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Guns of August?
World peace is now at risk because of “new crazies who say, ‘Let’s go and bomb Iran.’ ” So spoke Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He didn’t mention names. But the latest “bombs away” clarion call came from no less a neoconservative giant than Norman Podhoretz, the original godfather of the movement that played a critical role in bringing down the Soviet empire.
“The case for bombing Iran,” was the headline over Mr. Podhoretz’s long piece in the June issue of Commentary, the magazine he edited for 35 years (until 1995) and where he serves as editor at large. “I hope and pray that President Bush will do it,” Mr. Podhoretz wrote. His son-in-law Elliott Abrams is deputy national security adviser to President Bush. His son John is a columnist for the New York Post.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Independent, added his powerful voice recently to the case for military action against Iran in response to its purported killings of U.S. troops inside Iraq. “I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq… and to me that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers,” he said.
Denials from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice notwithstanding, it is an open secret in Washington Vice President Dick Cheney does not believe diplomacy-cum-sanctions will persuade the mullahs to forgo their nuclear ambitions. David Wurmser, a former member of the Douglas Feith politico-military team at the Pentagon, is deputy assistant to Mr. Cheney for national security — and a hawk on Iran. A co-author, with Mr. Feith and Richard Perle, of the controversial 1996 White Paper “Saving the Realm,” which referred to Israel and advised then incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to repeal the Oslo agreements on a Palestinian solution, keep Gaza and the West Bank, and establish a democracy in Iraq by overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
The word among the neocon family is Mr. Cheney believes Mr. Bush will stick to his pledge not to leave office 16 months hence with Iran’s nuclear facilities unscathed. Either Iran comes clean and stops its nuclear fuel enrichment process under IAEA control, or Tehran faces Mr. Bush’s military option. Two U.S. aircraft carriers are now 30 miles off Iran’s coastline in the Persian Gulf.
Mr. Podhoretz’s new book, “World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism,” posits that we are back in 1938, appeasing the latest dictator with global ambitions. Iran’s Supreme Religious Guide Ali Khamenei, he writes, is far more dangerous than Adolf Hitler because he is building a nuclear arsenal and wants to wipe out, not just 6 million Jews this time, but the entire state of Israel with another 6 million Jews, most of them born since World War II.
Also burning up the wires was an announcement about “The coming war with Iran: 6 days in hell” put out by NewsMax Magazine, a conservative publication, published by NewsMax.com, an online news service. Written by Iran expert Kenneth R. Timmerman, the tease says “Six days to war” and it lays out the scenario likely to unfold if the U.S. and Iran go to war.
A former commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain confided privately he was concerned such a conflagration could be triggered by al Qaeda and concocted to look like an act of war by Iran. This, in turn, would provide the casus belli the hawks seek with increasing impatience.
Shades of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution Aug. 7, 1964, which authorized President Lyndon Johnson, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, to use military force against North Vietnam. A few harmless rounds said to have been fired by a North Vietnamese vessel at the destroyer USS Maddox, engaged in electronic eavesdropping, rapidly escalated into a 10-year war — and America’s eventual defeat.
Mr. Podhoretz wrote: ” Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be understood if they are regarded as self-contained wars in their own right. Instead we have to see them as fronts or theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle. The same thing is true of Iran… the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism’s weapon of choice [and] a front in World War IV.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “ambitions are not confined to the destruction of Israel,” said Mr. Podhoretz, but also to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf. … [With] nuclear capability, he would not even have to use it in order to put all this within his reach. Intimidation and blackmail by themselves would do the trick. Nor are Ahmadinejad’s ambitions merely regional in scope. He has a larger dream of extending the power and influence of Islam throughout Europe, and this, too, he hopes to accomplish by playing on the fear that resistance to Iran would lead to a nuclear war.”
Next, according to the new neocon gospel, “comes the largest dream of all: what Ahmadinejad does not shrink from describing as ‘a world without America,’ [or for the short run] a world without much American influence.”
Mr. Podhoretz acknowledges that many may dismiss these imagined nightmares as nothing more than “the fantasies of a madman.” But to illustrate his sanity, he draws on the parallels of World War III, otherwise known as the Cold War, when the principal Soviet geopolitical objective was the neutralization of Western Europe, otherwise known as the process of “Finlandization,” designed to undermine and then demolish the cornerstone of America’s “containment” policy.
Switch to World War IV, and Mr. Podhoretz sees the unfolding of an updated Finlandization, which he calls Islamization. A striking example of this surrender to Islamist extremism, he says, was the recent Iranian capture of 15 British sailors and marines. The Brits didn’t retaliate or threaten to. Force was the last thing on their minds, as London attempted to mobilize “soft power so beloved of sophisticated Europeans and their American fellow travelers.”
The European Union turned down the U.K.’s request for a freeze of Iranian imports and the United Nations refused to condemn Iran’s actions, so imagine the degree of kowtowing that would take place when faced with an Iranian nuclear arsenal and missiles capable of reaching Europe.
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