Rushing to Red

On May 24, 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United States Congress. In his speech he declared that, “you [the US] don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.” Yet, in his more recent United Nations speech, he seemed to push the US to, yes, ironically protect Israel from a potentially nuclear Iran. Of course, American soldiers would not fight from Israeli soil, but rather from the Persian Gulf. What is the difference? During his speech he propped up a child like caricature of a bomb with a fuse and a red line to make his point.

Netanyahu has been telling the world that Iran is a day away from a nuclear bomb since 1994. There is no concrete proof, however, and Bibi’s continued threatening rhetoric will only encourage Iran to more seriously consider making the device.

It is high time that the US, and Israel stop playing the war card and revisit - and act on - lessons learned. Specifically, bombing the crap out of countries usually makes things worse. Take Iraq for example, and an Israeli strike on Iraq’s “nuclear” facilities in 1981 because Baghdad was ready to wipe out Israel. Unfortunately the strikes were for not. Israel didn’t destroy the Iraqi nuclear program because there wasn’t one, yet the act encouraged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to find ways to begin one. In 2007, Israel bombed factory that the Syrian government was using for its "nuclear" site, but intelligence showed that was a wasted effort as well: many analyst say there was no threat, the place was empty. All they did was tick off an entire whole region.

Years later, the Bush Administration eloquently brainwashed the whole of the international community into believing that Iraq did have nukes and the potential of a “mushroom cloud” needed to be eliminated. The US intervened in Iraq to remove Saddam and destroy its chemical weapons stash and any prospect it had of becoming a nuclear state. All the claims were fabricated, the weapons were never there. Ten years later, the US military and their families are courageously trying to repair extensive psychological and physical trauma from a war that was certainly not in the national security interest of the US and ultimately unnecessary.

It is amazing to me that once again the world is being co-opted into more airstrikes, more bombing and more war. Maybe people gave up after the outcry to use diplomacy with Iraq went unheard. Maybe we prefer to be the only species on earth systematically destroying our habitat along with ourselves. Or maybe we are just oblivious to the fact, or too lazy to understand, that war is not the only answer.

There is no doubt about it: nuclear weapons are dangerous. Todays nuclear arsenal could send us all to the beyond in a blink. Anyone left would be living like the Japanese after Nagasaki and Hiroshima, awash in cancerous disease.

The United Nations was founded in 1945 after World War II, not to keep the world at war, but work together to prevent it. The UN General Assembly is supposed to be a time when leaders come together to find peaceful solutions for problems not violent ones.

Unfortunately the leaders of the so-called free world are intent on pretending they are “for peace” but in fact the words they spew are solidly against it.

Here are a few examples. President Barack Obama called for “the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully” while simultaneously forgetting that unspeakable violence is the answer to his call that President Assad of Syria step down. The Qatar Emir wants “peace and prosperity” while they supply money and weapons to insurgents in Syria. Finally, Netanyahu claims that “Jewish people……have been at the forefront of efforts to expand liberty, promote equality, and advance human rights” with the exception, as King Abdullah of Jordan mentioned, the Palestinians. The Iranians too are devoid of those rights.

Tsk tsk. As a high level Jordanian friend once said to me, “you don’t really believe anything these leaders tell you.” No, I don’t, the hypocrisy is way too deep.

I do believe though, that if we all don’t start thinking beyond war we are doomed. There are alternatives to airstrikes on Iran, there are alternatives to drone attacks in Pakistan and Gaza and there are alternatives to supplying insurgents with deadly weapons to depose leadership that we don’t like.

In President Obama’s speech he mentions “Foreign Service officers” who “built bridges across oceans and cultures” and “deeply invested in the international cooperation.” Personally, I know they are there, but they are severally compromised.

Compounds are built, concrete separations put in place, there is “us” and there is “them.“ Few bridges get built, limited cooperation happens, and engagement is restricted, often because too many weapons are distributed creating bands of militias, like we see in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, creating a security nightmare.

The way the world operates it foreign policy can only continue to lead us continually to conflict. All this talk about red lines is getting us nowhere. The world must have patience and give diplomacy with Iran a chance. We must start restricting the sales of all these weapons used for nothing more than death and intimidation. We all must find a solution to keep all peoples in the Middle East safe, not just some.

Engaging, building bridges across oceans and cultures is a must if the world is going to thrive. Rushing to red lines only increases the chance that no one, not even Americans or Israelis, will survive.

Patricia (Tricia) DeGennaro is an adjunct professor at New York University’s Department of Politics where she teaches courses on international security, U.S. foreign policy, and civilian and military relations. In addition to her work as a professor, she is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute and a professional service provider and a subject matter expert on Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Arab Guff States, Pakistan, and Iran for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.