1914, again

Posted by lex, on August 11, 2006

Is war with Iran inevitable? Over at the National Review Online, Michael Ledeen appears to think so, which is maybe not so very surprising. But he quotes – at length – an article by Robert Tracinski in the Intellectual Activist Daily that raises a chilling and seemingly ineluctable spectre:

It is, indeed, “five minutes to midnight”—not just for Israel, but for the West. The time is very short now before we will have to confront Iran. The only question is how long we let events spin out of our control, and how badly we let the enemy hit us before we begin fighting back.

We can’t avoid this war, because Iran won’t let us avoid it. That is the real analogy to the 1930s. Hitler came to power espousing the goal of German world domination, openly promising to conquer neighboring nations through military force and to persecute and murder Europe’s Jews. He predicted that the free nations of the world would be too weak—too morally weak—to stand up to him, and European and American leaders spent the 1930s reinforcing that impression. So Hitler kept advancing—the militarization of the Rhineland in 1936, the Spanish bombing campaign in 1937, the annexation of Austria and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, the invasion of Poland in 1939—until the West finally, belated decided there was no alternative but war.

That is what is playing out today. Iran’s theocracy has chosen, as the nation’s new president, a religious fanatic who believes in the impending, apocalyptic triumph of Islam over the infidels. He openly proclaims his desire to create an Iranian-led Axis that will unite the Middle East in the battle against America, and he proclaims his desire to “wipe Israel off the map,” telling an audience of Muslim leaders that “the main solution” to the conflict in Lebanon is “the elimination of the Zionist regime…”

Few people in 1914 saw things as clearly as we do now…the building of alliances, the accumulating tension in Europe, and the setting of numerous invisible hair triggers across the Continent and the colonies. Without being alarmist, I wonder if, in future, students will look back on 2006 and observe similar developments and point to some of the same drift, blindness, and ambition that characterised the beginning of the last century.

For the record, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think that open war with Iran is either inevitable, or a particularly good idea: The best thing for the mullahcracy would be for us to cement their rule over an otherwise restive, and predominantly young populace – one that has no memory of the Shah’s regime, SAVAK or the revolution – is for us to go in there with air and leave the job half done. What’s good for them cannot be good for us.

On the other hand, I do wonder how many well-meaning people believed just the same things in the Summer of 1914, in the Autumn of 1939? But if we are in fact backed into a fight, we should make it clear up front that we are done with nation-building for a while.

Next time, we just take them apart.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Iran, Neptunus Lex, Politics and Culture

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