Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Ron Smith: Appeasement comes again?Labels: Defence, Ron Smith
The result was unequivocal: ‘Iran won’. A group of former high-ranking government officials and academics concluded that on present policy settings, Iran will build and test a nuclear weapon and the world will be left with the consequences. Iran is already a major supporter of terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen (to name but a few) and has made repeated threats to ‘wipe Israel off the map’. Its acquisition of a nuclear capability is hardly likely to improve this situation.
The crucial feature of the situation that produced this particular outcome was the determination of the present US administration ‘to avoid conflict’. This takes us directly back to Munich and 1938. Then, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, was also profoundly conflict averse and he was determined to avoid the awful scenes of World War I. But the verdict of history is clear. He was wrong to appease the territorial demands of the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. He should have recognised the likelihood of continental conflict (as well as the absolute moral indefensibility of sacrificing the Czechs) and (together with the French) he should have opposed German expansionism, if necessary with military force. He should have opposed, not appeased. Taking on the Wehrmacht at that stage would have been an easier project than it proved to be, two years later and the allies would have had the not-inconsiderable support of Czechoslovakia.
Of course, Chamberlain and his advisors could not have known what was to come in every detail and, particularly, they might not have anticipated the Soviet-German Non-Aggression pact of 1939. On the other hand, Hitler had by this time had progressively repudiated all the German undertakings given at Versailles (at the end of World War I) and the crudely expansionist ‘Leibensraum’ project was clear from Mein Kampf, published in the early 1920s.
Equally, we cannot be certain about what a nuclear –capable, ideologically-driven Iranian regime will do. However, two specific scenarios may be worth considering. In the first, Iran has some nuclear-weapon capability (and some capacity to deliver such weapons) and it comes into direct conflict with Israel, perhaps because an Iranian proxy attack has succeeded too well and Israel cannot avoid direct retaliation. This conflict then develops into a general regional war, which draws in states from outside the region: a war which involves nuclear weapons.
In the second scenario, Iranian President, Ahmadinejad, carries through with his promise of 2007 that, ‘Iran will place its nuclear technology at the service of those determined to confront the US and other Western countries’. This results in the detonation by Islamic terrorists of a nuclear device in a major American city. Nuclear forensics identify the source of the fissile material as Iran and the United States retaliates.
Clearly there are other scenarios, including a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and the almost unpredictable consequences of continuing Iranian de-stabilisation of its neighbours, as well as the prospect of the indefinite continuation of state-supported terrorism, buttressed now by Iranian nuclear deterrence. To date none of these things have come to pass. The question is, can we yet muster the resolve to head them off?
at 8:35 AM