Given the uncritical admiration many Americans have for men in military uniforms, it wasn’t surprising to see the White House’s effort to promote the Iran deal enlisting support from three dozen retired senior military officers who released an open letter earlier this month.
Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, U.S. Marine Corps, who served as the eighth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until his retirement in 2011, and his colleagues, called the agreement “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”
The voices of those in uniform can be trusted to put America first — at least that’s supposed to be the value of getting political support from a bunch of former generals.
But given the degree to which the Iran deal has been turned into a partisan issue, and given the Republican tilt of the military, it’s not surprising that another letter would follow, this time carrying the signatures of nearly 200 retired generals and admirals who oppose the deal. Shameless in making hyperbolic assertions, this letter claims that Iran has been waging war against the United States for the last 36 years!
And whereas the concern of the former letter was focused squarely on U.S. national security interests, the preeminent security concern of the larger group of former generals and admirals is not that of their own nation, but that of Israel.
“Removing sanctions on Iran and releasing billions of dollars to its regime over the next ten years is inimical to the security of Israel and the Middle East,” the letter states.
In Washington DC, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is an organization whose mission is the promotion of “a strong U.S. security relationship with Israel.”
To that end, JINSA spares no expense in trying to persuade retired American generals and admirals that Israel’s security interests should remain uppermost in their minds and thus it instituted an annual Generals and Admirals Program to Israel.
A few years ago, Jason Vest reported:
The bulk of JINSA’s modest annual budget is spent on taking a bevy of retired US generals and admirals to Israel, where JINSA facilitates meetings between Israeli officials and the still-influential US flag officers, who, upon their return to the States, happily write op-eds and sign letters and advertisements championing the Likudnik line.
Naturally, when it comes to opposition to the Iran deal JINSA is manning the front lines.
But here’s what’s noteworthy about the latest exercise in letter writing designed to put Israel’s interests first when crafting U.S. foreign policy: a large majority of JINSA’s advisory board members who are retired generals and admirals, did not sign the letter opposing the Iran deal.
The board includes 36 such figures and yet only eight of them were signators.
It’s hard to say how many of the non-signers made an active choice not to sign. Even so, JINSA’s leaders would surely have expected more solid support on this issue.
What this lack of solidarity most likely illustrates is that the divide between those who support or oppose the Iran deal has virtually nothing to do with objective assessments about the national security interests of the U.S., Israel or any other nation.
The opponents to this deal are in fact opponents of any deal with Iran.
And the suggestion that standing with Israel necessitates standing against the deal, is an equation that can be seen as false not only among the deal’s strongest advocates but probably even many of JINSA’s own advisory board members.