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Morris J. Amitay
Column for April 20, 2007
The Writing on the Wall
Inevitably after the tragic Virginia Tech. shootings much attention was focused on why, despite the warning signs raised by the shooter’s previous behavior, no action was taken. On a much more macro scale the question must be asked why are we not taking effective action against the very overt threats posed by Iran and the spread of Islamofascism?
Surely unambiguous warning signs are there in abundance. We have the resurgence of the Taliban, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, its support of jihadists terrorists worldwide, and its proxies killing Americans in Iraq. The bellicose statements of Iran’s leaders calling for the annihilation of Israel, their national slogan of “death to America”, and the calls for even more “martyrs” make perfectly clear their future intentions. Fueling this bitter enmity toward Western civilization is a fundamentalist religious belief that inevitably a caliphate will be established to rule over the entire world.
This kind of threat is very different and much more dangerous than the conflicts we faced in the past century. The old fashioned wars were fought between nations’ armies for control over territory. The winners would dictate terms to the losers, who would have to relinquish land, and in some cases their national sovereignty. This is what World War I was about. In the Second World War we also saw a clash of ideologies with democracy triumphing over totalitarian nazism. This was followed immediately by the Cold War, pitting the West against communism. But, with weapons becoming more destructive, certain rules of the game applied between two rational antagonists, with mutual deterrence preventing catastrophe. Today, however, nationalism and political ideologies are not the driving forces behind the conflict we now face. It is extremist religious beliefs which pose an existential threat to all non-believers. What we better start acknowledging sooner, rather than later, is that we are facing fanatics who want us either converted or dead.
The motivation here is above and beyond the desire of Iran to become a regional super-power by acquiring nuclear weapons. It was starkly exemplified by Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s description of a vision he asserts he had when he addressed the United Nations. Ahmadinejad is not known for mincing words, and we should take him at his word when he describes an apocalyptic future. This is definitely not just another religious “nut”, but someone who represents a growing force which must be taken seriously. He represents the deeply held convictions of those who rule over a nation of 70 million people, and followers throughout the world.
So far, however, the reaction to this growing menace has been a pathetic mixture of wishful thinking and empty threats. By now, it should be clear that reliance on the United Nations to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions has become nothing but a bad joke. We have our State Department, echoed by the equally feckless foreign offices of our allies in “the war on terror” calling for “tough diplomacy” – surely an oxymoron. Since 2003 when we finally awoke to Iran’s covert pursuit of nukes the Iranians have played us like a violin, and continue to do so. Just earlier this week the USA Today headline proclaimed “Diplomacy with Iran Appears to be Working, Gates Says”. We can certainly wish that our Secretary of Defense’s assessment was correct, but where is the evidence of this? Our diplomats, who often have seen many different faces of Iran, invariably prefer to acknowledge only the smiling ones. They attribute to the Iranian mullahs the same rationality and common interests they would expect if they were negotiating with Norwegians. This is much like the mindset Chamberlain must have had in 1938 when he traded away Czechoslovakia to Hitler for “peace in our time”, or more recently, when Kofi Anan announced he could “do business” with Saddam Hussein.
Those calling for engagement with Iran simply refuse to accept the reality that they are dealing with evil men who interpret any offer of compromise as weakness, and who consider their own commitments as being revocable at will. We have seen this same charade played out time and time again. Even though Lucy removes the football every time, poor Linus tries to kick it again and again. Hope springs eternal in those who are unwilling to face the ugly truth that their interlocutors regard them as fools. So when we now hear the mantra that a “diplomatic solution” is the only way to convince the mullahs to abandon their nuclear quest, what signal does it send to our adversaries? It means that we are doomed to continue to talk and talk some more, and set deadlines which are not met, while eschewing effective sanctions because the Russians and Chinese won’t let us, and the Europeans are of little help. In the meantime, the Iranians are trying as fast as they can to develop nuclear weapons while continuing to arm and train Iraqi Shiite militias, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other assorted terrorist groups.
The only real solution, then, is the most obvious – the much reviled “use of force”. When we hear Israeli leaders publicly pronouncing that a diplomatic solution is the answer, we can only hope those wily Jews are only saying this for public consumption. Admittedly, it will involve a much more complicated military operation than the strike on Iraq’s Osirik reactor in 1981 to significantly degrade Iran’s nuclear progress. And, of course, the United States could accomplish this task more effectively than Israel. But will an American (or Israeli, for that matter) leader have the courage to take such a step in the face of the defeatist attitudes so rampant here and among our traditional friends? So far, the only major presidential candidate to speak out clearly on this issue has been Senator John McCain. He has expressed the view that the only thing worse that the use of force against Iran is a nuclear-armed Iran. It should be difficult to argue with this straightforward proposition. But apparently it makes too much sense for those who prefer to keep their heads in the sand and to put their trust in the diplomats. The reality is that unless this new threat is acted upon in time, the consequences could be truly catastrophic. And with each passing day, there is less and less time to act.