The New Republic Editor Martin Peretz is no stranger to controversy but it’s worth noting that his blog post this morning, titled “Ahmadinejad At The Lebanese-Israeli Border—Another Obama Debacle,” managed to incorporate not one but two classic neoconservative arguments for why the U.S., or by proxy Israel, should act militarily against Iran.
First, Peretz has made no secret of his bigotry towards Muslims. On September 4th, Peretz wrote that “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims,” leading Harvard University to cancel his scheduled honorary speech at the 50th anniversary of the Harvard Social Studies Department. So it comes as no surprise that he is willing to participate in the dangerous habit of disregarding Muslim leaders or political groups as simply irrational and insane.
Peretz refers to Hezbollah as a “wild and crazy Shi’a militia” and describes Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as “sane only if you compare him to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself.” While it’s hard to imagine Peretz agreeing on just about anything with Nasrallah or Ahmadinejad, dehumanizing by implying irrationality of one’s enemies is a dangerous form of war propaganda (see Ali Gharib’s article on this topic).
Not satisfied to call enemies of Israel uniformly insane, Peretz moves on to the standard talking point—as pushed recently by fellow Iran-hawks Reuel Marc Gerecht in The Weekly Standard, Joe Lieberman in his speech last month at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Jeffrey Goldberg in his Atlantic magazine cover story—that if Obama doesn’t cease to “court Ahmadinejad” and “court Assad away from his pal in Tehran” Israel may have to launch what has widely been accepted to be a potentially disastrous unilateral attack on Iran.
Peretz concludes (with my emphasis):
Dr. A’jad has won all the battles. To be sure, time was one of the battlefields. And the president ceded more than a year and a half to the vicious and virulent opposite number in Tehran.
Iran now has three frontiers with Israel. The line with Gaza, patrolled by Hamas. The line with Syria proper. And the line with Lebanon which is not Lebanon at all. But Hezbollah land. These are all unstable fields of battle. Israel may be forced to deal directly with Iran itself.
How did Israel, and the greater Middle East, find itself in this position? It’s just another “Obama debacle.” In Peretz’s mind, perceived enemies of Israel are all “wild” and of questionable sanity. And a U.S. president who hasn’t followed Peretz’s advice about how to manage the U.S.-Israel relationship is to blame for a geopolitical situation which took decades to form.
Last month, The Atlantic‘s James Fallows wrote of Peretz:
Peretz — and everyone else — must know that if his legacy were to be settled as of today, it would be mixed at best. Beloved by many students and respected by some magazine colleagues, but broadly considered in his 70s to be a bigot.