I recently wrote a piece on humor as war propaganda for AlterNet. With that story in mind, I’d like to point you to an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg on yesterday’s episode of the “Colbert Report” with satirist Stephen Colbert. The idea of laughing about Israel — or the United States — attacking Iran is only one more step in the process of what Stephen Walt, at his Foreign Policy blog, called “mainstreaming war with Iran.” Writing at the time about the initial release of Goldberg’s recent controversial Atlantic piece on the likelihood of Israel attacking Iran, Walt wrote:

[...S]avvy people-in-the-know should start getting accustomed to the idea. In other words, a preemptive strike on Iran should be seen not as a remote or far-fetched possibility, but rather as something that is just ‘business-as-usual’ in the Middle East strategic environment. If you talk about going to war often enough and for long enough, people get used to the idea and some will even begin to think if it is bound to happen sooner or later, than ”twere better to be done quickly.’

Watch the Colbert clip:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jeffrey Goldberg
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

In between chortling about the “existential threat” to Israel posed by Iran, Goldberg fails to mention that the threat is not actually as simple as Goldberg or Colbert make it out to be. “One plus one equals two with the Israelis,” said Goldberg. “‘We can’t let this country develop a nuclear weapon if they seek our destruction.” Colbert chimes in, “For some reason they’re paranoid about people wanting them dead having a nuclear bomb.”

But in his Atlantic piece, even Goldberg acknowledged that the threat to Israel was not as simple as, like he put it on Tuesday, “one plus one equals two”:

Israeli policy makers do not necessarily believe that Iran, should it acquire a nuclear device, would immediately launch it by missile at Tel Aviv. [...]

The challenges posed by a nuclear Iran are more subtle than a direct attack, Netanyahu told me. [...]

Other Israeli leaders believe that the mere threat of a nuclear attack by Iran — combined with the chronic menacing of Israel’s cities by the rocket forces of Hamas and Hezbollah — will progressively undermine the country’s ability to retain its most creative and productive citizens.

The last point was made to Goldberg by Ehud Barak. It was a particularly convoluted threat, as pointed out by Salon‘s Justin Elliot, who noted that the idea behind Barak’s thesis undermines basic tenets of Zionism.