Barack Obama recently announced that he will implement a policy to have a “nuclear umbrella” over Israel. At first, that sounds good. You almost imagine a forcefield like protection against our closest Middle East ally with nuclear bombs bouncing off it. But, as a foreign policy matter, this is a terrible idea with negative consequences for both the United States and Israel.
First, Obama is implicitly recognizing and legitimizing a nuclear Iran, which goes contrary to what is perhaps Israel’s top foreign policy goal.
Second, by unilaterally and unnecessarily ratcheting up the rhetoric to the nuclear level, Obama may be the efficient cause of a new nuclear arms race in the Middle East, in which Israel will be financially drained and physically threatened with nuclear annihilation.
Third, it undermines all the hard international diplomacy Israel has been laying the groundwork on to justify an airstrike against Iranian nuclear sites. By the United States presuming to have an effective nuclear deterrent against Iran, the international community will now likely blame Israel for unnecessary aggression against Iran if it strikes.
Fourth, if Iran does strike, it will already be too late. It will do no good to Israel if we strike them then, so we probably won’t. Its not really “mutually assured destruction” deterrent like we had in the cold war when the United States is effectively a third party thousands of miles away. Iran will not be deterred.
Fifth, as Iran continues with its nuclear program, we can expect that any nuclear attempt against Israel would not come from the state of Iran but from state-supported terrorists. This has been Iran’s modus operandi in Iraq and elsewhere. To effect its foreign policy goals by force and deny the connection to the militants they finance, train and supply.
Sixth, this makes Israel look weak. If they need a “nuclear umbrella” what would that say about their predicament and capacity to defend themselves. A half century pillar of Israeli defense has been the perception of their military strength. That has always included U.S. support, yes, but this rings of dependence. In truth, Israel did not ask for this.
Seventh, Obama made this move without consulting Israel and without Israel’s solicitation. This means Israel can count on a chaotic relationship with the Obama administration where he will make his middle-East policy with less than the appropriate amount of consultation and collaboration.
For all the complaints Americans have about Bush being a foreign policy cowboy prone to make decisions without consulting allies and being prone to misjudgment, it seems like we now have the Democrat embodiment of the same vices.