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“Superpower?”

[ 34 ] May 31, 2010 |

I don’t want to interrupt Jeffrey Goldberg’s hand-wringing, but this really stood out:

Israel may face, in the coming year, a threat to its existence the likes of which it has not experienced before: A theologically-motivated regional superpower with a nuclear arsenal.

Really? We’re calling Iran a regional superpower now? Here’s some quick data on Middle East defense spending:

Saudi Arabia: $33.1 billion
Israel: $12.1 billion
Turkey: $11.6 billion
Syria: $6.3 billion
Iran: $6.1 billion

Now, it’s obvious that defense spending isn’t the entire issue; I doubt that anyone would take seriously the idea that Saudi Arabia is militarily superior to Israel. Nevertheless, the term “superpower” rather conveys “super” “power”; it seems odd that a regional “superpower” such as Iran gets outspent by four other regional countries. Does this make Saudi Arabia a regional “superpower”? Maybe Goldberg means “superpower” in some way that doesn’t actually reference the superness of a country’s power? This would be odd, given that the term came into common usage when there were two “super” “powers”, each of whom dwarfed any other potential competitors in total defense spending. Perhaps the nuclear weapons are doing the work here, although that would also be odd since he clearly uses “with a nuclear arsenal” as a modifier to “superpower”. Or perhaps Jeffrey Goldberg just really isn’t all that thoughtful about the Middle East balance of power…

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Comments (34)

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  1. Sophist says:

    Or perhaps Jeffrey Goldberg just really isn’t all that thoughtful about the Middle East balance of power…

    Yes.

  2. Emma says:

    “A theologically-motivated regional superpower with a nuclear arsenal”

    I don’t think he’s noticed that he’s just described Israel. Far more accurately than Iran.

  3. You have to correct people when they make ridiculous statements like this. Iran is an economic basket case. The oil industry infrastructure of Iran is in terrible shape. Aside from supporting terror groups and trying to export the revolution, which is actually dead now because the majority of Iranians can’t even remember 1979, Iran can’t claim to be anything approaching a superpower.

    Now, compared to Lebanon, well. Whatever.

  4. rea says:

    Does any person who has looked at the evidence honestly think Iran is less than a year away from, not simply making a nukcler bomb, but having a whole nuclear arsenal?

  5. rea says:

    Does any person who has looked at the evidence honestly think Iran is less than a year away from, not simply making a nuclear bomb, but having a whole nuclear arsenal?

    • No, they’re actually not even close to having a “nuclear weapon” or a “nuclear arsenal” because they are *broke* and can’t come up with the necessary components.

      Now, calm down, son.

      • Eric Tolle says:

        I’m not actually sure that “they’re broke” is any real deterrent to acquiring nuclear weapons, or at least trying to– witness North Korea. The actual question has to be, where is their nuclear program at this point?

    • Shingo says:

      “Does any person who has looked at the evidence honestly think Iran is less than a year away from, not simply making a nuclear bomb, but having a whole nuclear arsenal?”

      What evidence might that be rea?

      In February, the US intelligence community produced a risk assessment report that eseitialyl concluded that the findings fo the 2007 NIE are still valid.

      BTW. I am a former nuclear enginner, so if you need this to be explained, feel free to ask.

      • Craig Burley says:

        “In February, the US intelligence community produced a risk assessment report that eseitialyl concluded that the findings fo the 2007 NIE are still valid.”

        In other words, Iran has made no progress towards obtaining nuclear weapons in two-and-a-half years, probably because the central finding of the 2007 NIE was that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and it has not been resumed.

  6. John says:

    I think the fundamental difference here, and I mean Fundamental with a capital “F” – is that Iran has publicly stated over and over again that it wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. If a country has enough nuclear arsenal to hit a few Israeli cities, it does not matter that their military is outspent 10 to 1. From Israel’s perspective, Iran with nukes is a superpower.

    • Rob says:

      you re relying on a bad translation which israel has used to it’s advantage over and over. The actual meaning was history would wipe israel off of the books, no one needs to do a thing.
      I dont think israel is going anywhere any time soon in fact if there is one country that is in danger of being wiped out due to the actions of another it’s Iran, as israel seems to being trying to goad the US into military action.
      There are innocent people in both countries lets hope the leaders of both decide to start listening to more rational elements in each of their respective nations and TONE IT DOWN!

    • Neil says:

      Actually, this is a commonly repeated myth that has no basis in fact. The Iranian president gave a speech in Arabic a few years ago, and the translation used by the Bush administration PR team came up with a sentence something like “Israel will be wiped from the face of the earth”. Naturally that’s been repeated ad nauseum in the media and it’s accepted by almost everyone that Iran’s true feelings were revealed.

      However, I’ve read in several highly-respected blogs and newspapers that the sentence was mistranslated, and should more accurately have said something like ‘The man-made Israeli state that occupies Palestine should never have existed on the earth’. That’s not a quote, just what I remember.

      But the general gist of the speech was that the Israelis have a right to their own country, but the choices made in 1948 about where to put it were a big mistake, and the entire history in the region since then is something that should be wiped from History if possible.

      Of course, we know and accept that Iran doesn’t *like* Israel, but they have never said that they want to destroy the country and kill all Jews. Iran has a huge Jewish population and there are numerous Jewish members of the Iranian parliament. It would be political suicide if the Iranian leadership seriously endorsed the destruction of an Israeli state.

      It really sickens me to hear Israel and her supporters continually play the victim and pretend they live every day in fear of the inevitable nuclear holocaust that Iran will send them one day. It’s never going to happen, the whole scenario is just a sick fantasy for the Israeli hardliners.

  7. Jay C says:

    Just of curiosity, WTF is the Saudis’ military spending going for? The are spending two-and-a-half times what Israel is? Does KSA really maintain that large/complex a military establishment? Or are we selling them surplus gold-plated aircrew toilets and $3000 screwdrivers and the like in bulk to get some of our oil $$$ back?

  8. CanadaGoose says:

    A theologically-motivated regional superpower with a nuclear arsenal.

    Like others, I thought it was a description of Israel. Israel is a good example of what happens when you have an official religion.

  9. Gary K. says:

    Iran was less than a year away from having a whole nuclear arsenal: Iran had always been less than a year away from having a whole nuclear arsenal.

    • redrob says:

      And next year Iran will be just a year away from possessing a whole nuclear arsenal. My God, man, that’s only two Friedmans!

    • DocAmazing says:

      Zeno’s Paradox for dummies.

    • Acharn says:

      LOL! That reminds me of the computer weenies’ joke back in the early 90′s. “Gallium arsenide is the material of the future! Always has been, always will be.” So I gues we can paraphrase that, “Iran is a future nuclear power. Always has been, always will be.” Meanwhile, we know Israel already has several hundred warheads/bombs.

  10. Some Guy says:

    I would suspect that a large portion of Saudi defense spending goes to pissing it away on shiny toys. In my understanding, when something breaks, they have a mentality that’s less, ‘fix it’ and more, ‘time to buy a new one’.

    It does raise an interesting question of what the US would do is Israel and Saudi Arabia really started going at each other. Like a dog when you throw two sticks in different directions.

  11. lige says:

    I always thought the Saudi purchases were a kickback of sorts to American Arms manufactures.

    • wengler says:

      Yeah, it also helps in having the US government look the other way when Saudi nationals kill thousands of Americans.

      If Saddam had the same scheme going he’d still be alive…as well as thousands of other Americans.

  12. Bukko Canukko says:

    Be kind to Jonah now! It’s not nice to pick on the slow kids. Maybe he meant “superpower” in terms of, well, having “superpowers.” Like the ability to leap tall minarets in a single bound, or stop Internet sites with its bare hands, or fly around the Earth backwards so fast that it can reverse time back to the year 701 AD or something…

  13. Bukko Canukko says:

    Whoops — I see it’s JEFFREY Goldberg, not Jonah. How many stupid right-wing Goldbergs are there anyway?

    Is “stupid right-wing” always a redundancy?

    • Matt says:

      To be fair, JEFFREY Goldberg is nobody’s idea of a right-winger. He’s a liberal who happens to be extremely pro-Israel. As is his right. But yeah, it makes him write dumb stuff.

  14. Ben says:

    Why do you assume he’s speaking of Iran? I think its pretty clear he’s referring to Turkey. Last I checked, Iran does not possess anything resembling a ‘nuclear arsenal.’ But Turkey does, unless I am mistaken.

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