Once upon a time, there was this crazy man, liked to say all sorts of outrageous things. Didn’t like Jews much, either. Problem is, this guy was the head of his country, and so his rants could be said to represent the national policy, and there was also the problem of a pretty big army he was getting together, although he assured everyone that he was a peace-loving guy, not a threat to anyone. Oh yes, there’s a lot of similarity between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler, though there are many people quick to say we shouldn’t make that connection. But as I am sometimes slow to take my cue from the elite, I continue in my comparison:
Both men came to power on a theory of returning their nation to power through a fascist policy regarding force and law. Both men found it convenient to blame everything on Western powers and on the Jewish minority in their country/region. Both had a real jones for getting a nuclear weapon. Both saw their own country in increasingly unrealistic terms, moving from a desire for regional respect, to a thirst for hegemony, to the notion that they counld influence the world, if not control a large chunk of it. And both men found the world in general amazingly compliant with their demands, as if timidity would bring something better than disaster.
There are also differences between the men and their countries, of course. For one thing, Hitler came to power at a time when the last great war told a warning against war without caution. And there was no one like Hitler in a long time, whose malice had been so clear as to warn against even talking to him; it must have seemed to England and France that there was no downside to simply talking with the man, and ample reason to believe in the strength of the Maginot Line and the victory from World War One. These days, we should have learned enough from the Nazis to watch out for their brood, and to judge a leader by his actions, and not just his assurances.
Further, Hitler realized too late the potential of the atom bomb, while Ahmadinejad has always considered nuclear weapons his trump card to regional hegemony. But again there is a similarity; when Hitler finally decided to pursue nuclear weapons, he had no specific idea as to how they would win the war for him; like Ahmadinejad now, he simply believed that having them would make all the difference.
Now, I have addressed the tactics of Mr. Ahmadinejad before, with a suggestion or two about what I might do if I were sitting in the Oval Office. I have also written about the character of national ambitions in the Middle East; Iran has long thought of itself as the rightful leader of the whole Middle East, whether one means Ahmadinejad today, the Ayatollah Khomeini a couple decades ago, or the Shah Rezi Pahlavi before him. So when we talk about Ahmadinejad, it’s important to understand that some of this is the usual Iranian bluster which has proceeded forth from ‘Persia’ ever since it began to regain the illusion of past glories (past, as in pre-Alexander the Great). When one considers the actual readiness of Iran’s military to fight a significant conflict against a first-world opponent, the math proves the comparison a clear mis-match, clear enough that no Iranian general would advocate such a war. The significance is that this means that Ahmadinejad is speaking from a religious and political stance. Such a position hardly makes the threat impotent, but it does mean that options in response would reasonably include interfering with choke points in Iran’s R&D development, quiet meetings with selected military officials to remind them of American capability and probable responses, and naturally the encouragement of insurrection by disenchanted Iranian youth; the same use of the “street” which helped to drive out the Shah, can be pursued to drive out the Jihad Junta in Teheran; it is not commonly understood in the West, that for a number of reasons, partly cultural but largely economic, Iran’s population is strongly pro-American, to such a degree that if a competent and charismatic leader could be found among the youth in Iran, the government would find itself ousted in short order, whether or not they agreed to a vote on the matter. More than a few people who have been to Iran during the period following the fall of Baghdad, report people in the street asking why the U.S. stopped with Iraq; the sentiment among Iranian citizens is eerily like the sentiment of many Iraqis in 1991, and so there is a unique opportunity there, though direct military conflict initiated by America represents an unreasonable risk. In 1938, it seemed a lot of Europeans were simply watching to see what Britain would do, and when Chamberlain chose appeasement, the rest of Europe lost hope. Now we see again, where the Middle East and the world wait to see, not what the U.N. or some regional country does, but what America does, and heavy stakes ride on the decision.
In conclusion, Iran is not much like Germany. Iran does not own the same military tradition as Germany, nor the same quality academies and theoreticians, nor the same quality armament developers and strategists, nor the same popualtion devoted to national pride. Make no mistake, Iranians love their country, but they are not naive about the character of their government, and there is no professional corps on which to build a first-rate Army. Iran has a navy, to the same degree that I could claims to be a personal friend of President Bush - it’s possible, but it would take a great stretch of definitions to make it true in any substantive sense. And all you need to know about Iran’s Air Force, is to understand that Iranian pilots average less than fifty hours in the air every year, and none have what we could call salient experience in ACM. This means that the most likely deployment of any WMD by Iran would be via a terorist cell, which explains the continued cultivation of contact between Iran and a number of international terrorist organizations. While the ramifications of such a possibility are chilling (as one example, all NW protocols include stringent permissive release requirements, which would have to be abrogated for a terrorist group to use them), it also suggests that the threshold conditions for a decision to give NW to a terrorist group must be high, and it is unlikely in the extreme that a single person would be allowed such authority by themselves. This means that if Intelligence can confirm the existence not only of enriched materials, but an actual weapon, then the West will have a minimum amount of time to decide on a functional response before that weapon is likely to be used. There is also the clear signal sent more than once by all ‘relevant parties’, that the use of a Nuclear Weapon on certain targets, be it Tel Aviv, Washington, London, or some other target which implies a Teheran connection, that the result would cost Iran far more than it gains. Given the locations of suspected nuclear sites, they would be difficult to attack, but ironically their position in relation to mountains, and being far from towns, would create a comparatively low risk of collateral casualties if a Western nation were to deliver a nuclear reprisal, and Iran has certainly been made aware of that fact.