Posted on June 25th, 2007 by lex
In the WSJ today, the American Enterprise Institute’s Joshua Muravchik sees a kind of method to the recent Persian madness – a misplaced, but nevertheless liberating sense of immunity to consequence:
The apparent meaning of all of this pointless provocation and bullying is that the axis of radicals–Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah–is feeling its oats. In part its aim is to intimidate the rest of us, in part it is merely enjoying flexing its muscles. It believes that its side has defeated America in Iraq, and Israel in Gaza and Lebanon. Mr. Ahmadinejad recently claimed that the West has already begun to “surrender,” and he gloated that ” final victory . . . is near.” It is this bravado that bodes war.
A large portion of modern wars erupted because aggressive tyrannies believed that their democratic opponents were soft and weak. Often democracies have fed such beliefs by their own flaccid behavior. Hitler’s contempt for America, stoked by the policy of appeasement, is a familiar story. But there are many others. North Korea invaded South Korea after Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that Korea lay beyond our “defense perimeter.” Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait after our ambassador assured him that America does not intervene in quarrels among Arabs. Imperial Germany launched World War I, encouraged by Great Britain’s open reluctance to get involved. Nasser brought on the 1967 Six Day War, thinking that he could extort some concessions from Israel by rattling his sword.
Muravchik’s conclusion is that the conjoined forces of the anti-war lobby and a rattled, war-weary electorate may actually be hastening the outbreak of hostilies – that they may in fact render them inevitable, if only because tyrannies overreach as often as they miscalculate.
Meanwhile, over at the Washington Times, Editor at Large Arnaud de Borchgrave is concerned that with antagonists on every side trembling on the leash ** , external actors with their own agendas in mind may seek to widen by proxy an age-old conflict with the only foe Sunni Islam has ever really feared: The Persian Shi’a
The word among the neocon family is Mr. Cheney believes Mr. Bush will stick to his pledge not to leave office 16 months hence with Iran’s nuclear facilities unscathed. Either Iran comes clean and stops its nuclear fuel enrichment process under IAEA control, or Tehran faces Mr. Bush’s military option. Two U.S. aircraft carriers are now 30 miles off Iran’s coastline in the Persian Gulf.
Mr. Podhoretz’s new book, “World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism,” posits that we are back in 1938, appeasing the latest dictator with global ambitions. Iran’s Supreme Religious Guide Ali Khamenei, he writes, is far more dangerous than Adolf Hitler because he is building a nuclear arsenal and wants to wipe out, not just 6 million Jews this time, but the entire state of Israel with another 6 million Jews, most of them born since World War II.
A former commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain confided privately he was concerned such a conflagration could be triggered by al Qaeda and concocted to look like an act of war by Iran. This, in turn, would provide the casus belli the hawks seek with increasing impatience.
Even a successful air campaign could only degrade for a limited time – Five years? Ten? – Iranian efforts at nuclearization, even as it quite possibly allied an otherwise rebellious but nonetheless patriotic youth under the clerical autocracy for yet another fatal generation. And although the Iranian military is no match for our forces, and – from a purely military perspective – the outcome is not in doubt, they are not without the means to make trouble of their own.
It might be tempting for an already unpopular administration that feels as though it had nothing left to lose to try and ”tidy up around the shop” before heading off into the sunset, but soft options remain – somewhat perversely for an oil exporting nation, Iran imports half of its gasoline – and time probably remains yet for a new generation of executive and congressional leadership to decide whether or how to grasp this particular nettle, and then try and rebuild our currently shattered national consensus. Time that ought to be given to them.
Failing that, and with other important work undone, we ought to try to ensure we don’t just stumble into something – or worse, get pushed.
** 09-12-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.