Monday, April 24, 2006


Michael McClellan writes a superb analysis of the Rhineland analogy, by which Germany’s successful game of chicken in 1936 is compared to Iran’s current pursuit of nukes – each allowing a virtually unstoppable strategic dominance. He reminds us that France, “more than any other great power, sought to take measures aimed at deterring and containing Germany. A pacifist Britain and an isolationist United States, however, refused to provide such concrete commitments.” France became “isolated diplomatically, and in some cases even demonized in the English speaking nations for trying to ‘dominate the continent’ by keeping Germany weak.”

That France lost its nerve at the crucial time is tragic, since Hitler himself reflected that the "forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. ...If the French had then marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even moderate resistance." Such a lost opportunity. But France had lost 3% of its population in a hellish war that ended less then 20 years before. Three percent doesn’t sound like a lot. I mean, it’s only 1,300,000 young men. ... Oh. Put like that, it does sound like a lot. By comparison, we’ve lost 0.000008% (that’s eight millionths of a percent) of our population in the Iraq conflict, and look at the panic from certain elements here. (I say this as the father of a soldier, so understand that I am not diminishing our sacrifice and risk.) France acted heroically, and alone, for a generation, in seeking to contain the growing monster to the east.

Iran is a criminal regime. Jingoistic dogma on my part? They sponsor terrorism. They assassinate diplomats. They blow up community centers - just because they can. Who’ll stop them? France? The Old Man of Europe nowadays is Europe – impotent and grasping. To Iran, sanctions are a joke, and treaties are pieces of paper. Even putting aside apocalyptic scenarios, a nuclear Iran certainly will arm its allies and intimidate its foes – even its nominally stronger foes. After all, if Iran is undeterred when it is weak, what has it to fear when it is strong? And ignoring all factors involving its petrowealth, there remains the fact that with nukes its current regime will only gain in power and prestige, internationally and in Iran itself. Persia has a proud history, and if the mullahs restore that pride, they will be rewarded. Hitler was.

In the Islamism-is-Nazism analogy, bold France has become timid Britain and selfish America, and the English-speaking nations have reached the maturity to stand against this evil. The question remains, what is to be done regarding the Rhineland situation? Hitler’s army is marching, and his tanks are on the move. Iran has told us its aim, and its scientists and technicians are at work. Shall we say, as the myopic grandfathers of 1936 said, It is their own land, and who are we to stop them? Declarations about something being “unacceptable” mean nothing. Actions have the only meaning that has meaning. France said the same thing, but it was a bluff. Bush has said it. What then shall we expect, from Bush?

McClellan sums it up masterfully: it took the Boston Massacre, the Stamp Acts and the Intolerable Acts for America to declare its Independence – and then war was brought to it; it took the capture of Fort Sumter to provoke the Civil War; it took unrestricted submarine warfare against American ships to get us into WW I; it took the outright attack on American territory at Pearl Harbor, to get us into WW II; it took 9/11 to get us into Afghanistan and Iraq. I would add that it took the nightmare threat of a nuclear Soviet Union to compel us to resist the communists in Korea and Vietnam. We are slow to act, and do so only under dire threat.

Couple of days ago I came across a blog that just listed problem after problem with our action in Iraq. Really, it seemed encyclopedic. Many many links. Lots of analysis. All about how bad we were, to be there. All those dead Iraqis. All those dead and wounded and torturing Americans. Being me, I did leave a comment. “Your next assignment: look up in a dictionary the meaning of the terms, ‘cherry picking,’ ‘stacking the evidence,’ ‘sedition,’ and ‘mother fixation.’” God. What’s history for, if not to learn its lessons.

So. Who are we? We are the generation that will learn from the past, or not – that will sacrifice now, or die in multitudes later. Are we the pacifist cowards who apologized for Hitler? Yes, we are. Anything more, though? Time will tell. But striking the proper pose is only preliminary to taking the first necessary step. We’ve postured ourselves. I don’t think Iran is impressed, at all, heroic though our carriage may be.


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