In 1981, when Israel destroyed Iraq’s nascent nuclear plant in one overnight bombing raid, the world screeched with indignation.
But today, in hindsight, that action is seen as moral prophecy. That foresight saved not only the Middle East, but perhaps the entire world from a potential holocaust unleashed by the former dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Contrast that courageous action with that of our former President, Bill Clinton. In 1994, he faced a similar dilemma, but acted without either foresight or courage. When North Korea showed it was on the path to developing nuclear weapons, Mr. Clinton was faced with two choices: either follow the Israeli precedent and bomb North Korea’s nuclear facility before it was too late, or engage in diplomacy with the Kim Il-jong, the leader of that distorted totalitarian nation.
He chose diplomacy, much as Neville Chamberlain did with Adolf Hitler, a fruitless route when dealing with evil governments. He gave North Korea fuel oil and food in exchange for the “promise” not to continue work on nuclear weapons. His false trust was recently rewarded by North Korea with the announcement they had secretly broken their agreement with the immature Clinton administration. They already had nuclear bombs and were proceeding to manufacture more.
Now we are faced with a potential nuclear threat from the third member of the axis of evil — the theocratic Muslim government of Iran. With the help of impoverished Russia, seeking billions in revenue, Iran is building a vast nuclear facility and will soon have the ability to create plutonium and manufacture nuclear weapons as did North Korea.
America is pressuring Russia to curtail that aid, but thus far has been unsuccessful. Even if Russia does cut back, the chances are strong Iran can complete the nuclear proliferation on its own.
America is hopeful about Iran. It is possible that the riots by students and the frustrated educated middle classes in Iran will eventually erupt into a full-fledged democratic rebellion. That may happen, but of course it may not. Thus far, the mullahs have tightened security.
Meanwhile, we are faced with the same moral dilemma, one at which Mr. Clinton failed and at which Israel and President Bush succeeded.
There is little doubt there is only one course of action. President Bush should dispatch a fleet of stealth bombers one night — soon — to destroy Iran’s nuclear plant in one brilliant stroke, eliminating the threat of nuclear blackmail from the evil theocracy.
After that we can, of course, engage in diplomacy.
Martin L. Gross is a columnist and frequent contributor to these pages and is the author of several books on government including three New York Times best-sellers.