@ George Jochnowitz:
Of course, the Iranian leaders don't legitimize the peace process. I doubt they ever viewed it as any more real than the opponents on the other side did, and it wouldn't serve their purposes to characterize any progress or apparent movement in the peace process as anything other than a betrayal. What they've done is exploit the situation exemplified by the end of the peace process - especially the post-Arafat disintegration of the Palestinian Authority - to the hilt. They've solidified their alliance with Syria, they have military control of Lebanon, they have significant positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have a proxy in Hamas, they have working relationships with Russia, China, and Turkey, and they ruthlessly silenced their domestic opposition. Only the Great Satan and the Little Satan, along with a loose and fractious coalition of weak Arab League governments that happen to be vulnerable on Israel-Palestine, stand in their way for now.

We could go and on discussing all of the ins and outs of the situation, but the one thing that is certain is that Iran's conflict with Israel is very heavily motivated, from the Iranian perspective - not from our perspective of what would be "best" for Iranians. From that perspective, you're right, it makes no sense for Iran to be at war with Israel. But that perspective is itself one of the things that the Iranian government most fiercely opposes, and that opposition also happens to be the thing that most clearly establishes continuity between the current Iranian government and Khomeini.

At some point, Iran might turn its attention back on the Great Satan, but everything for now, not least the Great Satan's distraction and uncertainty, militates towards keeping the focus on Israel and the attempt to separate Israel as much as possible from external support.

The point remains that there's nothing irrational at all about the Iranian desire to de-legitimize and even destroy Israel, even before you ask what accomplishment could more clearly establish Iran's claim to leadership among Islamists.

George Friedman's view is that Iran's position forces it to act too soon - and that once it moves significantly closer to achieving its aims, many countries currently cooperating or passive will move into opposition, at which point Iran will have too many competitors and enemies coming at it from too many directions. Or it could all get simplified if a major power (or even a little nuclear power) decided to end the story early. Iran has no choice but to keep on pressing and hoping for a break, especially when the tide seems in its favor.

@ George Jochnowitz:
You might want to review your Khomeinism. "Great Satan" and "Little Satan" ring a bell? In recent years, especially with the rise of A-jad, Hamas, and Hezbollah, and the breakdown of the "peace process," Israel has become more of a focus. And it's anything but irrational or "unmotivated" given a certain perspective on Iran's regional aspirations.

George Jochnowitz wrote:

Iran has no quarrel with Israel.

Rafsanjani, like Khomeini, and like a long line of pan-Arab, pan-Islamist, and also Third World and leftwing revolutionaries, disagree with that statement. They have a mirror image of the neo-con view: Islamists and neo-conservatives (whose thinking still dominates American strategic conceptions in regard to Israel) both depict Israel as a or the leading edge/forward platform of the democratic capitalist invasion of "their" world. American foreign policy treats it as a good thing. Iranian (and 3rd Worldist/anti-capitalist) policy treats it as a bad thing. If it's bizarre, then so is the view that defending Israel is somehow important to U.S. interests in the region and the world.

It's true that the Khomeinists don't have a Lockean view of the purpose of government or the purpose of life, though there are strains of Islamic moral philosophy that could be encouraged along those lines. Even Mahdism is about this world - creating an order of things that puts Allah in His proper place on Earth. You get to paradise by performing acts toward that end, not just for dying memorably.

@ factualizing frog:
At the beginning of the piece she allows that Israel may have bungled the operation tactically. I believe the "kinetic action" in foreign ports may have been in part a reaction at a higher level of abstraction to Boot's suggestion that in the past Israel has succeeded with low-profile sabotage operations (rather than, say, bombardment from the air or ship to ship combat or something).

@ George Jochnowitz:
We've been through this before, at length. Rafsanjani's statement was a fairly conventional explication of how having a nuclear threat, coupled with a willingness and ability to absorb even massive casulties, would be an equalizer in the overall confrontation with the West, with Israel being depicted as the leading edge of Western imperialism. Mao once famously said something very similar regarding China and nuclear war, and it was frequently suggested during the Cold War that the Soviets had a similar mindset.

It wasn't in this sense a promise or a statement of intention, or anything unique to Twelverism or Islamist fundamentalist non-deterrability - any more than the U.S. possession of nuclear weapons is a promise or statement of intention to obliterate our potential enemies. It's worth recalling that the U.S. took and maintained a suicide state position and still implicitly takes the position regarding our own values and interests: We were supposedly entirely willing to put our own national fate and possibly the fate of the entire world in the balance on behalf of our own political values and strategic interests. These are the plain facts. Some Americans in positions of responsibility - former SAC chief Curtis LeMay, for instance - were more open what our "strategic concept" implied than others.

Someday, perhaps someday relatively soon, Iran may possess the capacity to realize R's strategic vision. Whether Iran will then pose as a "suicide state" (like us) when it comes to its declared vital interests, or actually rushes to become a suicide state won't have much to do with Rafsanjani's statement, and misusing it to single out Iran weakens and distorts the case against letting Iran go nuclear, not strengthen it.

@ factualizing frog:

@ George Jochnowitz:
Not that one again.

adam wrote:

what you call “failure to adopt the Israeli line” is what I call “refusal to see what obviously happened.”

Not having access to a God's-eye-view, I can't claim to know "what obviously happened." The Israeli line also includes a preferences about how we should define what matters most. Israeli strongly believes that it's in the right regarding the incident narrowly viewed and defined - as an act of self-defense. Israel's critics typically take a position that, even if that was true, it's not the real or most important question.

If I were running Israel's propaganda effort, I would consider getting way out front on the "international investigation" issue - "attacking into the ambush." Maybe the Israelis should be the ones demanding it most loudly, implicitly threatening to put the whole international community and media on trial if it's handled less than fairly. That might shut up the critics very fast, and lead to the whole incident being buried - always the most likely end result in these things. Pursuing the truth openly and to the end might escalate the confrontation with Turkey and the international community, or bring us to some other point of no return, perhaps even of the sort that VDH thinks has already been reached, in which Israel just stops caring, on principle, what other nations think. I don't think that's in Israel's interest or that cool heads among the Israelis see that as in Israel's interest.

Many observers, including Max Boot and even JE Dyer, have argued or implicitly acknowledged that Israel could have handled the events in a way that didn't lead to bloodshed and an "incident." That Israel gave its opponents what apparently was being sought may be forgivable and understandable, but it doesn't suspend the law of physics mentioned in the top piece. There's even a conspiracy theory in Turkey among regime opponents that Erdogan or operatives falsely informed the IDF that the flotilla "activists" were unarmed - which would make Israel guilty of letting itself get suckered. That may be much harder to forgive than the killings of 9 wanna-be martyrs - worse than a crime...

@ adam:
Unless you imagine that the state of Israel is going to be lifted up out of the earth and strung up under a gargantuan tree, or maybe sawn in half over barbed wire like in YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN, then speaking of a "lynch mob" suggests some level of subjective excess in your observation.

After reviewing some international reaction, I've seen news coverage from mainstream publications in different countries that gives both sides on what occurred. I can see that people like David Cameron and Angela Merkel criticized the Israeli action based on initial reports, and since then have settled, along with other Euros, on the need for a "fact-finding mission." Cameron opposes the Gaza blockade, but bookends remarks by identifying himself as a "friend of Israel." Even the Israelis now favor international participation in an investigation of the incident.

So now the negotiation is over how international vs. how Israeli the investigation will be, with everyone, including the U.S., trying to determine what posture best suits their interests. Overall, there's been a failure to adopt the Israeli line, amidst widespread criticism of the bloodshed and opposition to Israeli Gaza policy, but it's not a "lynch mob."

@ adam:
That's obviously a very subjective statement. I won't try to parse it. Israel is always implicated as a complex symbol etc. The reactions that are assembled around any particular event, like the counter-reactions, are never more than a piece of the puzzle. Right now, there's apparently an effort to persuade the Obami that it's more in their political interest to defend Israel than to appease (much less join) the "mob." The mob pulls all the harder in the opposite direction, I guess (I haven't been following this story very closely - almost everything I've read or seen about it has been in or filtered through the rightwing press.)

@ adam:
VDH's piece more or less concedes that Israel has engaged in actions that are criticizeable. He just thinks that the 30,000 victims of the Hama operation would be more deserving of a movie than the 30-50 or so victims of Jenin.

If the government of Indonesia is lax in its enforcement of Koranic prohibitions on alcohol consumption, only a handful of fundamentalists notice. If the House of Saud is lax, its legitimacy as guardians of Mecca is shaken. Israel is in a similar position, but in multiple dimensions, embattled in each of them. Jews, Christians, Muslims, secular liberals and leftists, conservatives - even the nations of the East to the extent they're part of (or opposed to) the emergent global secular order economically and ideologically - believe their central interests are implicated, if obviously less directly on the level of religion.

@ factualizing frog:
Went to Occidental College. That's really all you need to know.

Rex Caruthers wrote:

Always very bad PR for the higher Tech military Force.

Outside of Hollywood and Washington DC, most people (esp. soldiers) are happy to accept that trade-off.


@ factualizing frog:
Said? He dead.

@ Rex Caruthers:
Not quite. Probably one order of magnitude off. But such "kill ratios" are the norm for well-trained, well-equipped, higher technology forces in battle with irregular and/or technologically inferior fighters. Not unique to Israel by any means, nor to the modern day. VDH wrote a whole book about it - CARNAGE AND CULTURE - arguing that democracy itself can be a massive force/death multiplier.