Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keeping Things On the Table

I nominate "off the table" as the dumbest concept in foreign policy. It's why Alan Dershowitz says J Street isn't "pro-Israel" -- they allegedly demand that the military option be "off the table" with respect to Iran (J Street denies that's their position, they simply think a sanctions-based approach makes more sense).

But what, exactly, does "off the table" even mean here? Unless J Street has secretly sabotaged our nation's armed forces, the "military option" is always "on the table". We still have planes! They can still bomb things! That's always available. Even if we decide not to do it now, we can change our mind later -- the military will still be there. Now, of course, at some point it might be too late -- but that could be the case if the military option is "on the table" but ultimately not used.

Compare, for example, if Iran said they were developing nuclear weapons, but using them offensively was "off the table". Would you be comforted? No, of course not -- in part because we might not trust them, but in larger part because even if they're being genuine they can always change their mind instantly. As can we -- military capacity isn't a perishable good. It'll keep.

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