Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Does the first decade of the 21st century roughly approximate the 1930's?

Occasionally you'll see an article or hear someone wonder why nobody made an effort to prevent the Holocaust. There was clear, if anecdotal and circumstantial, evidence that Germany had plans to eliminate the Jews. The reason nobody acted is because there was no will on the part of any nation to flex the muscle necessary to get Germany to halt its preparations for both WWII and the Holocaust. Contributing to that lack of will was a thick vein of anti-semitism that ran through world opinion. My fear is that history will ask the same questions of our era.

Iran is showing clear, if at times anecdotal or circumstantial, evidence that it plans to annihilate Israel with a nuclear strike. Now would be the time to prevent this, but world opinion is tinted with anti-semitism and antipathy towards Israel. The world, while concerned, also does not appear to have the will to do now what would be much more painful later, which is to eliminate Iran's nuclear threat. Must we wait until Tel Aviv or a Western city is burning under a mushroom cloud before we are willing to act?

If we will have a saving grace here, it is national self interest. Israel is in a position to take preventive actions itself this time. Unfortunately, that may be the least palatable option as it may seriously destabilize portions of the Middle East. A nuclear tipped Iran is also a significant threat to the United States, which is Iran has declared over and over to be an enemy, the "Great Satan." I'm still not sure if there is the will to go through with eliminating Iran's nuclear threat, though.

I can be very wary of "learning from history," because it is very easy to learn the wrong lessons sometimes, or to learn the right lesson but then mis-apply it to the present. In this case, though, we are probably seeing some strong parallels between the past and the present. What we do in the next year or show how much wisdom man has accumulated over 65 to 70 years.

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