Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Our Sudetenland

The Wehrmacht that appeared at the border of Poland on September 1, 1939, did not materialize out of thin air. Their march had begun years before.

It is only one of the tragedies of World War II that the growing Nazi threat was a gradual, visible process. There are unmistakable, luminescent dots along the way that if connected, might have prompted nations to act earlier. How many millions of lives might have been saved if Hitler's Germany had been dealt with in 1936, when German troops went back into the Rhineland?

To be sure, many did connect the dots. But for understandable reasons, chief among them a desire not to repeat the carnage of World War I, nations sought other options in order to avoid war.

When Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in 1938, he waved that piece of paper in part out of a sense of relief, believing he had found the morsel that could assuage the hungry beast. Germany's intentions were becoming frighteningly clear by that point. Chamberlain believed (hoped?) that Germany could be satisfied with the Sudetenland, and that other signs of Germany's aggression really did not mean what a reasonable person could only conclude they meant.

Here are some of those dots, presented in a timeline that with the hindsight of history makes one wonder how anyone could fail to see where that trail ended.

July 29, 1921 - Hitler becomes leader of the Nazi Party.

November 8-9, 1923 - The Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler and the Nazis plotted to force the Bavarian government to accept Hitler as their leader. Hitler fired a pistol shot into the ceiling. The attempt failed, and Hitler was put in prison.

July 18, 1925 - Mein Kampf was published. Written while Hitler was in prison. Among other things, the book discusses superior and inferior races.

September 14, 1930 - In a General Election, the Nazi Party, spurred on by severe economic problems, becomes the second largest party in Germany.

January 30, 1933 - Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany. By this point, Hitler had for a long time been saying that Germany should rip up the Versailles Treaty, and argued that Germany should return to its former might.

February 27, 1933 - the Reichstag burns. Civil liberties are suspended.

July 14, 1933 - a law passes making the Nazi Party the only legal party

June 30, 1934 - the "Night of the Long Knives". Political enemies are eliminated, and the German Army is effectively tied to Hitler.

August 19, 1934 - Hitler becomer Fuhrer of Germany

March 16, 1935 - Hitler reinstates conscription, in violation of the Versailles Treaty

March 7, 1936 - German troops reoccupy the Rhineland, in violation of the Versailles Treaty

March 12-13, 1938 - Germany annexes Austria, German troops enter Austria.

September 30, 1938 - Chamberlain gets his piece of paper from Hitler at Munich

October 15, 1938 - German troops take the Sudetenland

November 9, 1938 - "Night of Broken Glass". A widespread, coordinated attack on Jews.

March 15-16, 1939 - German troops take the rest of Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich accord

August 23, 1939 - Germany and the Soviet Union sign their Non-Aggression Pact

September 1, 1939 - Germany invades Poland, and World War II begins.

I mention all this because I fear that in Iran, today, we are witnessing the rise of another malignant power, one that has expressed and exhibited aggressive intentions. I fear that we will try to find our own Sudetenland, a way to pacify the Iranian regime, and hope they really don't mean what they say. I fear by failing to deal with this threat now, we may be opening the door to a greater threat in the future.

And what have they said? I'll present another timeline of recent developments in Iran. This timelinen could start in 1979 with the Revolution and proceed to the present, highlighting Iran's support for terrorism along the way, but for brevity I'll focus on the recent past.

January 30, 2002 - In his State of the Union address, President Bush includes Iran in the "Axis of Evil".

March 2005 - Dr. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, admits he gave nuclear technology to Iran. Questions remain as to whether he also gave enriched uranium to Iran.

June 2005 - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mayor of Tehran, wins a convincing victory in the election and becomes President.

September 2005 - Ahmadinejad addresses the UN. Later he says someone in his entourage said "When you began with the words 'In the name of God'... I saw a light coming, surrounding you and protecting you to the end [of the speech]." Ahmadinejad then said "I felt it myself, too, that suddenly the atmosphere changed and for 27-28 minutes the leaders could not blink. I am not exaggerating...because I was looking. All the leaders were puzzled, as if a hand held them and made them sit. They had their eyes and ears open for the message from the Islamic Republic."

October 2005 - Ahmadinejad says Israel should be "wiped off the map"

October 2005 - Ahmadinejad says "'Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?' But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved."

December 2005 - Russia says it has agreed to sell surface-to-air missiles (for defense against air attacks) to Iran.

December 2005 - Ahmadinejad said in public that the Holocaust was a myth.

January 2006 - Daniel Pipes writes that Ahmadinejad may view himself as one who can help prepare the way for the return of the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam. Some believe the Mahdi can only return after a global conflagration, and Ahmadinejad may see nuclear weapons as a way to bring that about.

January 10, 2006 - Iran breaks the UN seals on the Natanz nuclear plant and resumes research.

January 20, 2006 - Ahmadinejad says the Middle East conflict has become "the locus of the final war" between Muslims and the West. (HT: In The Bullpen)

January 19-20, 2006
- Ahmadinejad goes to Syria to meet with Bashar Assad. Ahmadinejad also meets with terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. On Jan 19, a suicide bomber from Islamic Jihad blows himself up in Israel, but fortunately only kills himself. The timing, to me, seems a deliberate endorsement of terrorism.

The regime in control of Iran is a brutal, bloody one, and is persistent in its support of terrorism. It has also been relentless in its quest for nuclear weapons. There are some troubling parallels between the two timelines I've presented. Each features driven leaders who want to put their countries in a position of power, and are not afraid to start wars to do it.

Anne Applebaum points us to a website that tracks executions and brutality in Iran. (HT: Mark in Mexico) Reading it, you can't help but be reminded of the Nazis and their brutal tactics.

How much more do we need to see before we recognize that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would be unacceptable? Can we act now, before the opportunity slips away from us? Of all people, the Europeans, who for two or three years have pursued diplomatic talks that only served to buy time for Iran, should recognize the dangers in trying to appease dictators. Do they not remember the lesson of the Sudetenland? Do we remember that lesson?

Chamberlain signed his paper, and Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia anyway.

Europe tries to get Iran to sign a piece of paper, but Iran's intention to get nuclear weapons anyway is clear. It's as if the Europeans are casting about, trying to find the Sudetenland the Iranians really want, and that Iran's current aggressiveness is simply a bargaining tactic to help them achieve this as yet unstated objective. Surely, the Europeans think, Iran doesn't really want to drive the world to the brink of a serious crisis.

Hitler did not stop at Czechoslovakia. Will Iran stop at merely possessing nuclear weapons? Do we believe them when they say they want a world without America and Israel?

Our leaders are facing some tough choices. As citizens, we need to remember the lessons of history, and we should be prepared to support our leaders in the difficult task of confronting a murderous regime, if we are once again called upon to be the protectors of freedom.


  • At Sun Jan 22, 08:48:00 PM, hammerswing75 said…

    Great post, lousy situation. Have you heard Instapundit's podcast about Iran? It provides some meager hope, saying that there is a difference between developing a nuclear device and developing a fully functional nuclear tipped missile. I don't want to rely on that, but I hope that it extends the timeline somewhat. I also hope that the Bush administration and the world doesn't put any stock in that thin broth.

  • At Mon Jan 23, 11:57:00 AM, Anonymous said…

    Great Post. Yes, there are many warning signs. As an aside,How about Musharif out of the picture? Then who takes over Pakistan?
    I am sure you could explain the physics and technology today do not limit arming a missle in the short term, much if at all, even if the triggers and whatnot are crude.


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