Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum | Israel’s Plan for Iran?

If you wish for peace, prepare for war

Si vis pacem para bellum. If you wish for peace, prepare for war. (Photo:

Si vis pacem para bellum. If you wish for peace, prepare for war. (Photo:

That’s the translation of that Latin phrase. I’m not talking about obtaining pre-emptive payday advances to prepare your budget for war. I’m talking about being prepared to live by the sword.

This Roman saying may prove to be what Israel is preparing for against Iran. At the G-8 summit this past July, Iran was given a September deadline to begin negotiating the stand down of its nuclear program. Just last week, Iran officially responded with a resounding “no.” They produced a document that criticizes other nations’ “ungodly ways of thinking prevailing in global relations” and discusses democracy, human rights, disarmament, terrorism and respecting other nations. Shutting down the nuclear program is off the table, according to Ahmadinejad and Ali Khameni.

Is Obama doing enough to avert war?

That’s the question a recent Wall Street Journal editorial asks. As a sovereign nation, Israel appears ready to protect their interests; they appear poised to live by the motto “si vis pacem para bellum” by the end of 2009 if peaceful negotiations are unsuccessful. Yet the writer questions whether the Obama administration is taking a strong enough stance against Iran’s nuclear proliferation.

If you were Israel, what would you think of this?

  1. President Obama has decided to drop Iran from the agenda at an upcoming U.N. Security Council he’s slated to chair.
  2. U.S. Defense Secretary Gates has spoken out against the possibility of military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
  3. Russia has said they won’t support sanctions against Iran anymore.

They have the right to defend themselves

Considering Ahmadinejad’s well-publicized rhetoric about “wiping Israel off the map,” it’s understandable that Israel might feel that they need to take matters into their own hands. They are a mighty military power, so they may well have the capability to execute a successful “pre-emptive defensive strike.” Israel hasn’t wanted to jump into such an action; in fact, they’ve hoped that their ally the United States would be the first to jump in.

But the Obama administration has consistently indicated that their interest is in diplomatic solutions. Vice President Biden’s comments (see video below) indicate that the United States would not stop Israel from protecting itself, but that it would also “defend its own interests.” If full-scale war erupts between Israel and Iran, it doesn’t require much of a leap to see Iran retaliating against American targets in the Middle East. Furthermore, America’s oil interests in the region are sadly still tremendous in scope. Thus, America protecting its own interests could translate to a si vis pacem para bellum of its own.

Israel has been very public about their fears

This creates a very different climate than what existed before they carried out secret strikes against an Iranian nuclear reactor in 1981 and against one in Syria in 2007. Now, Israel is making very public practice maneuvers and crying loud about the danger Iran poses. That danger may indeed be quite real (in light of the nation’s Anti-Semitism and the scarred history of violence in the region), yet Obama simply won’t bite.

Will diplomacy work? Will the U.S. be able to talk Israel down from a potential pre-emptive defensive strike? Or does the U.S. want Israel to be their personal cleaner, eliminating a problem for them? The WSJ editorialist throws all of these ideas about. He even suggests the U.S. “isn’t really paying attention,” but I don’t see how that’s possible.

Israel is paying close attention

A report by the Bipartisan Policy Center indicates that by 2010, Iran will “be able to produce a weapon’s worth of highly enriched uranium… in less than two months.” Iran is also expecting anti-aircraft weapons from Russia in the near future, which could speed up Israel’s timetable to react. Significantly, President Obama has left Iran policy up to Prime Minister Netanyahu. They are in the driver’s seat, so to speak.

America wants to part of a Middle East arms race

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Thus, a disabling strike by Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities would avert that disaster. However, reciprocity would present other challenges that would lead to Americans losing their lives. As George C. Scott exclaims in “Dr. Strangelove,” “I’m not saying we won’t get our hair mussed.” Is that an acceptable political strategy? It seems that no matter what the United States does, we will be involved in this mess. As callous as it may sound, it may come down to what path minimizes the damage. Such is the inescapable path America set itself on, dating all the way back to the “big stick” policies of President Teddy Roosevelt. Only now, the stakes are much higher and the weapons are unimaginably more destructive. No payday advances, no acceptable losses or anything else. Pain will be the everlasting legacy.

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