Appeal to Authority

Among the most potent logical fallacies available to the polemicist is the “appeal to authority,” by which one attempts to suggest that the opinion of an expert on a question within the general area of his expertise must be correct. An “appeal to authority” is at the heart of J.J. Goldberg’s column “Israel Security Establishment Breaks With Bibi on Iran Deal” (July 23), in which Mr. Goldberg cites the putative views of a number of Israeli “security insiders” to suggest that the vehement opposition of Prime Minister Netanyahu to President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran – an opposition shared by every major political party in Israel – is misplaced.

It should be noted, first of all, that Mr. Goldberg is able to cite only one such “insider” – Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, who chairs the Israel Space Agency – as going so far as to say that the deal is “not bad at all, perhaps even good for Israel.” The other security officials and ex-officials appear to agree the deal is a bad one, but believe that Israel’s most prudent course would be to accept the agreement as a fait accompli to avoid further strain in Israel’s relations with the United States.

These men, who have devoted their lives to protecting their country and its citizens, are more than entitled to their opinions. However, their opinions are entitled to no particular weight as ordinary citizens consider their positions on the critical question of whether the Iran deal should be approved.

The issues on which that question turn are not technical, as would be, for example, the question of whether an Israel Air Force attack would do meaningful damage to Iran’s nuclear program. For all the complexity of the deal, the big picture is quite simple. Is the likelihood of Iran’s becoming a more moderate, responsible power within the next fifteen years sufficient to justify giving international approval to Iran’s having a nuclear program that even President Obama admits would give the country a short path to a nuclear arsenal? Does it make sense to reward Iran with a $150 billion signing bonus, a healthy portion of which will surely be used to finance its terrorist proxies, for initial compliance with an agreement that does not require the dismantling of any of its nuclear infrastructure, and which Iran could then walk away from at any time?

The incontestable fact is that there is no indication whatever that the character of the totalitarian, terror-sponsoring Iranian theocracy is likely to change over the next decade. On the contrary, amid chants of “Death to America, Death to Israel,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently proclaimed that “American rulers have always dreamed of forcing us to change our behavior,” and that the present U.S. administration, like its predecessors, would “[take] that dream to their graves. In these circumstances, no American citizen should feel obliged to defer to the opinion of “experts” in evaluating the Iranian nuclear agreement and communicating his views to his elected representatives. Citizens should strongly oppose that agreement, as do the overwhelming majority of Israel’s citizens and their elected representatives.

HOWARD F JAECKEL

New York, NY

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Appeal to Authority

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