One seldom gets to read an article that comprehensively deals with an issue of major proportion in a global sense as the one below that has been adapted from a speech given on February 13, 2007 in Fort Myers, Florida by Victor Davis Hanson. He is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a professor emeritus at California State University Fresno and a distinguished visiting fellow at Hillsdale College. His speech was given at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar on the topic, “National Security: Short- and Long-Term Assessments.” Due to its length, we will reprint this speech in two parts with the following proviso: “This reprint is with the permission from Imprimis, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu.” The following is the second part of Victor David Hanson’s speech:
What Is To Be Done?
We can argue all we want over the solution. Would it be wrong to use military force? Are air strikes feasible? Will Iranian dissidents rise up, or have most of them already been killed or exiled? Will Russia and China help us or sit back and enjoy our dilemma? Is Europe our ally in this matter, or is it simply triangulating? Will the UN ever step in, or is it more likely to condemn the United States than Tehran?
Clearly a poker-faced United States seems hesitant to act until moments before the missiles are armed. It is certainly not behaving like the hegemon or imperialist power so caricatured by Michael Moore and his ilk. Until there is firm evidence that Iran has the warheads ready, no administration will wish to relive the nightmare of the past three years, with its endless hysterical accusations of arrogant unilateralism, preemption, inaccurate or falsified intelligence, imperialism, and purported hostility towards Islam.
What, then, should the United States do, other than keep offering meaningless platitudes about “dialogue”? There are actually several measures that, taken together, might work to exploit Iran’s weaknesses and maintain a nuclear-free Gulf.
First, keep pushing international accords and doggedly work to ratchet up the watered-down United Nations sanctions. Even if they don’t do much to Iran in any significant way, the resolutions seem to enrage Ahmadinejad. And when he rages at the politically correct United Nations, he only loses further support.
Second, keep prodding the European Union, presently Iran’s chief trading partner, to apply pressure. The so-called EU3—Britain, France and Germany—failed completely in its recent attempt to stop Ahmadinejad’s nuclear plans. But out of that setback came a growing realization in Europe that a nuclear-tipped missile from theocratic Iran could hit Europe just as easily as Israel. Next, Europeans should adopt a complete trade embargo to prevent all Iranian access to precision machinery and high technology.
Third, keep encouraging Iranian dissidents. We need not ask them to go into the streets where they would be shot. Instead we should offer them media help and access to the West. Also highlight the plight of women, minorities and liberals in Iran—the groups that traditionally appeal to the Western left.
Fourth, we should announce in advance that we don’t want any bases in Iran; don’t want its oil; and won’t send American infantry there. That would preempt the tired charges of imperialism and colonialism.
Fifth, and crucially, we must complete the stabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan. The last thing Iran wants is a democratic and prosperous Middle East surrounding its borders. The sight of Afghans, Iraqis, Kurds, Lebanese and Turks voting and speaking freely could form a critical mass of democratic reform to overwhelm the Khomeinists.
Sixth, keep reminding the Gulf monarchies that a nuclear Shiite theocracy is far more dangerous to them than to the United States or Israel—and that America’s efforts to contain Iran depend on their own to rein in Wahhabis in Iraq.
Seventh, say nothing much about the presence of two or three carrier groups in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean. Iran will soon grasp on its own that the build-up of such forces might presage air strikes, at which the United States excels.
Eighth, make it clear that Israel, as a sovereign nation, has a perfect right to protect itself. The United States should keep reminding Iran that 60 years after the real Holocaust, no Israeli Prime Minister will sit by idly while 7th century theocrats grandstand about wiping out the state of Israel and obtain the nuclear means to do it.
Ninth, keep the rhetoric down. Avoid threats to bomb many who could be our friends—while at the same time ignoring therapeutic pleas to talk with those who we know are our enemies.
Finally, Americans must gasify coal, diversify fuels, drill for more petroleum and invent new energy sources. Only that can collapse the world price of petroleum. At $60 a barrel for oil, Ahmadinejad is a charismatic third world benefactor who throws cash at every thug who wants a roadside bomb or shoulder-fired missile—and has plenty of money to buy Pakistani, North Korean or Russian nuclear components. But at $30 a barrel, he will be despised by his own people, who will become enraged as state-subsidized food and gas prices skyrocket, and as scarce Iranian petrodollars are wasted on Hezbollah and Hamas.
In conclusion, let me offer a more ominous note of warning. Israel is not free from its own passions, and there will be no second Holocaust. It is past time for Iranian leaders to snap out of their pseudo-trances and recognize that some Western countries are not only far more powerful than Iran, but in certain situations and under particular circumstances can be just as driven by memory, history—and, yes, a certain craziness as well.
The same goes for the United States. The Iranians, like bin Laden, imagine an antithetical caricature—which, like all caricatures, has some truth in it—whereby we materialistic Westerners love life too much to die, while the pious Islamic youths they send to kill us with suicide bombs love death too much to live. But what the Iranian theocrats, like the al-Qaedists, never fully fathom is that if the American people conclude that their freedom and existence are at stake, they are capable of conjuring up things far more frightening than anything in the 7th-century brain of Mr. Ahmadinejad. The barbarity of the nightmares at Antietam, Verdun, Dresden and Hiroshima prove that well enough. In short, there are consequences to the rhetoric of Armageddon.
So far the Iranian leader has posed as someone 90 percent crazy and ten percent sane, hoping that in response we would fear his overt madness, grant concessions, and delicately appeal to his small reservoir of reason. But he should understand that if his Western enemies appear 90 percent of the time as children of the Enlightenment, they are still suffused with vestigial traces of the emotional and unpredictable. And military history shows that the irrational ten percent of the Western mind is a lot scarier in the end than anything Islamic fanaticism has to offer.
This article and others on Back to Common Sense are designed to provoke further thought and investigation. It is not the intent for the articles to be politically biased. Sources are referenced in each article to encourage readers to delve into the supporting material. We welcome all readers to participate with their point of view either in support or contrary with additional information sources.