Bird's Eye View: America needs Wilt – not Neville – Chamberlain

Following my return to Israel, I watched in near disbelief last night’s news showing an Iranian naval exercise that brazenly showcased their destruction of a mock US aircraft carrier.

Iranian missiles blow up replica US passenger plane‏. (photo credit: IRANIAN MEDIA)
Iranian missiles blow up replica US passenger plane‏.
(photo credit: IRANIAN MEDIA)
While in the US last week, I attended public events with well-known American and Israeli figures, was privileged to meet former president Bill Clinton and speak at Yale University.
Upon returning, as the music accompanying PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech before Congress reaches its crescendo, I find myself reflecting on a comment made by my buddy Rob, a prominent NY orthopedic surgeon and ardent Israel supporter, who joined me in a supposed “timeout” from serious issues while we attended the All Star weekend breakfast with the NBA Legends.
After prerequisite selfies with Magic and Dr. J, Rob suggested that America could really use a figure like Wilt to shore up our country’s defense and hoped that over-eagerness to reach an agreement with Iran would not lead along the disastrous path forged by a Chamberlain of a different era, Neville.
We had only to look to the majestic Bill Russell sitting at the next table to remember how he and Wilt – the superpowers of their day – would swat away shots by any upstart who dared invade their territory, often forcing them to alter their shots and sometimes requiring them to visit their dentists the following morning. Talk about deterrence! National Security Council Director Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry could learn a thing or two from these men.
The importance of standing tall was perhaps best exemplified by another of my favorites at the event: the heroic Willis Reed. Barely able to walk, Willis hobbled onto the court in Game 7 of the 1970 finals to do battle with a disbelieving and quickly demoralized adversary as he inspired his teammates to victory.
Following my return, I watched in near disbelief last night’s news showing an Iranian naval exercise that brazenly showcased their destruction of a mock US aircraft carrier.
These people are deadly serious about developing their conventional capabilities in addition to becoming a nuclear power. A culture that introduced the game of chess to the world cannot be discounted as lacking the ability to think in terms of long-range strategic moves.
For their part, Americans cannot be blamed for their desire to kick the Iranian nuclear can down the road, and focus for the next decade on more pleasant issues, like Super Bowls 50 through 60.
I find it revealing that just this week, another barometer of American culture, the Motion Film Academy, virtually ignored An American Sniper. Perhaps Clint Eastwood’s riveting undertaking of the complexities of modern warfare created discomfort for those who found it easier to honor instead conflicts of a different genre: the internal struggles of actors in Birdman. Political correctness resonates in Hollywood.
Yet Netanyahu’s speech is NOT about political correctness any more than it is about protocol or “the fabric of US-Israel relations.” Certainly in today’s virtual world, an alternative platform for BIbi’s message could have been engineered. However, once this venue was established, it is high time to refocus on the message itself, and stop the bickering about the “could haves and should haves” of how it will be delivered.
As Prof. Alan Dershowitz points out, “Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu… because [Iran] threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people... As soon as this deal is struck, with its sunset provision, countries would begin to develop their own nuclear-weapon programs, as would other countries in the region. If Congress thinks this is a bad deal, it has the responsibility to act.”
In terms from my own background, we would all do well to zoom up 10,000 feet to look down on the current situation with historic perspective. As in Munich 1938, the cost of a mistake is just too great.
President Barack Obama, whom Whoopi Goldberg characterized at the NBA breakfast as “the first president who really plays basketball,” must make his presence felt like Wilt did. If he disagrees with PM Netanyahu, that is certainly his prerogative and his responsibility to his country. But he would do well to disagree following a thorough hearing and debate in America’s carefully constructed Constitutional system that gives Congress a place in the discussion.
It’s crunch time and every voice should be heard. We dare not be silent, again.