Last week I wrote about the puzzling fact that Israel does not seem to be preparing for any retaliation from Iran in the aftermath of an Israeli strike on their nuclear facilities, leading me to conclude that Netanyahu and Barak are engaging in a giant bluff. Via Jeffrey Goldberg’s Bloomberg column, it seems like there is another disturbing possibility, which is that the Israeli security establishment is convincing itself that any Iranian retaliation would be minimal, or perhaps even nonexistent. Goldberg also reports that Israeli officials think that Iran might cover up an Israeli strike in order to avoid the humiliation, and that Iran will not retaliate against American targets should Israel attack.
Setting aside the possibility that this is all part of the Israeli bluff and that Goldberg is being used by the Israelis to increase the odds of a U.S. strike, this is an extremely disheartening piece of reporting. Goldberg recounts hearing a number of best-case scenarios about the consequences of an Israeli attack, yet this is precisely the type of thinking that Israel needs to avoid if they are actually contemplating a raid on Iranian nuclear sites. On the contrary, the Israeli security establishment needs to assume that the absolute worst case scenario will occur before making a decision on Iran, because anything less will lead to irresponsible decision making and the potential for catastrophe. One need only hark so far back to 2006 and the war with Hizballah, where Israel was caught negligently unprepared after badly underestimating Hizballah’s capabilities and responses to Israeli military action, and did not take the necessary or even adequate steps to protect and support residents in the north. The Winograd Commission detailed a host of military, intelligence, and civil defense failures, all of which stemmed from the precise mistake it seems like the Israelis are making again, which was to assume the best-case scenario rather than assume the worst. Israel assumed that its air force could take out Hizballah and was wrong. It then sent in tanks and infantry to finish the job but was shocked by Hizballah’s anti-tank missiles and mines. Millions of Israelis did not have gas masks, adequate shelters, or emergency supplies because the Israeli government simply did not plan for the eventuality that these things would be required. Israel assumed that very little would go wrong, and instead the entire enterprise blew up its face beyond anything that it had imagined.
And so now on the heels of reports that Israel does not have the military capability to do the job on its own and that the U.S. military believes that an Israeli attack on Iran will result in American deaths and the U.S. being drawn into a regional war, Israel is actually assuming both of these facts away as mere inconveniences? Can this really happen again a mere six years later? Are Netanyahu, Barak, and other high-ranking Israeli military officials actually going to once again launch a significant military operation without making adequate civil defense arrangements first or considering the possibility that their rosy assumptions might not work out? This strikes me as the height of irresponsibility, if not outright insanity. I sincerely hope with every fiber of my being that if Israel ends up attacking Iran (and I hope that they do not), they do it with eyes wide open rather than with eyes wide shut.