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A Misleading Cold War Analogy

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
Vol. 19, No. 22
Weekly Standard

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The Israeli debate over Iran's nuclear program is, perhaps oddly, not yet heated. For now, the action is with the Americans: Israelis watch the negotiations nervously and without confidence, but there is little sense of impending doom—or impending war.

Opinion polls show that Israelis think Iran is building toward a weapon, not toward a "capability," and they pay attention to Iran's continuing acts of aggression (in Syria, for example), its support for terrorism, and the constant statements from Iran's leaders about eliminating Israel from the map.

So why no panic? Perhaps Israel's experiences with war and terror, facing Arab armies and more recently Hezbollah and Hamas, have immunized it from a panicked response. Perhaps there is faith in the Israel Defense Forces' ability to stop Iran if the need arises. Or perhaps Israelis expect that in the end America will act to stop Iran from getting a bomb.

But during a recent visit I found another explanation as well—one that is more disturbing. Talking with members of what I'd call the "security establishment," I found the occasional appearance of wishful thinking built around imagined Cold War analogies. That the Obama administration appears to harbor precisely the same hopes is no cause for comfort.


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