Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hands Across Borders

Historian Benny Morris gave an in-depth interview to the Jerusalem Post’s editor David Horowitz, which was published over the weekend. Morris’ specialty is the late British PM Winston Churchill.

In the interview Morris discusses the rise of Nazism in the 1920’s and 30’s, and British, European and US avoidance in facing the threat, until it was nearly too late. According to Morris, had Britain heeded Churchill’s cry that Hitler was a dangerous fanatic bent on world domination, and readied itself militarily, the war against the Nazis would only have taken six-months, rather than six-years, and been much less costly in the loss of life.

Morris dances around the parallel to today’s Iran, but he makes it pretty clear he believes there are parallels to be drawn. The good professor says that France and Russia and the rest of Europe could have stopped Hitler in the early 1930’s, but didn’t. Why? Because no one took him seriously, except Churchill.

Today, should Europe and Russia and perhaps even China, join Israel and the USA in confronting Iran, it is possible that the Iranian threat could still be contained. But it is easier for politicians to avoid confrontation than face the reality that there’s an enemy outside your steel door preparing enough c-4 plastique explosive to blow down the door, and probably blow up your house. From inside the house, with the stereo on, the TV blaring, dinner on the table, it’s hard to imagine an enemy lurking in the bushes.

Morris also points out that China and Russia today are attempting to build themselves into superpowers, replete with client states in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, ready to do their bidding. Should Iran agree to avoid a confrontation with Russia, or China, while confronting Israel and the USA, and other parts of Europe, then in the historians opinion, China and Russia will agree.

Much as Russia agreed in the 1930’s with the non-aggression pact Stalin signed with Hitler. Until Hitler decided he’d had enough of Stalin and went to war with Russia as well.

Hitler never told the truth to anyone about anything. In today’s Israeli press commentators say that Iranian leader Achminajad has been lying for five years about his nuclear development program. Now some reports say t hat he is only months away from a nuclear weapon.

As if to underscore this assumption, Lebanon’s Shiek Nasrallah, the leader of the Iranian backed Hezbollah, has said that Israel would be destroyed within three years. One assumes that Nasrallah has better information about the Iranian progress to nuclear weapons than the rest of the world. Especially the U.S. intelligence agencies that did an about-face recently,, declaring that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon.

These are the same agencies, with different names, and in different guises, who said that Hitler wasn’t a threat. Until he was, of course.

That’s not to say Iran can’t be stopped, even if they develop a weapon tomorrow. Hitler’s top military commanders, the old guard elite aristocracy, never believed Germany could win the war. As early as 1939 they were seeking back-door deals to head off the US and Britain from entering the war, at the same time beginning to plot the assassination of Hitler.

But these aristocrats were good Germans, patriots, fighting for the fatherland, and all that. They did their jobs in spite of their misgivings. And indeed crazy Adolph lost the war. In fact, he lost the war back in 42, and the loss was sealed when Russian entered the fray in 43, but he never knew, or admitted it.

Nuts. Historians say that he was willing to take a whole country along with him, too. Not that the Germans were blameless. They went along with Hitler’s glorious song of a 1,000 year rule. But the song was off-key, and played on a pipe-organ that ran out of steam long before the thousand years had even gotten off the starting blocks.

Many observers believe that Achminajad is another Hitler. Analysts say he is like other despots; interested in power, glory, adoration. He speaks and crowds go into frenzy. They can believe his shouts and rants about destroying the West, but in all likelihood once he tries it military experts say he’ll wind up dead with scores of millions of his countrymen. Analysts admit he will certainly inflict damage, perhaps even fatal damage, to some countries, perhaps even Israel, but in the end Iran will go up in smoke; the oil wells will blaze across the countryside, and the populace will all be fighting various forms of radiation poisoning.

The editorial pages lump the above topics with the upcoming U.S. elections. Given a world facing war, who would you rather have making decisions; Churchill, Chamberlain, or Roosevelt? In another time frame it is now Clinton, Obama or McCain.

Clinton is a flinty woman who will do what is necessary to do. Lurking over her head is the dirty cloud of politics that she and her husband have been busy flying through. Observers point out that as U.S.President, when the time came for Bill to decide to take out a petty dictator in Somalia, he failed miserably. Or at least his troops did. Pundits ask, if “Billary” do better facing a nascent dictator with nuclear weapons? Good question.

Then there’s Barry Obama. All reports paint him as a fine man. Good bone structure. Good command of English. An inspiring speaker. He caught Billary by surprise, snuck up from a corner just as Bill did when he ran the first time, and next thing you know Billary is swimming upstream against the current, and tiring fast. Perhaps Obama will rise to the occasion and be a true leader of the century, making decisions based on big ideas that work, and change the course of history.

Political analysts point out that Obama wants to talk to everyone. He’s going to talk to Achminajad. Well, he might succeed. Some observers say the one thing the West doesn’t completely understand is the Arab mindset that revolves around pride and respect. If Obama treats Achminajad as a respected leader, not some nut who appears ready to take over the world and turn it into an Islamic Federation, and if Achminajad actually succumbs to Barak Obama’s outstanding powers of persuasion, then perhaps the world’s present nuclear crises will recede with the tide, leaving quiet shores and gentle waves lapping at the sandy beaches.

Jimmy Carter thought he could talk people into Peace. Historians say he couldn’t. Jimmy Carter thought he would bring “Change” to Washington, he couldn’t. But Perhaps Barak Obama is really what he appears to be: a brilliant, cool, reasoned intellectual who can duke it out with the world’s bullies when necessary.

Or will talk only go so far? In Israel observers have long followed the misrepresentations and prevarications uttered during the run-up to peace talks. Both sides lie. In 1938-9 Hitler told Chamberlain he wouldn’t invade Czechoslovakia, Poland, whatever. He lied. In 1941 the Japanese ambassador to Washington sat in the White House negotiating an oil deal while the planes were just outside Pearl Harbor with their bomb doors opening, ready to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Mao Tse-Tung, lied to Edgar Snow, who wrote Red Star Over China, about everything. Mao lied to everyone, ruled by terror, was a disciple of Stalin, and then tried to out Stalin Stalin. All the while meeting with Stalin, rising up three times tossing up his hands yelling “Long Live Stalin. Long Live Stalin.”

In short, as Will Parker, the old folk singer used to say, ‘people tell you what you want to hear, and you hear what you want to hear when people tell you.’ If Barack Obama meets with Achmanijad and it turns out Barack isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, the bombs may already be falling on Washington by the time he gets home.

Then we have John McCain. By the process of deduction we are stuck with him. Is he a good guy? As David Lettterman reportedly said in his recent stand-up, the ‘Republican Party is a bunch of grumpy old white guys teeing off at a restricted country-club.’ Well, maybe not too obviously restricted, anymore. McCain is the son and grandson of Admirals. He knows something about fighting. He knows about surviving, too. If his experience was anything like that of the hero in the 1970’s flick about a Vietnam POW released after seven-years of torture, then McCain can lie straight-faced to the enemy and maybe even smile while doing it. What is probably called for now is a fighter, not a talker. Best is someone who could do both, extremely well. Extremely well is the key. Not thinking they can do it extremely well, like Cheeny and Rumsfield, but really doing it extremely well.

Should the pundits of academia be correct, we take off the top of the curve and the bottom of the curve and go for the middle.

So who do we have left? Billary.

Or Ralph Nader. Take your pick.

The next President is going to have to reach out across the border, but we'll have to ait to see if he or she gets a handful of honey, or winds up sticking their fingers in a garbage disposal.