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America, The Better Bomber

Abrams, TNR prefer a U.S. strike on Iran to an Israeli one

Marc Tracy
April 28, 2010

It’s not surprising to find hawkish Bush administration Mideast expert Elliott Abrams, whom Tablet Magazine’s Lee Smith profiled last month, advocating an air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But, at a seminar in Baltimore a few days ago, he argued in favor of a crucial nuance: That it would actually be better if America, and not Israel, was the one doing the bombing. “If the world does not act,” he observed, “I believe Israel will act, and I hope the U.S. will.” Steve Rosen, a onetime top AIPAC adviser, agreed: “The U.S. would be more efficient than Israel at suppressing Iran.”

The emerging U.S.-is-the-better-bomber meme is given wider airing in an excellent New Republic article. Unlike Abrams and Rosen, author Michael Crowley is agnostic-to-skeptical on the wisdom of bombing Iran (“Let’s pause here to reiterate the obvious fact that a U.S. attack on Iran might well be an epic disaster”). However, he is emphatic that “if someone is going to bomb Iran, it shouldn’t be Israel. It should be America.” The main reason? Detailed analyses and extensive war games suggest that an American air attack would have a far higher likelihood of actually doing real damage to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Plus, Crowley adds, even an Israeli strike would probably draw America deeply into the subsequent conflict with Iran—in other words, there would be little additional fallout if it was actually us doing the bombing (which is kind of perverse, but whaddya gonna do?). So, the thinking goes, if it’s something our government decides it supports, it might as well sign its name to it. For now, of course, that remains a hefty if.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.