Commentary Magazine


What Would You Do About Iran?

What would you do about Iran if you were Netanyahu? That’s the question Jeffrey Goldberg asks Christopher Hitchens in one of a series of interesting videos posted at the Atlantic‘s website that accompanies Goldberg’s major piece on the question of the threat from Iran.

Hitchens’s reply was that a better question is what would he do if he were president of the United States, because “That’s where the question has to be asked.”

Though he is at pains to remind us that he is a severe critic of Israel and Zionism and thinks it “wouldn’t have been a bad thing if it [Israel] had never been started,” Hitchens says that if, as seems inevitable, Iran is prepared to weaponize, it will be Obama’s “obligation to take out” the Iranian regime and to do it before it acts on its nefarious intentions.

Hitchens’s rationale is that since Iran has many times sworn in writing and in international forums that it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, while also declaring its intent to destroy Israel, then the United States must act “if international law means anything.” He also points out that there is no comparison between Iran’s nuclear program and the one that already exists in Israel, because the latter is a “status quo power,” while the former is run by a “crowd of genocidal fanatical theocrats.” Indeed, Hitchens takes the anti-Semitism of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad government seriously and rightly points out that civilization can’t stand by and watch the Jews being slaughtered again.

But listening to Hitchens one wonders whether anyone in the current administration takes seriously the notion that it is America’s obligation to hold Iran accountable. It is more likely that the president and his advisers are more worried about validating the Bush doctrine that a preemptive strike is justified when the threat of a rogue regime getting hold of a weapon of mass destruction is on the table. Everything this administration has done seems to indicate that it sees a potential strike on Iran as more of a threat to the world than the Iranian bomb itself. Since Obama is almost certainly more afraid of another Iraq than he is of a genocidal threat to Israel’s existence, it is difficult to believe that he will take Hitchens’s advice.