War With Iran: Is Chuck Hagel Giving Israel the Green Light?

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made a trip to Israel last week to offer yet more military handouts to the region's most militarized country. Hagel announced the U.S. will provide Israel with a lot of high-tech airpower, including new missiles designed to take out antiaircraft systems and heavily-armed, straight-out-of-a-spy-movie Bell Boeing V 22 Osprey helicopters.

The U.S. already gives Israel $8.5 million in military aid per day. Just for reference, that's enough money to flat-out buy houses at median market price for 50 struggling homeowners every single day of the year. And as Hagel noted during his visit to Israel, this doesn't even count the $460 million already spent by the U.S. on Iron Dome, the Israeli missile defense shield (an amount that could buy more than 2,700 foreclosed homes), or the forthcoming $220 million (nearly 1,300 homes) that will be spent on the program. 

Hagel didn't say how much money will be spent on the airpower initiative, but given that each individual Osprey is worth about 400 houses, it's probably going to be a considerable expense. The program is apparently part of a regional military aid package totalling $10 billion (I don't even want to think about how many houses that makes). The purpose of the program? To keep Iran in line, of course.

Never mind that, as I've detailed here before, the vast majority of actual experts on Iran (including the head of the Israeli Defense Forces) say that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and basically poses no threat to anyone. Hagel still seems to think that if we gave that Osprey money to, say, the 16 million children living below the poverty line in the U.S. instead of to the Boeing corporation, Iran would somehow wipe Israel off the map. 

And, as usual with "security" initiatives from the U.S. government, it gets worse: Hagel has basically given Israel the green light to bomb Iran off the map whenever it wants to. 

"Israel will make the decision that Israel must make to protect itself, to defend itself," Hagel said just before leaving for Israel. 

The "decision" Hagel is referring to is the choice to unilaterally strike a sovereign state that has done nothing to provoke Israel, poses no threat to any of its neighbors, and is armed with mostly old-school Soviet weaponry to defend itself. 

Of course, this wouldn't be unusual behavior for Israel. In November, it provoked a war with Gaza that left over 170 Gazans dead, including more than 30 children. In recent weeks it has ratched up attacks on Gaza, proving that it's still not shy about attacking its neighbors. 

The biggest problem with all this from an American standpoint is the potential for the U.S. to be dragged into yet another quagmire with a country that poses no threat to us. If Israel attacks Iran, which Hagel has seemingly given it the green light to do, the U.S. will certainly send troops to its aid.

As Hagel said during his Israel trip, "The United States has made clear to the Israeli people that we have a commitment to Israel's security." If Israel leads the U.S. into war with Iran, that commitment is going to be very expensive.