Fighting the Iranian monster, not fearing the Iranian monster

When Ronald Reagan took on the Soviet Union, which he did through the simple tactic of announcing that he was taking on the Soviet Union, conventional wisdom, on both sides of the aisle was horrified.  How could he? After almost 40 years of Cold War, we’d reached a tenuous balance predicated on mutually assured destruction.  If nobody moved, nobody would fall off the tightrope, right?

This cynical détente wasn’t painless.  Even as we, in America, were reacting with frozen fear to the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union kept a cruel, iron grip on its Eastern European satellites, and fomented bloody mischief all over the world.

What the American political class couldn’t understand, but what history has proven to be true, is that, by the 1980s, the whole Soviet empire was a giant Potemkin village.  Certainly the Soviets had guns and bombs, and they used the most extreme intimidation tactics to control their people, but their power was hollow, and was based more on stage-craft than reality.

Soviet policies were economically destructive and, even in the Communist world, someone needs to pay the bills.  Once Reagan finally started pushing, not only was there no “there there” to push back, but the dissidents who had struggled for so many decades under Soviet rule suddenly got a second wind and were able to upend the Soviets from within.

That was the lesson of my lifetime.  The lesson of my parents lifetime was that, if someone had stood up to Hitler in 1938, instead of simply being paralyzed by the fear of what Hitler might do, WWII could almost certainly have been prevented.

Human nature is such that, as long as the status quo isn’t too awful, it’s a nice place to be.  Until the situation becomes entirely untenable, we will always cling to the devil we know, rather than face the devil we don’t.  Twice in our history — in the 1930s and during the Cold War — we in the West thought we had the devil under control.  The 1940s showed we were fools to believe that; the 1980s, under Reagan, showed that it was better to fight the monster than simply to fear the monster.

What we in fairly free countries always forget is that, when a country rules its citizens through fear and intimidation, it has, at best a very fragile hold on them.  As long as the dictator’s gun is pointing directly at the citizens’ backs, they will fight for their own government, no matter how cruel it is.  However, if these same downtrodden, abused, fearful citizens have even the suspicion that a bigger gun is actually pointed at their dictator, that will give them the courage to refuse to fight.  And without enslaved manpower at its behest, a dictatorship is nothing.

I’m waffling on here because of the situation with Iran.  Right now, Iran does not yet have a nuclear bomb.  It has only the potential of being nuclearized.  It’s a monster, but it’s not as terrible a monster as it’s capable of being.

And make no mistake, if it does get the bomb, Iran will not be like the Soviet Union, held in check by the knowledge of its own weaknesses, and by the self-serving pragmatism of its leadership class.  Instead, like the Nazis, Iran is an apocalyptic regime that’s wedded to its destiny of controlling or destroying the world.  There is no such thing in Iran as mutually assured destruction.  If you’re a fanatic Shia, win or lose, you’ve still won.  Either you have world domination, or you’ve brought about the apocalypse that is the predicate to the coming of that missing 12th Imam.   It’s a win/win.

The only way to deal with Iran is to weaken the government irrevocably before it gets a nuclear weapon.  Unfortunately, as in the 1930s and during the Cold War, the political class is paralyzed by the potential downsides of doing so.  The U.S. under an Iranian-sympathetic Obama is so paralyzed it does nothing at all.  Israel, too, is afraid.  It knows that America is no longer an ally, so anything it does is unilateral and, many believe, existentially dangerous to Israel and America.  The fears of Israel’s acting are all well-spelled out amongst the political classes at home and abroad:

Such an attack would, they say, do great damage to the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Tehran would counterattack, punishing “the Great Satan” (America) for the sins of “the Little Satan” (Israel). An Israeli strike could lead to the closing of the world’s oil passageway, the Strait of Hormuz; prompt Muslims throughout the world to rise up in outrage; and spark a Middle Eastern war that might drag in the United States. Barack Obama’s “New Beginning” with Muslims, such as it is, would be over the moment Israeli bunker-busting bombs hit.

An Israeli “preventive” attack, we are further told, couldn’t possibly stop the Islamic Republic from developing a nuke, and would actually make it more likely that the virulently anti-Zionist supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, would strike Israel with a nuclear weapon. It would also provoke Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to deploy its terrorist assets against Israel and the United States. Hezbollah, the Islamic Revolution’s one true Arab child, would unleash all the missiles it has imported from Tehran and Damascus since 2006, the last time the Party of God and the Jewish state collided.

An Israeli preemptive strike unauthorized by Washington (and President Barack Obama is unlikely to authorize one) could also severely damage Israel’s standing with the American public, as well as America’s relations with Europe, since the “diplomacy first, diplomacy only” Europeans would go ballistic, demanding a more severe punishment of Israel than Washington could countenance. The Jewish state’s relations with the European Union—Israel’s major trading partner—could collapse. And, last but not least, an Israeli strike could fatally compromise the pro-democracy Green Movement in Iran, which is the only hope the West has for an end to the nuclear menace by means of regime change. This concern was expressed halfheartedly before the tumultuous Iranian elections of June 12, 2009, but it is now voiced with urgency by those who truly care about the Green Movement spawned by those elections and don’t want any American or Israeli action to harm it.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, who wrote the above words, also believes these fears are just as exaggerated as were the various worries that stopped the West from de-fanging Hitler before it was too late, or that prevented America from acting against the Soviet Union until millions of people had already died. None of the scenarios resulting from action are as extreme as the political class fears. Iran, like the Soviet Union, is a fundamentally weak country, one that controls a discontented citizenry through the worst kind of violent oppression. If Israel were to launch a targeted attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it’s more likely that the government will fall than that the apocalypse will come about.

My point of view is a bit more simplistic even than that. I believe that, if the world does nothing and Iran gets nuclear weapons, the apocalypse is a certainty. Iran will drop a nuclear bomb on Israel, and may spare some weaponry for other countries it hates, including Saudi Arabia. It will also exercise total control over a completely cowed Europe, which will be within the orbit of a nuclear Iran.

In other words, if the West continues on its current path of doing nothing, nuclear destruction is a certainty. However, if the West — and given Obama’s foreign policy, “the West” right now actually means Israel — does something, there’s a substantial likelihood (and Gerecht spells out the details of this likelihood), that Iran’s government will be destroyed. And yes, there’s still the possibility of Iran “going nuclear,” not by dropping a bomb, but by engaging in an all front war against Israel and America. That’s not necessarily a war Iran can win, however, and it’s still a better scenario than Iran with a nuclear bomb.

History has shown over and over and over again that the only thing that happens when you pretend you can get along with a monster is that the monster gets more monstrous.  At some point, one has to fight that monster, and it’s always easiest to see so early on in the game.

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  • Ymarsakar

    What did you think of the story of Carthage’s last days here, Book?

    Carthage was also facing a foe, Rome, and vice a versa. So why didn’t Carthage conduct the war as if it was a war?

  • Mike Devx

    As Winston Churchill said,
    “The Americans will always do the right thing………. after they`ve exhausted all the alternatives”.

    On the other hand, it could be said of today’s Europe:
    “After they`ve exhausted all the alternatives to doing the right thing……. Europe will then do nothing.”

    Taken together, this means that, yes, a nuclear mushroom cloud will rise over Tel Aviv.  Saudi Arabia will either surrender complete political control of the Middle East to Iran, or face its own mushroom clouds.

    And, yes, Europe will be completely cowed.

    All this is obvious, which is why there are rumblings that, behind the scenes, Saudi Arabia, others in the Middle East, and even perhaps some European powers are secretly angling for Israel to pull their bacon from the fire by encouraging an Israeli attack on Iran.

    But they will then *publicly* howl with anger at Israel for doing so.  Expecting their public whipping child to be their hero?  How sickening.  And Obama would pile on too.  All of them knowing that because Israel is the primary target, Israel has no choice but to defend itself.  They all get to have their cake and eat it, too.  And so, so, so smugly.

    If only Israel could construct an impregnable missile shield, and then tell the rest of the world to go take a flying f&#&ck:  We’re safe from Iran’s missiles, you’re not; YOU deal with them, you bastards.

  • David Foster

    The best point at which to have stopped Hitler would have been at the time of the Rhineland incursion, in 1936: the balance of forces was then overwhelmingly with the French and British. A young captain named Andre Beaufre (later a general) was on the French general staff at the time that the decision–what to do about the German move–needed to be made, and many of the arguments involved in the decision-making sound familiar today. From my earlier post on this topic:
    France’s first instinct was for a military response–at the time, her Army was certainly more powerful than the German. But she was deterred by several factors. First of these was a lack of support from Great Britain. “They are only going into their own back-garden,” said one prominent British statesman…and the Rhineland was indeed German territory. He was echoed by a newspaper editorial: “There is no more reason why German territory should be demilitarized than French, Belgian, or British.” (The Observer, quoted by James Pool) It is a statement befitting our own time, when relativists ask why, if we have a right to attack Iraq, other nations shouldn’t have a right to attack us…or ask how we would like someone telling us what weapons we can and cannot have. A second reason for French caution lay in the structure of her armed forces. French military planning was based on the assumption of total mobilization–a massive call-up of the reserves. “General Gamelin consulted the specialists,” said Beaufre, “the reply was precise–it was impossible for us to put an effective expeditionary force into the field…without starting full mobilization, about a million men, and requisitioning vehicles.” The government was reluctant to take action on such a large scale, which would cause nationwide disruption. It asked if there was a way to assemble a smaller, but still sufficient, force. “Sunday passed in frantic studies,” Beaufre continues, and the conclusion was that there was no viable smaller-scale plan…”the only sensible thing to do was to carry out the plan and mobilize a million men.” But the government still hesitated, and the lack of support from Britain was palpable…”the opinion of the ruling classes and of the best informed was not in favor of the adventure,” says Beaufre mordantly. “Multilateralists” in France were reluctant to act without British support. (There was also concern that the U.S. would accuse France of “imperialism.”) And there were other concerns as well. At dinner on Monday night, a financier told Beaufre that the essential thing was not to stand in the way of economic recovery. By Tuesday, the German occupation of the Rhineland was a fait accompli, and France arrived at her final decision–a protest to the League of Nations.

  • Ymarsakar

    other nations shouldn’t have a right to attack us

    They do have the right to attack us. They just don’t want to exercise that right. Nothing the US is doing is stopping them.

    Nobody (except moral midgets on the Left) said a nation couldn’t start a war. What we said was that starting a war and winning one aren’t the same as rights. All nations can start wars, thus making it a right that isn’t granted by lawyers or laws. But not all nations can win wars.

  • Danny Lemieux

    The lesson of my parents lifetime was that, if someone had stood up to Hitler in 1938, instead of simply being paralyzed by the fear of what Hitler might do, WWII could almost certainly have been prevented.
    And when countries do act preemptively to eliminate a menace, as G.W. Bush did with Saddam Hussein, we see what the “world’s” reaction is. People so much more like to watch the pretty lights approaching, like the deer in the highway. It is ironic that so many of the people (Lefties) and countries (Russia) that oppose preemptive action against Iran are the same one’s moralizing how Hitler should have been preemptively destroyed. Russia, especially has no excuse, as WWII should have taught them taught them the cost of making alliances of convenience with the Devil.

    There really is nothing new under the sun and all is vanity.

  • Ymarsakar

    The devil was themselves. Russians, thus, didn’t see much of a problem allying with themselves.

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  • expat

    We should also note that European countries are now strengthening ties to Russia, partly for economic reasons but probably also because some see it as a “partner for peace.”  They aren’t paying a whole lots of attention to its less than helpful attitude toward Iran. I have no doubt that Russia would bomb Iran back to the stoneage if personally threatened, but right now they are enjoying pulling America’s strings. It makes them look tough and gives their own people someone to hate besides their own government.  Merkel probably sees through this better than anyone, but German businesses want new contracts and Obama’s economic policies (or any other for that matter) don’t exactly encourage her to take risks with her own constituency. She is in trouble in the polls now for a variety of reasons. I don’t think she is suicidal.