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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Iran, Obama, and the 1936 reoccupation of the Rhineland

(Fair warning: There is no humor in this post, not even of the snarky sort. I'm not in the mood to sugar-coat my conclusions, or to balance them with hopeful observations.)

Mark Steyn's latest at NRO is characteristically witty, except for its very unfunny thesis paragraph, which is characteristically astute. Given the timetables, and the Obama Administration's commitment to ineffective measures, and its refusal to take the increasingly stiff actions that would be necessary to effect regime change and nonproliferation in Iran, Steyn offers this grim but inescapable conclusion:

It is now certain that Tehran will get its nukes, and very soon. This is the biggest abdication of responsibility by the Western powers since the 1930s. It is far worse than Pakistan going nuclear, which, after all, was just another thing the CIA failed to see coming. In this case, the slow-motion nuclearization conducted in full view and through years of tortuous diplomatic charades and endlessly rescheduled looming deadlines is not just a victory for Iran but a decisive defeat for the United States. It confirms the Islamo-Sino-Russo-everybody-else diagnosis of Washington as a hollow superpower that no longer has the will or sense of purpose to enforce the global order.

I'm genuinely not sure that Obama would know, if he read that paragraph, to which 1930s events Steyn was alluding. For someone with degrees from such distinguished institutions, his knowledge of recent history is surprisingly spotty. He might or might not turn to his staff for an explanation, and if so, someone probably would have mentioned the appeasement of Hitler at Munich in September 1938 or (less aptly) the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.

That's yet not where we are in the comparison, though. The history being replayed today is that of March 7, 1936 — when Hitler and the Nazis remilitarized the Rhineland. And I've seen no indication whatsoever that our President's knowledge of 20th Century history includes a knowledge of that particular turning point of history.

Hitler's remilitarization of the Rhineland — in outright defiance of the Versailles and Locarno Treaties — was when the West had its last, best clear chance to stop Hitler and the Nazis, with the likely toppling of Hitler's government as a consequence, at a trivial military expense. All that was necessary was that France and Great Britain (chiefly the former, as the relevant neighbor) just barely flex their vastly superior military muscles — which, given Nazi treaty violations, they had an indisputable legal right to do. Indeed, the Germans were instructed to reverse course and retreat at even a display of military purpose and intent to oppose them on the part of the French. Instead, because France and Britain acquiesced in the treaty violations, Hitler promptly accelerated the conversion of his illegally reconstituted military into the fierce machine that brought us the Blitzkreig and subsequent Nazi occupation or domination of Europe.

In 2003, America and the rest of the world believed that Saddam was about to get nukes. We talked about "WMDs" to include chemical and biological weapons, both of which Iraq had already acquired and used. But the invasion and regime-change of Iraq was perceived by those of narrow insight to be almost exclusively about the nukes. What shocked most Americans the most was that the nukes weren't there. What shocked much of the rest of the world, including nuclear wannabe countries like Iran and Libya, the most was that the still-respected Iraqi army — one that had fought the Iranians to a bloody standstill in their 1980-1988 war, and that had at least survived the Gulf War — proceeded to fold like a house of cards in a hurricane under the American-British assault. Libya was scared straight as a direct and near immediate result, but Iran has, of course, continued to play provocateur — doing its best to make things difficult for us and the Iraqis while fast-tracking their own nuclear acquisition efforts.

(Me, I was one of those hawk troglodytes who still held that Saddam's near daily attempts to shoot down our pilots in the No-Fly Zone was ample reason enough to drive American tanks into the middle of Baghdad if that's what it took to knock his regime out of power. And for the last several years of this decade, I've been one of those troglodyte hawks who has the exact same reaction to Iran furnishing men, materiel (including IEDs), and support for the killing of American troops in Iraq. We have long had more than sufficient justification for whatever steps are required to change the regime in Tehran.)

Barack Obama and Joe Biden, among many other reckless and irresponsible Democrats, did their dead-level best to sabotage our continuing efforts in Iraq from 2003 onward. (Indeed, Biden's efforts go back to his opposition to the Gulf War, long before Obama was on anyone's radar.) In their and their Party's revised Democratic-orthodoxy of world history, the Iraq invasion to stop nuclear proliferation was the result of a deliberate lie by Bush. With Obama and Biden and Hillary at the helm, and with gutless lickspittles like Reid and Pelosi running Congress, there is no longer any serious fear on the part of America's potential and actual enemies (Iran is definitely in the latter camp) that there will be any similar American military intervention to prevent nuclear proliferation anywhere.

And so here we are in 2010, in the predicament Steyn has pinpointed. Iran will get its bomb before the reins of leadership in America can possibly be passed back to someone who could summon up the nation's will to stop that process, and by then the costs of restoring Iran to a non-nuclear status will have grown unfathomably greater.

Although the costs will be unfathomably greater, that does not make me think they are less likely ultimately to have to be paid anyway. I think exactly the opposite is true: Something awful is going to happen, something so bad that it does, in an instant, shock the United States out of its narcolepsy in the same manner that 12/7/41 and 9/11/01 did. Recall, again, that in the Iraq-Iran War, Iran sent battalion after battalion of teen-aged volunteers, some without even rifles, in human-wave assaults on Iraqi minefields and fixed defenses. The mullahs didn't hesitate to slaughter many tens of thousands of their teenage children when they lacked even a fraction of a chance of military success. We cannot expect them to "grow" and "mature" when they have the responsibilities of a nuclear power. We cannot expect them to be rational at all because they have a demonstrated history of irrationality and they are in the grips of an ideology that can be twisted to justify even the most extreme apocalyptic acts.

Barack Obama's feckless vacuum of an Iranian foreign policy will almost certainly lead directly to nuclear slaughter, and quite probably a slaughter of Israelis, Europeans, and yes, Americans. The ghosts of not just Chamberlain, but of Quisling and Arnold, will surely rejoice, for after he has let the Iranians get their Bomb, the name "Obama" will forever eclipse theirs as appeasers and traitors to their duty.

("Bush-43 didn't fix this during his term," my progressive friends will retort, and "What exactly would you have Obama do?" Well, friends, Bush bestirred the country sufficiently to depose the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq, and to give each of those countries a democracy if they can keep it (with considerable investment of American blood and treasure toward those ends too). If American foreign policy were genuinely bipartisan and clear-eyed, instead of being methodically manipulated, month after month and year after year, for the most crass political purposes by Democrats, then we would not be nearly so war-weary, and we might instead be in the process of doing to Iran what JFK did to Cuba in October 1962: Enforcing a nuclear quarantine. Slow, strangling sanctions are a horrible idea; swift and aggressive ones, like blockading all gasoline imports and disabling Iran's own crucial but limited refinery capacity to suddenly paralyze their entire economy, will indeed hurt the Iranian people more than it hurts their corrupt and crazy leadership. But a sanction that is insufficient to prompt them to shake off their current government is, by definition, an inadequate sanction. (But cf. John Bolton's August 2009 WSJ op-ed; I'm proposing not merely the typical UN-debated import restrictions, but what would indeed be, and should be confidently and unrepentantly confirmed as, responding to Iran's repeated acts of war with our own acts that are indeed warfare.) There's no shortage, in fact, of things we can do, even though with each passing day there are fewer things that can be done at comparatively low risk. But there's no point in our arguing over the costs, risks, and rewards of potential measures. They're all moot, given the absence of a leader in the White House who will act instead of dither and self-justify.)

Posted by Beldar at 02:40 AM in Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama | Permalink


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(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Feb 21, 2010 5:57:17 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Your spirit's in the right place, but the history you cite is deficient. The remilitarization of the Rhineland on 7 March 36 did violate Versailles. But Versailles was a dead letter, of no more force than Prohibition had been in the US. Don't believe me? Consider this: the Versailles Treaty under Article 181 prohibited Germany from possessing submarines. The Treaty had been negotiated by Great Britain and France, among others. Yet in June 1935 the British signed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. Article 2f explicitly allowed Germany 35% of the Royal navy's tonnage in subs. The French were not consulted during the negotiation, and learned of the agreement after it had been signed, and announced. Having seen what their closest ally would do when faced with a resurgent Germany, is it any wonder that the French gave a shrug and “let Jerry return to his own back yard?” Please don’t respond by saying that just because one part of the Versailles Treaty was violated, the rest was still in force. That’s good enough for I’m-all-right-Jacks of the ivory towers, who never have to pay any price for their notions. But to the citizenry who know the cost of contesting power determined to have its way, law or no law, that answer is just more elitist bunk.

Your characterization of Reid/Pelosi as “gutless lickspittles” misses the mark too. The lickspittle part is on target. But gutless? Not at all. R&P have no trouble sticking it to adversaries, so long as the adversaries can’t hit back. Note the dozens of House Democrats who may lose their seats this year because they voted for the idiotic cap-and-trade bill that it stalled in the Senate. What does Pelosi care? But send her abroad to Syria and Pelosi shows her true colors: bullying yellow. So too, with Obama. You condemn him, rightly, for not taking effective action on Iran’s nukes. But Obama is perfectly capable of ruthlessness, as his intention to use reconciliation to ram through his ruinous health care plan, shows. Be careful what you wish for: it is in the White House right now, ready to sacrifice your interests to what the Ivy League elite educated Obama just KNOWS has to be true. The ruthlessness is there. It’s just aimed at you (and me) instead of American enemies. This ties in neatly with the portion of Steyn’s article, showing how governments do not hesitated to bully their own people who can’t hit back, but cower from real violence that would endanger the interests that end with their epidermis. The famous Churchill quote from November 1936 applies here:

So they [the Government] go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.

I think the progressives have a better case against Geo. W. than you allow. Geo. W. could stir the country, but he failed too, when he didn’t ask for a declaration of war, but settled for the idiotic “authorization to use military force” road that has led to swamps of ruin so many times before. A declaration of war, with the implication that the entire citizenry is in it up to their necks, complete with high taxes, wartime economic controls, and above all, a draft, would show the world that the US is in to win. Such a declaration of war would include as a war aim, the principle that there’s not enough room on the planet for radical Islam, which would be outlawed just as Nazi Party membership was outlawed in West Germany after WWII. The agonized howls this would raise from the academies could be listened to until our eardrums developed sufficient calluses to block it, and then we could proceed. (Obama is doing a fine job of discrediting liberal bigotry in this manner, for another generation, not least with affirmative action.) It’s my conviction, which I can’t prove, that had such a course been followed, the conflict against Islam would be winding down, today. Far more than the 3000 civilians of 9/11 and the 4000+ military would be dead, and the financial bill would be horrendous. But freedom would be as safe as war can make it. I grant Geo. W’s clear vision, but his execution was faulty, and his vision didn’t extend far enough. One test for the greatness of Presidents is what sort of situation they leave for their successors. Buchanan and Hoover look awful when judged this way. Geo. W? Too early to say yet. He’ll rise from the Buchanan level despite all the academy’s attempts to keep him there. But he’ll be in the same class as Lyndon Johnson: big accomplishments and big failures.

I’m less pessimistic than you about Iran getting nukes. Why? Israel, a country that has to face existential survival every day, and can’t afford that 200 proof damn foolishness tinctured with certitude spilling out of Obama’s ears, to the applause of the diplomacy departments of the Ivy League. It’s terrifying to think of the load on Ben Netanyahu’s shoulders: Iran banging along like a locomotive coming straight at him, while Obama tries to shoot him in the back, so Iran can run over him, and then stop because Obama has “proved” America’s sincerity by making the ultimate apology that he, personally, did not have to pay for. It’s a thankless task to have to defend American interests even while being assailed for doing so.

Final note: the weakness of Geo. W. was his failure to build a foreign policy that could be taken up by his successor in the manner of Eisenhower from Truman is also a weakness of the Tea Party. It’s strictures about the necessity of limiting government at home have a fine ring. But abroad? I’ve never heard a satisfactory discussion of foreign affairs from Tea Partiers, particularly from Sarah Palin who is striving to lead. It’s a discussion that they will have to answer before 2012. Otherwise we may end up with a conservative/libertarian version of Obama: utterly out of depth in foreign affairs.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) Disruptive element made the following comment | Feb 21, 2010 8:20:50 AM | Permalink

A daily media hammering is what did in George Bush, who in desperation tried to get along. I will exclude his non conservative policies in the discussion. There is no hope, when a simple total force of sanctions on Iran would bring this to a conclusion and they refuse to use it. Those in Washington are still emulating the failed socialist, marxist, Europe in spite of it crumbling before our eyes. They still doggedly proceed, even when the lies are glaringly apparent. All this chit chat, while brilliant, has been going on without results except the joy of venting ones frustrations. I am waiting for those behind the scenes to step up. Rather than those that are the enemy within toiling away to change America, there must be some who will save America and ignore all the complaints when they do it.

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 21, 2010 6:43:14 PM | Permalink

Mr. Koster, thanks for another thought-provoking comment. I cheerfully accept your observation about Pelosi and Reid being gutsy lickspittles in other contexts. And if I had seen that Churchill quote before, I'd forgotten it, so I'm indeed glad to make (or re-make) its acquaintance.

I'm unpersuaded that we needed a more formal declaration of war, or a draft or higher taxes, even though I agree that those things' absence tended to result in (as compared to WW2) a diminished psychological investment by the American public to see the "war on terrorism" through.

As for the Israelis, the best for which we can realistically hope is some military action that will crimp and delay the Iranian bomb-making process. I don't think they can force regime change or enforce a nuclear quarantine.

"Disruptive element," thanks for your comment as well.

(4) Larry Brown made the following comment | Feb 23, 2010 6:04:06 PM | Permalink

Worldwide caliphate. Muslim, dhimmi or dead. Iran's nukes are one of many strategies they have in play. Should we not worry as much about the Paki nukes also? The taliban may be within spitting distance of those as far as we know. The wests' commiseration in its' own cultural demise via piecemeal surrender to sharia is another. I have long held the opinion that Obama is a shill for the muslims. What if one were to look at his past year through a lightly silvered mirror and see it not as the pundits see it, as failure, but as a successful part of the strategy? What if?

(5) Sgt. Andy made the following comment | Feb 23, 2010 7:19:38 PM | Permalink

While Mr. Koster's analysis is compelling, I must respectfully disagree with regard to the Tea Party approach to foreign affairs. While not moving in lockstep, the participants seem to have a unified view of immigration (close the borders and enforce existing immigration laws) and terrorism (stop pretending we aren't at war, and act accordingly).

George W. did build a strong foreign policy, one which I believe a McCain administration would have continued. Larry Brown's comments concerning the Obama capitulation to the Muslims are all too true, as every day seems to bring another example. Mark Steyn has been improperly characterized by the looney Left as jingoistic and too far to the right. Steyn tells it like it is, and the overall picture for our nation's security is extremely grim. We can only hope that a sea change occurs come November, and the One wises up to the threats facing our nation.

(6) DRJ made the following comment | Feb 23, 2010 11:24:31 PM | Permalink

Count me in the troglodyte hawk column.

(7) Dan S made the following comment | Feb 25, 2010 3:18:15 PM | Permalink

Me three! Me Trog!

Beldar, glad to see you posting again, though I catch a lot of your comments elsewhere.

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