Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ron Smith: Appeasement comes again?

Last year I wrote a column on this site under the heading, ‘The Chamberlain of the Twenty-first Century?’ The reference at the time was to President Obama’s apparent reluctance to commit to the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan and his determination to pursue a non-confrontational policy with regard to the Iranian nuclear weapons programme, about which I also wrote last year. The latter issue has come to the fore again with the publication in the Washington Times of the result of a diplomatic simulation game played at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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?

1 comment:

Brian said...


Quote (Unknown).

War is the continuation of politics by other means.
Chaos is the continuation of war, by even better means.

Since the formation of the United Nations one of its primary considerations has been the promotion of Peace as opposed to that of War. So large has this concept become that no matter what happens in the real world outsides the confines of the UN headquarters it is standard practice to refuse to deal with the problem “rogue” states by the use of military intervention.

Appeasement is the basic ingredient now being used by all parties at the Nuclear Conference in the USA, with Us President Obama setting the agenda with an offer to reduce nuclear weapons. One can but wonder if the rogue states of North Korea and Iran have stopped laughing over this whole charade, which if applied yearly could be very dangerous.

Meanwhile the Taliban in Afghanistan must have breathed a sign of relief; now there is little chance if any, that the U.S and its Allies will use tactical nuclear weapons against them. Now the level playing in this war is set the mountains of Afghanistan, an area which will provide an ideal fighting/killing ground.

Will this be Obama’s Vietnam? or at best an expensive stalemate.

Quotation from Rudyard Kipling.

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier

The question remains:-

Will Obama use nuclear weapons against Iran or North Korea without the sanction of the United Nations, even if Israel is attacked, or when another 9/11 arrives?

Or will he (and we) continue this policy of appeasement until the nuclear option becomes unavoidable? Or will we like Chamberlain, just wait and wait….