In the words of Henry Kissinger: “There are all kinds of tactical discussions about how to deal with Iran…. But there are a number of fundamental principles to keep in mind.
“If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, we will live in a new world. That is the fundamental issue we must face. And our only choice is either to prevent it, or to pay the price of not having prevented it. We have to understand how much time we have and what, in all the discussion of tactics, the penalties are that we can exact. But above all we have to know that this is not a tactical issue. This is a fundamental issue of a historical turn.”
These words of warning were spoken at a dinner honoring Norman Podhoretz, retiring editor of Commentary magazine. These words of warning are as true today as they were 10 months ago, more vital perhaps since Iran may be much nearer to manufacturing a nuclear device than we know.
In dealing with the Iran tyranny, prudence dictates we assume the worst, especially when no serious international inspection of Iran’s nuclear program has been agreed to by the warmongering Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s 51-year-old president. His term in office ends in 2009, so we’ll have him around for quite a while. Maybe.
President Bush has not yet spoken in such apocalyptic Kissingerian rhetoric but I hope the former secretary of state is speaking the president’s mind when he warns about Iran obtaining nuclear weaponry: “either to prevent it, or to pay the price of not having prevented it.”
If Iran is allowed to get away with its nuclear program, proliferation becomes a fact of 21st century life and the suicide bombers will have taken over. Detente with suicide bombers or their regime sponsors is impossible. Nor is detente possible with fanatics like Mr. Ahmadinejad. He has already ignored the United Nations Security Council demand that Iran end its nuclear weapons program, claiming its nuclear enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only. He has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and has described the Holocaust as a “myth.”
Because Neville Chamberlain didn’t think the worst of Adolf Hitler, millions and millions of people paid a price in lives and treasure. Because President Roosevelt didn’t think the worst of Japanese militarism, Pearl Harbor happened. Because we didn’t think the worst of Islamofascism, the attacks of September 11, 2001, happened. Because we didn’t think the worst of Saddam Hussein, the elder President Bush left Saddam on his throne so Iraq could fight another day.
There are some American statesmen who think the worst of Iran. Newt Gingrich, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, said in a message to Israel that allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons could mean a second Holocaust. He was addressing via satellite an Israeli security conference.
And there you have it from two of our most influential voices in the making of American foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran — as much an enemy of world peace today as Hitler was in 1933.
Sweeping and enforceable sanctions — now — against Iran is the first step.
Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.