the conclusion of Tuesday night’s second presidential “town-hall” style
debate, a questioner from the audience asked each candidate what he
would do if Iran attacked Israel. Both candidates gave somewhat vague
replies, focusing on the traditionally close relationship between the
United States and Israel. In any event, if Iran ever attacks Israel,
other than through its Lebanon-based surrogate Hezbollah, it will be
with nuclear-tipped missiles, in which case Israel will be obliterated
before the United States can respond.
The more pertinent question for the candidates
is, “What will you do if and when Israel carries out a preemptive
attack on Iranian nuclear facilities?” At that point both deterrence
and appeasement will have failed.
On March 7, 1936, Adolph Hitler ordered his
newly revived German army into the Rhineland, that strip of land
between Germany and France that had been demilitarized by clauses in
the Versailles Treaty, stipulating the area must be kept free of
military garrisons and installations. On paper, the French and British
army and air forces were so vastly superior to those of Germany that
the German general staff planned a coup d’ etat to remove
Hitler from power if the allies acted. France and England demurred. An
emboldened Hitler accelerated German rearmament. War became inevitable.
Hitler did not believe western leaders would
react because he felt they were distracted by a global depression,
because French political leadership was in disarray and weak, and
because other than belatedly voting economic sanctions against Italy
for invading Ethiopia the previous year, the League of Nations did
Leap to 2008. Last month, Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a vile, anti-Semitic/anti-United States
diatribe before the U.N. General Assembly, attributing the world’s
economic woes to Zionist manipulation of the global economy. He
declared Israel, that “rotting stinking corpse,” to be in the throes of
its last days, and predicted the impending end to the United States as
a world power.
Intelligence services generally agree that Iran
is six months to two years away from becoming a nuclear power.
Ahmadinejad has vowed to use that power against Israel and the United
States. Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad adheres to a millenarian apocalyptic
worldview, and like the Fuhrer of the Thousand Year Reich, he would be
just as willing to culminate his twisted vision in a horrific, possibly
civilization-ending spasm of violence.
As surely as Hitler sensed Western weakness in
1936, Ahmadinejad senses it today. Following his address to the United
Nations, quislings of the National Council of Churches, Mennonites and
Quakers honored Ahmadinejad with a banquet. Left-leaning Christians
from other denominations attended, including a trio representing the
Presbyterian Church, USA, one of the leading liberal Protestant groups.
Additionally, it seems Ahmadinejad follows the current American
presidential race. If so, he knows that half the American electorate
appears poised to vote for a candidate who opposed removing Saddam
Hussein from power, opposed providing additional troops needed to
implement the surge strategy and only belatedly conceded its efficacy,
and also advocated unconditional talks with Tehran. Perhaps most
encouragingly (to Ahmadinejad), that candidate evidently maintains a
relationship with the unrepentant founder of the ultra-violent Weather
Underground, University of Illinois at Chicago professor William Ayers;
a man who according to a recent New York Times article, excuses
bombings perpetrated by the Weather Underground based on a contrived
moral equivalency between terrorism and U.S. military attacks on
communist forces in Indochina. If appeasement prevails in the upcoming
election, the gateway to war will swing wide in late 2008, as wide as
in 1936. Another September 1939 may become inevitable.
not allow another September 1939. If the Iranians continue undeterred
towards acquiring nuclear weapons, the Israelis are likely to strike;
and from their perspective sooner rather than later. The vaunted
Israeli Air Force (IAF) can carry out a substantial raid to degrade
Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. The IAF cannot, however, reduce Iranian
military capabilities enough to forestall substantial Iranian
Iranian retaliation will attempt to further
undermine the world economy by attacking shipping in the Persian Gulf
along with oil fields in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Shi-ite
elements in Iraq and Afghanistan, possibly joined by Iranian forces,
will try to overwhelm outnumbered American forces. Hezbollah, stronger
in southern Lebanon today than it was in 2006 when it last attacked
Israel, will strike again; this time joined by a dangerous Hamas
militia in Gaza. Syria, sensing opportunity, may attack from the north.
An overwhelmed Israel may resort to its nuclear option.
If Israel attacks Iran, the only way to prevent
a regional catastrophe from mushrooming into a global one will be for
U.S. forces to join in, to significantly degrade Iranian retaliatory
capabilities. Only American air and sea power can accomplish what the
IAF acting alone cannot. But it will take decisive leadership in
Washington to opt for “full-commitment.” Israel likely will wait for
the results flowing from the first Tuesday in November before acting.
If those results portend weakness and vacillation, Israel likely will
strike before January 20, 2009.
Hitler’s re-militarization of the Rhineland
decisively weakened France’s strategic position. France’s
much-advertised and recently completed Maginot Line defenses running
from the Swiss Alps to the Ardennes Forest became largely irrelevant
once German troops were poised along the Rhine. Its allies in Eastern
Europe grew wary of French credibility. Political leaders in Paris and
London, seemingly feeling their political stature reduced, wallowed in
indecisiveness. Defeatism in 1936 blossomed into appeasement at Munich
in 1938 and then wilted into military collapse on the battlefields of
western France in June 1940. Europe entered what Winston Churchill
called, “a new Dark Age.”
Regardless of who wins the presidential
election in 2008, a fragile economic situation looms on the horizon,
underscoring our precarious position. Ultimately, swords—not
plowshares—stand between civilization and barbarism.