Nuclear umbrella

Barack Obama is set to do what his new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has advocated: Bring Israel under our nuclear umbrella, which means that if Iran or some other nation nuke Israel, the USA will nuke them back. From Obama’s atomic umbrella: U.S. nuclear strike if Iran nukes Israel – Haaretz – Israel News :

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s administration will offer Israel a “nuclear umbrella” against the threat of a nuclear attack by Iran, a well-placed American source said earlier this week. The source, who is close to the new administration, said the U.S. will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran.

But America’s nuclear guarantee to Israel could also be interpreted as a sign the U.S. believes Iran will eventually acquire nuclear arms.

Secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton had raised the idea of a nuclear guarantee to Israel during her campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency. During a debate with Obama in April, Clinton said that Israel and Arab countries must be given “deterrent backing.” She added, “Iran must know that an attack on Israel will draw a massive response.”

Clinton also proposed that the American nuclear umbrella be extended to other countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, if they agree to relinquish their own nuclear ambitions.

Good idea? Is that an adequate response to Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon, let them do it but trust to deterrence?

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  • Carl Vehse

    “…the U.S. will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran.”

    If Iran attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon, Israel would vaporize Iran in thermonuclear fireballs. I suspect Israel has 0 confidence that the “0” would be willing to do the same.

    “Is that an adequate response to Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon, let them do it but trust to deterrence?”

    Based on Israel’s past military actions in dealing with nuclear threats by Iraq and Syria, the “0” will be diplomatically told to file his “nuclear umbrella” offer where the sun never shines.

  • Don S

    The article doesn’t mention whether the offer is contingent on Israel giving up its own nuclear weapons, but Israel would be foolish to do so. There is very little chance, particularly under a Democratic administration, that the U.S. would follow through with a nuclear attack on Iran in the event that Israel were vaporized. Any foreign country evaluating American protection guarantees only needs to look at what happened in Vietnam and Iraq to know that we are not to be trusted to follow through when times get tough. Sure, we stuck it out in Iraq and achieved a victory, but it was only through the persistence of a very principled President, who was unafraid to face the political consequences to himself and his party in order to follow through on his commitments. However, he is leaving office, and there is little prospect that future presidents will be as principled.

    As for the concept of permitting Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, our position should be “absolutely not”, and we should do everything within our power to prevent such an occurrence. Madmen should not have nuclear weapons. However, it is prudent, as a backup, to offer protection to our allies in that region, as long as we have a real intention of following through. Of course, for reasons discussed above, I question that we do.

  • This proposal signals two things – both of them frightening. (1) The Obama Administration is willing to tolerate a nuclear Iran, all his campaign rhetoric to the contrary. This statement assumes that will happen, which may as well be a green light to Iran. Very irresponsible.

    (2) The Obama Administration’s foreign policy and posture will be led by “9/10” thinking. The idea that nuclear deterrence is effective against a nuclear-armed Iran is premised on the idea that Iran will only attack Israel in its capacity as a nation-state. When was the last time any Arab-state did so? I thought we finally learned that lesson on 9/11 when we were attacked by non-state actors. Apparently, it has only taken us eight years to forget it.

    What good will our “nuclear umbrella” do Israel when a nuke detonates in Tel Aviv and Hezbollah claims responsibility? How fast will the FBI be able complete its investigation?

    Israel needs to do what it must do to protect its existence. Woe unto them if they are relying on the Obama Administration for protection. Obama may not want to be president when GM goes under. Does he want to be President when Israel gets nuked? If not, he needs to do better.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Given Iran’s clear statements that it wishes to destroy Israel and that one nuclear strike would obliterate that land, why wouldn’t it be reasonable to make a preemptive attack to slow down or destroy Iran’s capacity to fire off a nuclear weapon?

    This American nuclear guarantee is worthless showboating.

  • Michael the little boot

    Um, please tell me none of you is actually suggesting the use of nuclear weapons is ever a good thing. I find the words here a little too flippant. What you’re talking about is nuclear war, which is not the same thing as what we did to Japan. It really would mean the end of so much life on earth, if not the end of the earth itself. If Iran struck Israel, it would already be over. Someone would strike back, whether the US or another country.

    I know none of you is saying “Yeah! Bring on thermonuclear annihilation!” But all this talk in hypothetical terms makes me uneasy, to say the least. If ANYONE who has a nuke on this planet uses one, game over, man.

    Oops. Guess that was a little flippant.

  • Don S

    But, Michael @ 6, that’s the point. The very idea of offering a nuclear shield to Israel is crazy. It’s a promise we wouldn’t, and shouldn’t keep. Far better and more responsible to pursue the Bush policy of doing our best to ensure that Iran never achieves nuclear weapons, because, if they achieve them, they WILL use them!

  • William Broderius

    Neather Obama or Clinton should have anything do do with the United States of America. The wrong people to run our Country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They will get us killed……..

  • Michael the little boot


    I think I was taken aback by the casual nature of the conversation. None of us has our finger on the button, and the fact we have no control probably has us so removed in our minds, the conversation ends up feeling that far from reality. I just think it’s funny we talk about solutions to world problems, when nuclear proliferation continues. All problems, IMO, pale in comparison to that.

  • Don S


    You’re right. Sometimes the discussion gets a little academic, because it is difficult to even comprehend the outcome of a nuclear exchange. That’s what was so crazy about the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) during the Cold War. Nuclear deterrence was entirely based on trust that your opponent would restrain himself from using nuclear weapons because of fear of the promised nuclear response. There were rules in place, by treaty, prohibiting missile defenses because that would remove the deterrent. It was just the kind of academic, non-emotional arrangement that you deplored in your comment. Nuts!

    However, at least then, you had relatively responsible world powers holding the weapons. Now we have real crazies having actual or potential access to them……..

  • Michael the little boot

    Don, the crazies, coupled with the crumbling infrastructure of most nuclear nations, are what I’m worried about. That, and the feeling I get from world leaders that they consider us property. If they really do have underground complexes to which they can escape (and I know I’m starting to sound a little crazy myself), why would they care of a few hundred-million people died? Worst-case scenario, I know. But I get the feeling quite often we are still living in the era of World Leaders who go to war for pleasure, like the kings of old.