September 24, 2011

No depth too deep for Obama

I'm not talking about Obama's ludicrous speech to the UN on Abbas trying to find somewhere to sit in Manhattan.  It's this article from yesterday's Daily Beast (Newsweek) about how it was Obama, not Bush, who sold bunker buster or deep penetration bombs to Israel.
While publicly pressuring Israel to make deeper concessions to the PalestiniansPresident Obama has secretly authorized significant new aid to the Israeli military that includes the sale of 55 deep-penetrating bombs known as bunker busters, Newsweek has learned.

In an exclusive story to be published Monday on growing military cooperation between the two allies, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Newsweek that the GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators—potentially useful in any future military strike against Iranian nuclear sites—were delivered to Israel in 2009, just several months after Obama took office.

The military sale was arranged behind the scenes as Obama’s demands for Israel to stop building settlements in disputed territories were fraying political relations between the two countries in public.

The Lawyers, guns and money blog asks some interesting questions about this as to whether the shipments were military or political.
The military logic is that the Obama administration believes that Israel should be better equipped to strike hardened Iranian nuclear facilities. That’s it; these are the only targets Israel might consider attacking in the near to medium term that would require such ordnance. One way to read this is that the administration thinks that an Israeli strike on Iran would be a good idea. This may be possible, but the administration doesn’t appear to have been doing much else in order to push Israel into an attack.
So that leaves political.  Maybe Obama was looking for a policy result from Israel but,
Bibi has consistently given Obama the finger on policy, and has made his support ofObama’s GOP opponents about as clear as possible. Obama has no leverage; no GOP President will reduce the level of military aid sent to Israel, and Bibi finds a Republican administration preferable for a variety of reasons.

This leaves the impact on Iran, and on Israel’s domestic supporters. To borrow another phrase, the whole point of politicized arms shipments to Israel is lost if you keep it a secret. Even if we accept the premise that Israel’s US constituency could in some sense be satisfied by bunker buster shipments, it’s hard to see how secretshipments help solve the problem. Perhaps the logic was that since someone had to know, elite level signalling would serve to insulate Obama from attacks. This again means that, effectively, Obama was dependent on Bibi’s goodwill for the plan to work. Good luck with that. The Iran problem is essentially the same; Iran can only be intimidated by things it knows about. It’s possible that some US negotiator somewhere showed some Iranian diplomat a packing slip for the bombs, but that strategy works whether or not the US actually ships the weapons.
And so we’re left with the question that has too often characterized the Obama administration: For this bad policy executed incompetently, what’s the balance between bad and incompetent? On the upside, at least Eli Lake has been uncovered as the administration shill he’s always been.
Simple ineptitude? Can that really explain the policies of the most powerful state on the planet?

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