February 7, 2012

The Corn Bomb Gap

Personally, I think Krauthammer's version of these talking points in the Washington Post was more excitingly written up, but the NYT goes with the Mossad version:

From the New York Times:
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Iran’s Achilles’ Heel
By EFRAIM HALEVY 
THE public debate in America and Israel these days is focused obsessively on whether to attack Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons ambitions; hardly any attention is being paid to how events in Syria could result in a strategic debacle for the Iranian government. Iran’s foothold in Syria enables the mullahs in Tehran to pursue their reckless and violent regional policies — and its presence there must be ended. ... 
... pave the way for Mr. Assad’s downfall.
Once this is achieved, the entire balance of forces in the region would undergo a sea change. Iranian-sponsored terrorism would be visibly contained; Hezbollah would lose its vital Syrian conduit to Iran and Lebanon could revert to long-forgotten normalcy; Hamas fighters in Gaza would have to contemplate a future without Iranian weaponry and training; and the Iranian people might once again rise up against the regime that has brought them such pain and suffering.
Those who see this scenario as a daydream should consider the alternative: a post-Assad government still wedded to Iran with its fingers on the buttons controlling long-range Syrian missiles with chemical warheads that can strike anywhere in Israel. This is a certain prescription for war, and Israel would have no choice but to prevent it.
Efraim Halevy, a former Israeli national security adviser and ambassador, was director of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002. 

Okay, so the threat Syria's chemical warheads pose to Israel is kind of like the threat that Venezuela poses to Florida. I mean, if Hugo Chavez suddenly decided that life wasn't worth living anymore and he wanted to be blown up by the American military, he might attack America. Maybe with speedboats loaded with WWI-technology chemical weapons. They could roar right up to Key West and wipe out some discos and t-shirt stands. I mean, why not?

In 2010, Oliver Stone made a documentary where he wandered around Latin America interviewing lefty caudillos. Chavez was the star. As Chavez is showing Stone a corn-processing plant built by Iranian technicians, he deadpans: "This is where we're building the Iranian atomic bomb ... the Corn Bomb." But Chavez gets a worried look on his face as if he were thinking, "Oh, crap, this is too serious to joke about. If that camera happened to run out of videotape right before my "Corn Bomb" joke, the USAF might blow us up."

By the way, the CIA World Factbook ranks Venezuela's military spending as a percent of GDP at 118th in the world. Israel ranks 6th, Syria ranks 11th, and Iran 62nd. But that was back in 2005 because the CIA hasn't bothered to update the list in a long time. Back in 2006, during the frightening bout of war fever in Washington caused by Israel's spat with Hezbollah, I wrote a bunch of blog posts citing the CIA's then-current rankings of military expenditures to show that the most of the world outside the Washington-Tel Aviv corridor was losing interest in war (prefiguring Steven Pinker's 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature). The CIA has barely updated their list since. And I've never seen anybody complain that this vital information isn't being kept up to date. Nobody seems to care about data. It would just get in the way of all the fun that Krauthammer and the Mossad alumni are having.

13 comments:

Easily Bemused said...

"THE public debate in America and Israel these days is focused obsessively on whether to attack Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons ambitions..."

Yikes, and here I thought we Americans were all busy debating gay marriage and Obamacare. Even our lamestream media obsesses over "super-PACs" instead of whether to attack Iran.

I'd bet Obama himself doesn't obsess over attacking Iran.

Anonymous said...

Yay, the blind spot about Israel continues.

Let's! said...

"Okay, so the threat Syria's chemical warheads pose to Israel is kind of like the threat that Venezuela poses to Florida."

Yes, since Syria's nuclear program is now its, um, former nuclear program.

Muslims...seriously...make friends with Israel. What does it cost you, really?

Wes said...

Isn't most of the world losing interest in military spending because the US is so incredibly dominant? What would be the point? It's a bit of a Pax Americana. I assume nations on the periphery of the Roman Empire stopped trying to challenge the beast at some point.

So, if world ever loses it's Alpha Dog, isn't there likely to be renewed interest in beefing up militaries? As Iraq showed back in 1990, nations are very willing to cross borders and conquer if the can get away with it. At the moment, most countries think they can't get away with it - for now.

Jacob Roberson said...

As Chavez is showing Stone a corn-processing plant built by Iranian technicians, he deadpans: "This is where we're building the Iranian atomic bomb ... the Corn Bomb."

I laughed. Then I read:

So, he asks this rich and spoiled looking political wife, "How many pairs of shoes do you own?" She immediately recognizes this reference to Imelda Marcos and chews an abashed Stone out for several minutes for his sexist impertinence.

...and laughed some more. I'm imagining Lula da Silva waddling like a penguin on-camera to "break the ice" with Stone. Then, serious interview time.

Hunsdon said...

Efraim Halevy said:

This is a certain prescription for war, and Israel would have no choice but to prevent it.

Hunsdon replied:

I believe Mr. Halevy meant, "This is a certain prescription for war, and Israel would have no choice but to wage it."

After all, this "certain prescription" differs from today's situation only in that Assad is still in power in Damascus.

Metternich said...

Venezuela has no weapons or manpower to compete with the US.

Syria has more men and more land area than Israel. If Iran comes through for them, Syria may have more missiles and more money than Israel. Syria certainly has allies with a larger head count than Israel.

Israel has higher quality weapons — the US is a better source of weapons than Iran.

It just isn't a simple no-contest situation. Maybe after Assad falls and the Mad Mullahs are taught a lesson, things will even out.

But the Syrian opposition seems to be dominated by Muslim Brotherhood supporters; they'd be automatic allies of Israel's enemies in Gaza and Egypt...

Hunsdon said...

Metternich said:
But the Syrian opposition seems to be dominated by Muslim Brotherhood supporters; they'd be automatic allies of Israel's enemies in Gaza and Egypt...

Hunsdon replied: Exactly! For all the reputed Ashkenazi big brain syndrome, it seems that few US neocons ever asked the question, "OK, and then who takes over?" (Here I speak about Iraq and Libya, mostly.)

It's kind of like the underpants gnomes.

1. Overthrow existing regime.

2. ?

3. World peace!

helene edwards said...

A few weeks ago the NYT Sunday Magazine carried a piece by a writer I'd never heard of who managed to interview Bibi, Barak and the outgoing chief of Mossad on the issue of whether to attack Iran. I don't understand why any of these people would speak to anyone but Sy Hersh on the matter, do you?

Anonymous said...

The "liberal" new york times beating the war drum again.. hmm strange.. can't figure out why..

rob said...

After Irak Attaq Dos, one of the radio radicals maybe Sean Hanity, constantly said that Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction"[sic] had all been moved to Syria. That's why the US army couldn't find any in Iraq.

The WMD issue was the neocon casus belli. It is vile anti-Semitism to consider that the neocons were lying then. Syria will wipe the floor with Israel. QED

Propeller Island said...

"I don't understand why any of these people would speak to anyone but Sy Hersh on the matter, do you?"

Because it's kabuki theater. Some kind of game is going on, most likely the old fashioned good cop/bad cop routine, with Israel playing the bad cop.

Pechorin said...

"most of the world outside the Washington-Tel Aviv corridor is losing interest in war"

To be fair, official statements of military spending are sometimes understated. There's also a nice little naval arms race heating up in east asia. That said, your central point - on Israeli warmongering - is undeniably correct.