Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Goldberg Variations

For the past couple of weeks, Jeffrey Goldberg has been telling or implying to everyone who will listen, from NPR to Stephen Colbert, that it would be a misreading of his Atlantic article to assume he himself favored an attack on Iran--or at least an attack "now." He has also been insisting, what no reader of the article would easily conclude, that the Obama administration has been handling Iran just about right. All he did was report what Israeli leaders were thinking, and draw out the consequences.

It is clear that Goldberg is spinning, but never mind. What journalist has not tried to both say something sensational and pretend to have been responsible, or keep his dinner party invitations coming from all sides of a public debate, or genuinely regret not having written what seemed obvious to say only after the damn thing was in print? Goldberg's piece was indeed interesting only insofar as it reflected what his Israeli interlocutors were saying. As Colbert once famously said, this is what journalists do: leaders decide, and journalists "type those decisions down."

The problem, that is, is with what Israeli leaders are thinking, not with what their insider journalists are spreading. There is a logic here, which needs to be engaged. Reza Aslan and I attempt to engage it in this short article, published in today's International Herald Tribune (the Global Edition of The New York Times). The key issue, which doesn't get quite enough attention, is the curiously seductive and fatuous notion that an Iranian bomb provides a "nuclear umbrella" for jihadists.