A Bundle of Bombast

Well, over at Tablet, Lee Smith thinks bombing Iran and ending their nuclear program will be a piece of cake. Just go in with all the firepower and might of the United States Armed Forces and Take Them Down. Right? Wrong.Smith dismisses what he calls the “trope” of the Obama administration (promoted by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Mike Mullen, etc.)—that a strike on Iran would only set their program back a few years, not nix it entirely—by asserting that Obama is (more or less) lying for political reasons. And that makes sense, says Lee, since George Bush did it too:

Because Bush could not embark on a third theater of conflict in the Middle East, it was convenient to say a military strike would not make much difference.In contrast, the Obama Administration has pulled out of Iraq and will soon pull out of Afghanistan. Yet the White House continues to repeat the trope that the program can, at best, be delayed a few years.

So yes, it turns out that politicians take advantage of the opacity of military intelligence and bend the truth for public consumption and Iran wasn’t the only time it was inconvenient for Bush to fudge a little. But when it comes to the effectiveness of bombing Iran, it’s not just Obama who’s telling us it’s a bad idea and a strike would only result in a small “setback”—it’s American wonks and Israeli insiders.

Let's start with Jeffrey White, a military analyst at the Washington Institute, a pro-Israel think thank that was formed by AIPAC. Last year, noting that any attack would be "complicated," White told an Arms Control Association audience: "You can’t destroy knowledge and you can’t destroy the basic technology. The setback to the program would be measured in years I think—two years maybe three years."

White's assessment closely matches not just that of the Obama administration, but also Meir Dagan’s. On 60 Minutes in March, Leslie Stall asked the former Mossad Chief—no dove—about his past remark, "There's no military attack that can halt the Iranian nuclear project. It could only delay it." Dagan said the statement held up: "Yes, I agree." More recently in May, speaking to an Israeli think tank, Dagan went further. "A strike could accelerate the procurement of the bomb. An attack isn’t enough to stop the project," he said.

In April, the former head of Israel's internal security service Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, shocked the Israeli polity by obliquely referring to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak as "our two messiahs" and echoing Dagan on attacking Iran: Israel's leadership "presents a false view to the public on the Iranian bomb, as though acting against Iran would prevent a nuclear bomb. But attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb all the faster." Who agreed with him? None other than former IDF intelligence chief Shlomo Gazit.

Would Lee Smith accuse these top Israeli intelligence officials and the Washington Institute of politically-motivated fabrications to deter an attack on Iran? Is it possible that Leon Panetta and Yuval Diskin agree because, well, it’s true?