OBAMA, LIKE CHAMBERLAIN, FIDDLES –
by C. L. Cagan, Ph.D., M.Div., Ph.D.
One short lifetime ago the world burned in the flames of World War II, a conflict started by one man, Adolf Hitler. He made no secret of his intentions to start a war, nor of his hatred for the Jews, publishing his plans back in 1925 in his book, Mein Kampf. Hitler and his Nazi Party took power in Germany in early 1933 and immediately ordered the buildup of Germany’s military machine. Less than one week after taking power, Hitler told his generals,
The most dangerous period is that of rearmament. Then we shall see whether France has statesmen. If she does, she will not grant us time but will jump on us (February 3, 1933, see Andreas Hillgruber, Germany and the Two World Wars, Harvard University Press, 1981 English reprint, p. 57).
Before the German expansion was complete the Nazi regime could easily have been toppled. But there were no statesmen in France to do it, and none in high places in England – certainly not Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, who did nothing. There were no far-sighted statesmen in the West, only weak and self-serving politicians. As the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels later remarked,
In 1933 a French Premier ought to have said (and if I had been the French Premier I would have said it): “The new Reich Chancellor [Hitler] is the man who wrote Mein Kampf, which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either he disappears or we march!” (April 5, 1940, see Hillgruber, ibid., p. 56).
On that point, Goebbels was right – and the Western leaders were wrong. They did nothing. Hitler got away with his rearmament, quickly building a huge army and a mighty war machine. And France and England didn’t do a thing!
The leaders of England and France could have stopped Hitler, but they were too weak-willed to do it. They preferred to make excuses for Hitler’s ambition and pretended that nothing was wrong. They practiced the policy of appeasement, of giving one’s enemy whatever he wants in the hope that he will one day be satisfied. In 1936 Hitler marched into the Rhineland, knowing that England and France, although having superior power, would do nothing to stop him. He said, “If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs” (Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin, Alfred A. Knopf, 1991, p. 531). Resolute action would have led to the fall of the Nazi regime and would have prevented World War II and the Holocaust – but there was only weakness in the West. France did nothing. British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin did nothing. Hitler got away with his conquest. He was not appeased – he was not satisfied – but went on to further and more ruthless aggression.
Worse yet, as the 1930s wore on, the nature of appeasement changed – from a passive wish to avoid war under British Prime Minister Baldwin, to an active courtship of the world’s worst enemy by his successor Chamberlain. Neville Chamberlain, who followed Baldwin as Prime Minister in the late 1930s, “gave the policy drive…the appeasers seemed wholly unaware of Hitler’s great design, blueprinted in Mein Kampf and now emerging as an alarming reality” (William Manchester, The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940, Little, Brown and Company, 1988, pp. 241, 242). In 1938 Chamberlain flew to Munich and eagerly gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler. But Hitler was not appeased – nor was he satisfied. He went on to attack Poland the next year, thus starting the Second World War.
Only after the world was at war, and the West stood in mortal peril, did the British people turn to the indomitable, valorous and resolute Winston Churchill. But that six-year conflict took more than fifty million lives, including six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and damaged Europe forever.
Today we again stand near a world in flames – this time the thermonuclear fire of atomic war. And, as it was with the Second World War, the coming war is still preventable – if only the civilized world has the foresight and the nerve to face the threat before it is too late.
This threat, as everyone knows, comes from the nuclear program of Iran. Month by month, almost week by week, we hear of nuclear reactors, enriched uranium, and advanced missiles. For years Iran has been enriching uranium in the thousands of centrifuges in their facility at Natanz, and already has enough material to build one or two atomic bombs. In February 2009 Iran launched its first spacecraft, sending a satellite which they had built themselves into orbit around the world. It is only a small step beyond that to build intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry atomic warheads to America or anywhere on earth.
Just one week ago, on Saturday, August 21, Russia began inserting nuclear fuel into the Iranian reactor at Bushehr, which will produce plutonium that can be put into atomic weapons. The intensity and depth of their program, vaulting from one achievement to another, to levels which would have been thought incredible and intolerable only a few short years ago, mocking diplomacy and scoffing at sanctions, can have only one interpretation: Iran intends to become a major nuclear power – with atomic bombs, and missiles to launch against Israel or any other country. In the campaign debates of 2008, our President Obama said, “We cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran” (debate transcript, September 26, 2008). Yet not only the President, but the world in general, becomes ever more desensitized by each new Iranian breakthrough, more and more accustomed to Iranian nuclear might as an accomplished, settled and unchallengeable reality. Since the full force of the atomic crisis has not yet arrived, it is comforting to Western optimists to pretend that it will never come – and to pretend, as Britain did in the 1930s, that the rising menace shares our peaceful values, in the face of overwhelming evidence that it does not.
It is meaningless to argue whether the day of crisis will come in one year, or in two, or whether nuclear war will come in four or five years. When it has the capability to do so, Iran will destroy Israel and the West, just as Hitler launched World War II and the Jewish Holocaust when he had the power to do so.
Like Hitler, the Iranian leaders make no secret of their plan to destroy Israel – and America. When the world is on fire, leaders in Israel and the West will be without excuse. The current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has spoken his intentions as clearly as Hitler ever did:
“Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism [Israel]? But you should know that this slogan and this goal are achievable, and certainly can be achieved,” Ahmadinejad proclaimed before the huge crowd in Teheran. The crowd responded with the popular Islamic chant, “Death to America!” (October 26, 2005, see
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad… assured that the United States and the Zionist regime of Israel will soon come to the end of their lives (January 23, 2007, see
“Israel is destined for destruction and will soon disappear.”
(November 13, 2006, “Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his Own Words,” see
“The uniform shout of the Iranian nation is forever ‘Death to Israel’” (Fars News Agency, an Iranian organization, October 10, 2009, see
These statements are not the isolated ravings of a single man. They represent the consistent policy of Iran since their Islamic Revolution of 1979 under the Ayatollah Khomeini. The past president of Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been called a “moderate” in comparison to other “hardline” Iranian leaders and the “extremist” Ahmadinejad. But just three months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the “moderate” Rafsanjani said these words:
The establishment of Israel is the most hideous occurrence in history. The Islamic world will not tolerate the continued existence of Israel in the region, and will vomit it out from its midst…The Jihad operations against Israel must continue unrelentingly until victory is achieved…when the Islamic world acquires atomic weapons, the strategy of the West will hit a dead-end – since the use of a single atomic bomb has the power to destroy Israel completely, while it will only cause partial damage to the Islamic world (Rafsanjani, speech on December 14, 2001, see http://www.newsonterror.com/).
Here the “moderate” president of Iran openly advocated the use of nuclear weapons against Israel! He was not afraid of retaliation, the destruction of his own country with the loss of tens of millions of lives, since the rest of the Muslim world would survive.
Is it possible to reason with such a regime? Is it possible to negotiate with such people? Is it possible to practice “containment” of Iran after they have built nuclear weapons, through treaties with neighboring countries and threats of retaliatory action? No, the Iranian mullahs cannot be contained as the Communists were during the Cold War. The Communist dictators feared the loss of their own lives in war, but the Iranian ayatollahs desire such a death – for they believe that their own death in a jihad, a holy war, is the only sure way to enter paradise. Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis was right when he said,
In this context, mutually assured destruction, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, would have no meaning…For people with this mindset, MAD [mutual assured destruction] is not a constraint; it is an inducement. (Bernard Lewis, Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2006, see
Someone may foolishly think, “It’s all about the price of oil.” While a conflict with Iran would indeed make driving more expensive for America’s motorists, we must remember that our danger is far greater. Iran’s leaders have never said that they plan to enrich their country and damage the economies of America and Israel by raising the price of oil! Their goal is far more basic – they want to destroy us! Are our individual lives – and our national life – worth losing for a few dollars? If Iran completes its nuclear program, we will not be concerned about the price of oil, for the dead use no oil. And we will be dead!
The issue is not economic but existential. It is Iran that has defined it that way:
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared publicly – not once, but repeatedly – that Israel must be “wiped off the map.” That effort, the destruction of Israel, seems to be the main goal of Iranian policy. When Iranian missiles are paraded through the streets of Tehran, the destination “to Jerusalem” is clearly stenciled on them.
Ahmadinejad and the ayatollah [Ali Khamenei] who is the “supreme leader” have publicly mused that one or two nuclear bombs would obliterate Israel, but that, though it would cause devastating damage and millions of casualties, Iran would survive Israel’s retaliatory attack. Iran is a huge country, with about 60 million inhabitants, so they are probably correct. And who can doubt that those religious fanatics would not hesitate to allow the destruction of much of their country and to sacrifice a third or even one-half of their population in order to eliminate the hated Jewish state? (These two paragraphs come from “The Deadly Threat of a Nuclear-Armed Iran,” published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East, San Francisco, California; see
Diplomacy and deterrence have no power to influence people whose highest goal is their own death, and who welcome the destruction of their own country, which would in their minds make Iran an heroic nation of Islamic “martyrs.”
The Iranian regime has only one aim: the destruction of Israel and America, at whatever cost. Against such madmen, who seek death not only for their enemies but for themselves and their nation, there stands only one argument. Diplomacy has failed. Sanctions are now failing. There remains only the use of force in the hands of a resolute Western leader. Where is Churchill when you need him?
There is no honest refuge in a discussion of timing. Whether Israel and America are burned in a nuclear conflagration one, two, or five years from now, the result is unthinkable and unacceptable to any decent person. “Facts and Logic About the Middle East” said:
The world must give Iran an ultimatum: Desist immediately from the development of nuclear weapons; if you do not, we shall destroy the facilities that produce them (ibid.).
But who will give such an ultimatum to Iran? Clearly it will not be given by “the world.” In better days the ultimatum would have come from the United States of America and its allies.
However, statesmanship, vision and will are sadly lacking in the United States today. The previous presidential Administration, having exhausted its political capital in Iraq, preferred to avoid unpopular decisions – and so put no real pressure on Iran, not even giving Israel permission to strike the Iranian nuclear sites on their own. After all, Iran would not have nuclear weapons until after the 2008 elections, so why worry? Bush stood passively by while Iran built. That shortsighted policy means that we will face an Iranian threat multiplied one thousand times over, a threat that can destroy the small country of Israel as a nation with only one or two atomic bombs and, through missiles or suicide teams of terrorists, can turn American cities into molten heaps of burning fire.
Obama’s administration is even worse than that of Bush. The comparison with British Prime Ministers is perfect. Stanley Baldwin was passive toward Hitler (as Bush was toward Iran). Neville Chamberlain went even farther, seeking to appease the Nazis (as Obama has been doing). As Neville Chamberlain aggressively sought to please Hitler, so the American government of today is actively moving to “give the policy drive,” energizing that appeasement with dynamic force. The only message to Islam from the White House is an apology for our alleged wrongs, while recently endorsing the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero, the very place where Islamic terrorists killed thousands at the World Trade Center only nine years ago. Some have quite reasonably raised the question of whether our President is on the side of Judeo-Christian civilization at all! Twenty-four percent of Americans, according to recent polls, even think that Obama is a Muslim himself!
No, the Iranian nuclear threat will not be stopped by America, nor by the world as a whole. It will be stopped by Israel or it will not be stopped at all. The nation of Israel was founded as a refuge for the Jews in their historic and Biblical homeland, after their near extermination in Hitler’s Holocaust. Yet the territory of Israel is small, and only one or two bombs might kill most of the population outright and make the rest unable to survive as a nation. The retaliatory destruction of Iran would be no real consolation to them, suffering their second Holocaust at the hands of a regime determined to finish what Hitler started.
There is no American Churchill to confront this bold and rising evil. In fact, one of the first acts of Obama’s Administration was to rudely send back the bust of Churchill that had been given to the White House by Great Britain, an act that symbolizes where President Obama really stands – with Chamberlain the appeaser, not Churchill the champion of freedom! On the other hand, in valiant contradiction to the cringing spirit of this age, a portrait of Churchill is proudly displayed in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In him Israel may find its own Churchill. Netanyahu’s brother was killed at Entebbe, rescuing Israeli hostages from terrorists who had hijacked an airliner. Netanyahu is aware, on an elemental basis incomprehensible to pampered Americans, of the existential threat to Israel posed by a nuclear Iran. He knows that Israel must defend its right to exist even if the United States ignores that right, caring not for Israel’s future or its own. Netanyahu would certainly say, “Am Yisrael Chai” – “Israel Must Live!”
The initiative to stop Iran will not come from “the world” or even from the United States, though this would save humanity from a nuclear war. That initiative will come only from Israel, with or without American permission, if it comes at all. What will Netanyahu do? The answer to that question will determine the future of Israel and the course of world history itself. How we pray that Mr. Netanyahu will be the Churchill of the twenty-first century!
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm122:6).
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