Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bombs away! Caroline Glick vs. Alan Dershowitz on Iran

Caroline Glick is right to have brought the disagreement with Dershowitz into the open. After all, our lives here in Israel are impacted by American politicians and media who understand nothing about the Islamic theology and ideology in general and Shia eschatology in particular and what is more, they refuse to educate themselves.  

Case in point is Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz.

Dershowitz is rightly considered one of Israel’s most outspoken defenders in the US. But like his fellow leftist ideologues, Dershowitz apparently does not think that it is important to focus on the nature of things in the Islamic world. Rather than notice current realities, he places his faith in his power to shape the future through his intellect and his willingness to compromise.

In an interview with New York Jewish Week following his participation at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post’s conference in New York, Dershowitz said he was astonished by both my remarks on Iran and the audience’s response to my remarks.

He told the paper, “She said, ‘Bombs away,’ and they gave her a standing ovation.”

One of the things that distinguish the Post’s readers from most other news consumers is that our readers have educated themselves in the realities of Israel and the region and pay attention to those realities.

As a consequence, they are less affected by anti-Israel propaganda presented as human rights reports than the vast majority of news consumers in the US.

When I addressed the conference, I said I would limit my discussion of Iran to two words, “Bombs away.” I said that because like the Post’s readers, I base my analysis of Iran’s nuclear weapons program on the nature of the Iranian regime.

The Iranian regime is a totalitarian regime. It has an uninterrupted record of torturing and massacring its citizens. It has threatened to annihilate Israel. It is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.

Economic sanctions are only viable against regimes that care about serving their citizenry. A regime that represses its citizens is not going to be moved from its strategic course by international sanctions that embitter the lives of its citizens. Since the Iranian regime does not care about its citizens, it cannot be diverted from its plans to acquire nuclear weapons through economic sanctions, no matter how harsh.

As for reaching an agreement with the Iranian regime that would induce it to end its nuclear weapons program, this aspiration is similarly based on a denial of the nature of the regime. The first act of the regime was to reject the foundations of the international system. The Iranian takeover of the US Embassy in 1979 was not merely an act of war against America. It was a declaration of war against the international legal system. Since then, nothing the Iranian regime has done, including emerging as the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, has brought it closer to accepting the norms of behavior expected from a member of the family of nations. As a consequence, the notion that this regime would honor any nuclear agreement it may sign with the US or any other international party is ridiculous.

Since traditional forms of statecraft that do not involve the use of force are not viable options for statecraft involving Iran, the only viable option for preventing Iran – particularly at this late stage – from becoming a nuclear power is force. If Israel is serious when it says that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to the Jewish state then Israel must attack Iran’s nuclear installations.

Because the Post’s readers are informed about the nature of the Iranian regime, they appreciated the message I telegraphed in saying “Bombs away.” But Dershowitz was astonished.

Robert Spencer explained best what the problem with the American assessment of the threat is:

The other is that the FBI had no idea how to tell whether or not Tamerlan Tsarnaev was “engaging in extremist activity,” because the “extremist activity” he was engaging in was Islamic jihad, and Obama’s FBI is forbidden to study Islamic jihad. This is because the Obama Administration in 2011 mandated the scrubbing of counter-terror training materials of the truth about Islam and jihad. It is the terror threat that dare not speak its name. 

It is scary that we in Israel indirectly depend on the assessment of people who cannot even protect themselves because they refuse to acknowledge the nature of the problem. This is even more dangerous when Iran is concerned.  What the Obama administration is doing was so brilliantly predicted by George Orwell in the appendix to 1984.  Newspeak strips us of the means to protect ourselves.


The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. To give a single example. The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as ‘This dog is free from lice’ or ‘This field is free from weeds’. It could not be used in its old sense of ‘politically free’ or ‘intellectually free’ since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless. Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.

It was impossible to translate any passage of Oldspeak into Newspeak unless it either referred to some technical process or some very simple everyday action, or was already orthodox (goodthinkful would be the Newspeak expression) in tendency. In practice this meant that no book written before approximately 1960 could be translated as a whole. Pre-revolutionary literature could only be subjected to ideological translation — that is, alteration in sense as well as language. Take for example the well-known passage from the Declaration of Independence: 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government...

It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping to the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink. A full translation could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson's words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.