I am tired of the hawks' view that every Middle Eastern episode of tension can be solved by military force. True, Iran has said it would "wipe Israel off the map." But this talk — absurd on the face of it — sounds like the posturing of a street corner punk. Iran surely knows that any attack on Israel would be suicidal because Israel could strike back with overwhelming military force, and perhaps with nuclear weapons.
President Obama is wise to hold firm to his policy, borrowed from Theodore Roosevelt, to "speak softly and carry a big stick." Sanctions clearly have already seriously hurt the Iranian economy. Mr. Obama has tried to tamp down Israeli alarmism, and he should keep pushing to resume the negotiations the Iranians now say they want to reopen.
As a result of President Bush's ill-conceived preemptive attack on Iraq nine years ago — supposedly because Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction he turned out not to have — the U.S. must advocate restraint. Going on the offensive prematurely would produce an ugly chain of consequences throughout the Islamic world, where American good will is worth less and less these days.
Moreover, U.S. or Israeli aggression against Iran would almost certainly obscure the horrors of Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal repression of his own people. And the price of oil would certainly spike.
Since he came to power in 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had little regard for the Obama administration's opinions — because the president has not been afraid to speak his mind about Israel's intransigence and a policy which might be dubbed "shoot first, ask questions later." Let us hope that President Obama can remain firmly for a peaceful resolution to an increasingly tense situation.
Bruce R. Knauff, Towson