Saturday, February 24, 2007

Peace for our time or The year is not 1938, Iran is not Nazi Germany

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has brought us comforting news: The year is not 1938. Iran is not Nazi Germany.

Rice favours diplomacy in dealing with Iran: "The United States is on a diplomatic path and we believe in this diplomatic path."

In his infamous speech before the House of Commons on September 27, 1938, Neville Chamberlain said:
However much we may sympathize with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbor, we cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in war simply on her account. If we have to fight it must be on larger issues than that. I am myself a man of peace to the depths of my soul. Armed conflict between nations is a nightmare to me; but if I were convinced that any nation had made up its mind to dominate the world by fear of its force, I should feel that it must be resisted. Under such a domination life for people who believe in liberty would not be worth living; but war is a fearful thing, and we must be very clear, before we embark upon it, that it is really the great issues that are at stake, and that the call to risk everything in their defense, when all the consequences are weighed, is

For the present I ask you to await as calmly as you can the events of the next few days. As long as war has not begun, there is always hope that it may be prevented, and you know that I am going to work for peace to the last moment.

And so that champion of appeasment continued to negotiate peace at the expense of Czechoslovakia, and ultimately, at the expense of the world.

Asked for her response to the analogy between the appeasement of Nazi Germany in 1938 and the international community's current approach to Iran, Rice responded: "I am fond of historical analogies, but not that fond."

I, too, am fond of analogies, but not so fond as to make a false analogy between Condoleezza Rice and Neville Chamberlain. After all, Chamberlain followed his policy of appeasement in the belief that Hitler was a rational actor, and with a predisposition to believe that Germany had reasonable grievances stemming from the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles. He also had to balance his fear of the seemingly modest expansionist appetite of Nazi Germany with the existential danger posed by what he no doubt perceived as the insatiable hunger of Joseph Stalin's Communist regime for world domination.

Rice faces no such quandaries. Ahmadinejad is not a rational actor. His willingness to sacrifice millions of his own people in pursuance of his mystical faith in a divine mission to bring about the return of the Mahdi cannot be confused with a hardline realpolitik. Powerful, oil rich Iran has no grievances that might excuse a feeling of humilation. If it harbours territorial claims, they are those dictated by the apocalyptic quest of radical Islam. Since it is radical Islam itself that is currently the primary threat to world peace, Rice faces no rock-and-a-hard-place dilemma of navigating a course between two evils.