wright are arguing about our approach to Iran. Frum reiterates that there should be no American or Israeli military strike, in the interest of a Green (counter-)revolution. Then, he argues that sanctions are the way, but that the Obama administration isn’t particularly motivated to get any sort of sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program. The Dish of course has vehemently disagreed that Obama is not really invested in getting sanctions.

Frum argues that the administration has instead resigned itself to Iran eventually gaining a nuclear weapon program. Since this resignation happens to be the Dish’s position on Iran’s nuclear weapon, it perhaps undermines Andrew’s vehement disagreement about the administration’s intentions.

Here’s the relevant exchange. I’m not sure the Obama administration has given up; I am sure that Andrew has given up, until it again seems necessary for him to revise his ideological history.

Is there a way to split the difference between Frum and Wright? Why not look at sanctions as a pyramid that we go down. First we target the revolutionary guard, and high-powered regime figures, an idea that Andrew belatedly accepted. This might help show the Iranian people that America does not want to hurt them, but has important interests in regional stability in not letting the regime get a nuclear weapon.

Then, if the Green Movement does not seem to be making progress fast enough, the United States can press for a gasoline sanctions with some Western allies, saying that it tried to only target the regime to meet a concrete goal — full openness with the IAE and technological initiatives that only serve a civilian program — and will eliminate the sanctions as soon as that goal is achieved. The United States can even imply that China, Brazil and Russia, we’re following too embroiled in economic interests to see the long-term interests of the region.

This seems to me like the only sensible, middle course to using sanctions to hobble an Iranian nuclear program. Of course, it will mean that the Greens and wavering Iranians will actually see something that America does that they have a choice to interpret in the worst possible way. I’m told that as a Catholic Andrew believes in people’ free will, and this might help override his idea that Iranians have no choice but to interpret every policy the U.S. has on their country as the work of Satan.

I offer The Dish this sanctions pyramid as a middle ground, for Andrew’s next step in supporting sanctions if he senses a shift in the ideological winds. Who knows, perhaps I’m doing my small part to create an actual Goldberg-Sullivan consensus in the near future.

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