Iran Senses Western Weakness

by Bruce S. Thornton
FrontPage Magazine
As the clock ticks closer to a nuclear-armed Iran, the Western powers are girding their loins for — more talks. Actually, they’re getting ready to talk to Iran about the conditions for talking some more. EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton announced that the “P5 + 1” powers (the permanent Security Council members plus Germany) hoped to persuade “Iran to move away from its nuclear program,” and expected “from the contacts we’ve had that this process can now move forward swiftly and seriously.” Ashton didn’t produce any evidence why the Iranians would voluntarily give up the bomb, or how yet one more round of negotiations, like the so-called “crippling sanctions,” will produce anything other than giving Iran more time to “swiftly and seriously” achieve nuclear-weapons capability.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration keeps shifting the conditions under which the US would take military action. Secretary of State Clinton on February 29 three times told the House Foreign Affairs committee that “it’s absolutely clear that the president’s policy is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons capability.” A few days later anonymous “administration officials” said Clinton had “misspoken,” which Obama confirmed in his speech to AIPAC where he several times asserted that “obtaining a nuclear weapon,” not capability, would be the casus belli, even though he has no clue exactly how we’d know the mullahs had nuclear weapons before they announced it to the world, the same way we found out Pakistan and North Korea had them. The purpose of this shift is obvious: it provides more time for “diplomacy” and “sanctions” to work their magic, and puts more pressure on Israel not to do anything that might make unpleasant headlines compromising Obama’s reelection. However, the history of Pakistan and North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons shows that the consequence of this delay will be a nuclear-armed Iran.
But that contingency doesn’t seem to bother Obama’s academic allies like Bruce Ackerman, who recently provided a specious justification for inaction in the Los Angeles Times. The Yale law professor asserted that American support for a preemptive strike on Iran “would be a violation of both international law and the US Constitution.” The Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz dismantledAckerman’s tendentious and erroneous interpretation, which Berkowitz shows is an attempt “to bend the precedents and provisions of international law and twist the facts of American politics to conform to their policy preferences.” The left’s hysterics about the illegality and immorality of “preemption,” of course, has always been an ideological pretext for demonizing and hence discouraging US military action, which to the left is almost never justified, given America’s neo-colonial crimes and oppression.
But preemption has for millennia been an obvious common-sense response to an aggressor. The 4th century BC orator Demosthenes used a memorable metaphor for preemption when he was trying to rouse the indolent Athenians to use force to resist Philip II of Macedon’s aggression: “To manage war properly, you must not follow the trend of events but must forestall them . . . But you Athenians, possessing unsurpassed resources — fleet, infantry, cavalry, revenues — have never to this very day employed them aright, and yet you carry on war with Philip exactly as a barbarian boxes. The barbarian, when struck, always clutches the place; hit him on the other side and there go his hands. He neither knows nor cares how to parry a blow or how to watch his adversary.” In other words, anticipate the aggressor’s actions, and, as Nathan Bedford Forrest supposedly put it, “ Get there firstest with the mostest.”
So much is mere common sense, but common sense is woefully lacking in the West’s response to a regime of religious fanatics in pursuit of nuclear weapons. Unwilling to act, whether because of fear, ideology, or political self-interest, Western leaders continue to camouflage their inaction with sanctions and diplomatic palaver. Yet the historical record of both in deterring a committed aggressor is one not just of failing to stop aggression, but of enabling it. The Thirties, of course, provide numerous examples, starting with the League of Nations’ toothless response to Japanese aggression in China, moving on to the flaccid reaction to Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, and culminating with the Munich conference that delivered Czechoslovakia to Hitler and paved the way for World War II. In each case, sanctions and talk led to more aggression, because the aggressors correctly interpreted that sanctions and words were the face-saving excuses of nations afraid to act.
The reason aggressors think this way is obvious. As Demosthenes told the Athenians, “All words, apart from action, seem vain and idle.” So too today. The mullahs in Iran have carefully listened as Obama has pressured Israel not to take action, shifted the grounds for US action, and demanded time for sanctions and negotiation “to work,” and they have made the correct calculation that such statements cancel out the rhetoric about “having Israel’s back” and acknowledging Israel’s right for taking unilateral action at the same time such action is discouraged and proclaimed to be futile. The mullahs further calculate that this administration, and the American people, do not have the stomach for an attack, and thus Iran can continue to work toward creating nuclear weapons, as long as they provide a diplomatic fig leaf for Western leaders to hide their weakness.
Worse yet, even if the negotiations achieve their aim, which is to allow inspectors to monitor Iran’s suspension of uranium enrichment, the problem won’t be solved. As John Bolton pointed out three years ago, “Any resolution that leaves Iran’s current regime with control over the entire nuclear fuel cycle is simply a face-saving way of accepting” that Iran will possess nuclear weapons. “Given Iran’s fulsome 20-year history of denial and deception, there is simply no doubt that its efforts toward building nuclear weapons would continue.” Indeed, what makes us think that Iran will be any less adept at gaming inspections than was Saddam Hussein, who for years rope-a-doped the inspectors until he felt confident enough simply to kick them out of the country? Or North Korea, which wrote the playbook for deceiving gullible Westerners with “negotiations” and “talks” until it could present its nuclear bombs as a fait accompli?
And surely Iran must be heartened by the recent restart of “six-party talks” with North Korea, a patent ploy to acquire more food aid for feeding the regime’s army and cronies, as North Korea has done now for decades. The mullahs have to be laughing at comments like the following, from a German representative to the talks: “I can say that based on the amicable and candid interaction among the participants, the organizers believe that the conference achieved its final result of building trust despite remaining political differences.” Such myopic gullibility reminds me of Neville Chamberlain’s report to his cabinet during the Munich negotiations that Hitler “would not deliberately deceive a man whom he respected and with whom he had been in negotiation, and he was sure that Herr Hitler now felt some respect for him. When Herr Hitler announced that he meant to do something it was certain he would do it.” Indeed, but what Hitler had announced years earlier in Mein Kampf was the conquest of Europe and the solution to the “Jewish problem.”
And now another anti-Semitic aggressor is sitting down to talk with representatives of Western nations unwilling to take seriously the genocidal threats of a regime rushing to create the weapons that could make those threats reality. Instead, our highest military official calls the mullahs “rational,” and the president says they are “self-interested,” both dismissing the religious motives of a regime that for thirty years has made plain its world-historical mission to make Islam triumph over the infidels. So the Western negotiators gather once again to talk and talk and talk until they’ve talked Iran into the bomb.

©2012 Bruce S. Thornton
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