What happens when both sides know it’s the 1930’s again?

The cartoon crisis and the recent militancy of Iran (as well as things like the Hamas victory) have left us with a terrible sense of foreboding. Now we read, from Michael Ledeen, that Iran may be able to demonstrate nuclear capability by April 8, which surely would explain Ahmadinejad’s recent giddiness in denying the Holocaust, dissing the EU3, promising the destruction of Israel, and demanding that Europe take back the Jews as the easy way to avoid the otherwise inevitable mushroom cloud. We certainly agree with Mr. Ahmadinejad that it is jolly good fun to mock the UN Security Council any day of the week; it’s perhaps best done with a load of plutonium in your back pocket, and he may just have such a stockpile. Ledeen sums up the Iranian attitude this way:

This brutal and open use of the mailed fist bespeaks utter contempt for the West; Khamenei & Co. do not think we will respond, do not fear Western action, and believe this is a historic movement for the advance of their vision of clerical fascism.

Thus, history repeats itself with two twists. The first is the brazenness of Iran. VDH sees that Iran is pretty explicitly acting out a 1930’s scenario, only more aggressively and openly than did Hitler (as does David Brooks):

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad senses a certain weariness in much of the West as it counts on perpetual peace. He assumes that most sober Westerners will do almost anything to avoid military confrontation to stop a potential threat–even though, unlike Hitler, Ahmadinejad not only promises to liquidate the Jews but reveals his method in advance by seeking nuclear weapons….

Like the Nazi romance of an exalted ancient Volk, the Islamists hearken back to a mythical purity, free of decadence brought on by Western liberalism. Similarly, they feed off victimization–not just recent defeats, but centuries-old bitterness at the rise of the West. Their version of the stab-in-the-back Versailles Treaty is always the creation of Israel. Just as Hitler concocted incidents such as the burning of the Reichstag to create outrage, Islamist leaders incite frenzy in their followers over a supposed flushed Koran at Guantanamo and inflammatory cartoons.

The point of the comparison is not to suggest that history simply repeats itself, but to learn why intelligent people delude themselves into embracing naive policies….Like the appeasement of the 1930s, opting for the easier choice will only guarantee a more costly one later on.

The second twist to the replay of the 1930’s is this: the West knows what happened last time, and Ahmadinejad’s threats are far worse than those of the German Chancellor. So, armed with this knowledge, will the West sit idly by until a calamity forces action?

We have to ask whether the West indends precisely to repeat the mistakes of the past. It seems to us that, unlike the Iraq situation, discussion of Iran has not been particularly bellicose. President Bush cited Iran a mere six times in the SOTU, repeating his formulaic denunciation of Iran’s nuclear pretensions and an appeal to the Iranian people to rise up — hardly adequate rhetoric to prepare the American people for military action against that nation. Jacques Chirac announced a nuclear response to terrorism or other extraordinary provocation; the Chirac Doctrine is interesting because the response is nuclear, which is novel, but it is not a doctrine of pre-emption. There has been remarkably little sabre-rattling, unless you think a referral from the IAEA to the Security Council is sabre-rattling instead of the pathetic gesture it is. In behavior that seems somewhat related, the EU3 have let large and menacing crowds of Islamist thugs stage huge demonstrations in which they promise to murder, behead and annihiliate people they don’t like. Is it possible for these governments to get more feckless?

For his part, Ahmadinejad has laid his cards on the table. He has no reason or incentive to do anything other than go nuclear, get rid of Israel and force Islamic hegemony on Europe. Your correspondent would do the same thing in his shoes; it’s the smart move. He has paid no price for his words and actions to date — indeed, rather the opposite. His stature has been elevated by his tough talk and the cravenness of his adversaries.

The cravenness, fecklessness or whatever cowardly term you want to use has been very convincing on the part of the West. It certainly has us convinced much of the time. But is it really so? We said we have a sense of foreboding. It is the same sense we had in early 2003; we recall reading Steven den Beste’s timetable analyses in January, during the period of the run up to the Iraq invasion, one of the longest telegraphed military strikes in history. We kept waiting and waiting until late March; when the invasion finally came, it was almost anti-climactic. We have a feeling it may be different this time.

Our thought is this: surely the US and the EU are not so stupid to repeat that mistake of again telegraphing the punch. What if that former German intelligence officer is right, and there is a plan for blitzkrieg? (Was there not commentary that the deployment of that Indiana 163 FS seemed mysterious?) What if the fecklessness is an act? What if the military plans announced this week for 2007 against Iran are a feint, a false timetable and a hidden request to Ahmadinejad to reveal (by reinforcing) some clandestine sites to our satellites? What if one of the reasons the cops let the Islamist bully boys parade their bloodlust so openly is to better know whom to arrest when the flare goes up?

In our dark moments, the cravenness of the West is all too real and convincing. But then we consider the egos of certain men. Knowing how things turned out last time, who would want to be a Baldwin, a Chamberlain, a Daladier? We shall see.

One Response to “What happens when both sides know it’s the 1930’s again?”

  1. Steven M. Warshawsky Says:

    Very interesting analysis, as always. “In our dark moments, the cravenness of the West is all too real and convincing. . . . We shall see.” Indeed.

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