Good News from the Mideast

Doesn’t it often seem as if “Crisis in the Middle East” has been painted on our TV screens? Can anyone remember the last time we had good news from that perennially troubled region?

Yet , for once, there actually is good news from the Mideast. Israel’s Air Defense Force chief, Gen. Amir Eshel, has calmly reassured concerned citizens of the Jewish state -- and millions of friends of Israel throughout the world -- that his pilots have the ability to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities if it should come to that. Gen. Eshel hastens to add that the use of military force should only be “a last resort.” Still, it is a great encouragement to know that someone has Israel’s back -- and front -- and not incidentally, America’s too.

No one should underestimate the dangers that would come in the wake of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The mullahs of Tehran are the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism. There is no reason why they, like Saddam Hussein, would confine themselves to their immediate enemy, Israel. In 1991, Saddam Hussein sent Scud missiles against Israel even though Israel was not taking part in Operation Desert Storm. Saddam was hoping to fracture the U.S.-led coalition, which included even Syria, and the Saudis, but not Israel. Israel then exercised incredible restraint at the urgent request of the administration of the elder George Bush. Israel did not respond with force to the unprovoked attacks from Iraq’s dictator.

We can certainly expect that Iran would hit American targets in the event of an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) strike on its nuclear weapons facilities. Recall the anthrax attacks that occurred in Washington and elsewhere in the wake of 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. Americans might see a repetition of these and other yet unimagined terror tactics by Tehran’s mullahs if and when Israel is forced to strike Iran’s nuclear weapons project. Still, the knowledge that someone can effectively prevent Iran from “breaking out” should calm unsteady nerves throughout Europe and North America.

What else we are learning from the negotiations with Iran is troubling. President Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for changing the international dialogue over war and peace. The new Obama administration spoke early and often about “Smart Power” and “Soft Power.” The motive idea behind these slogans was that not every diplomatic problem was amenable to a military solution. We needed to give diplomacy a chance. We needed to approach our adversaries with “an open hand and not merely a clenched fist.”

In this, Mr. Obama may not have been wrong. Although he never claimed to be smart or soft, Ronald Reagan knew instinctively that he could not overwhelm the Soviet Union militarily. He didn’t try.

Reagan rebuilt the U.S. military that Jimmy Carter had “hollowed out.” Reagan fixed a battered U.S. economy and used our economic muscle to further isolate the clanking, rusting Soviet economy.

Reagan challenged the Soviets in international forums -- pressing them to live up to their treaty commitments under the Helsinki Agreements.

So it is not the case that the alternative to capitulation must necessarily be war. With a strong and confident United States, the alternative to desperation and defeat is -- peace through strength and victory without war.

The unfortunate thing about President Obama’s laudable goal is that he has chosen the wrong means to achieve it. He wanted to stop Iran’s lurch toward nuclear weapons without a war. That goal should have our enthusiastic backing. But the means he has chosen -- stripping the U.S. defenses, turning a blind eye to Iran’s persecution of Christians, showing “passion” for our military only as a forum for radical social experimentation, and allowing nuclear negotiations to degenerate into a shouting match between Iran’s foreign minister and our hapless Sec. of State John Kerry -- invite failure.

Despite Mr. Obama’s coolness toward Israel’s elected leadership, we Americans remain supportive of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tumultuous reception as he addressed a joint session of Congress in March and his thumping re-election in Israel later that month show that there remains a deep reservoir of U.S. friendship for the only democracy in the Middle East.                                         

The authors are senior fellows at the Family Research Council.  Mr. Blackwell has substantial experience in Middle East politics.  Mr. Morrison, a historian, has been writing on America's role in this part of the world for years.