Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Appeasement---then and now

In his column, "Appeasement--Then and Now," Victor Davis Hansen of the right wing Hoover Institution attempts to compare the present on-going nuclear standoff with Iran to the 1930's, when European "intellectuals and idealists" chose appeasement over confrontation with Hitler. Hansen writes, "The point of comparison is not to suggest that history simply repeats itself, but to learn why intelligent people delude themselves into embracing naive policies." Indeed, but why bother going back 70 years, when we would be much better served by reviewing the more recent history of a small cabal of neocons deluding themselves, and our government, into the naive belief that after invading Iraq little children would shower their American liberators with flowers and a Western style democracy would flourish in the heart of Middle East. But that particular historical example wouldn't have endeared his readers to the new neocon crusade against Iran that Hansen is trying to sell this time around. According to him, it's better to forget our history in order to repeat it.

Hansen's highly dubious argument for going to war with Iran is based on the very shaky historic parallel between Adolph Hitler taking advantage of a war weary Europeans whose inaction then led to WW II and Iranian president Mamoud Ahmadinejad who today is supposedly intimidating European Union "idealists" into letting him get the bomb. Just as the Europeans deferred their day of reckoning with Hitler by relying on multilateral action in the League of Nations so, too, today the referral of Iran to the U.N. is only putting off an inevitable confrontation with the Islamo-fascists in Iran. (We'll just forget also that the U.S. claims their occupation of Iraq is U.N. sanctioned.) And it's not bad enough that they are Islamic fascists; they're also anti-Semitic--just like Hitler.

Hansen does a brilliant job of deflection here by writing, "Anti-Semitism, of course, is the mother's milk of fascism. It's always, they say, a small group of Jews --- whether the shadowy cabinet advisors and international bankers of the 1930's or the manipulative neoconservatives and Israeli leadership of the present --- who alone stir up the trouble." Yes, indeed, don't look at that man behind the curtain, you're an anti-Semite! (That defense always works well for Henry Kissinger when people bring up uncomfortable questions about his war crimes.) The fact that Israel would be the country to benefit most from an attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure is totally coincidental.

Obviously, the trust of Hansen's column is that the U.S. has to step in with force to pull Israel's chestnuts out of the fire for them. There's no doubt, Iran is a legitimate threat to Israel and visa versa, but I hardly think Ahmadinejad & Co. are seriously going to "liquidate the Jews" by dropping a bomb on Israel. After all, not only would such an attack kill Palestinians, but it would also result in Tehran being wiped off the map by Israel's formidable nuclear arsenal.

The real question is: is it in the United States' best interest to risk setting off a regional conflagration that would send oil prices into the stratosphere and further destabilize the already chaotic situation in Iraq? My answer would be no. By the time we're done paying for Iraq we will have written enough IOUs to China to reach the moon and our military will be a mere shadow of its once powerful self. We can't afford to further endanger our economy and our national defense to start another war to stop Iran from maybe getting a bomb some time in the distant future. Between now and then a lot of things could change inside Iran.

Let's keep our eye on the ball here and not get distracted by those who would distort history to advance the agenda of a foreign power. As George W. Bush once famously said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again."


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