Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Facing Down Iran

Mark Steyn has a new piece out in City Journal arguing for why we must deal with Iran now. The piece starts off a little slowly, but don't let that put you off as it gets better and better as it proceeds. Here are a few choice passages:
As clashes of civilizations go, this one’s between two extremes: on the one hand, a world that has everything it needs to wage decisive war—wealth, armies, industry, technology; on the other, a world that has nothing but pure ideology and plenty of believers. (Its sole resource, oil, would stay in the ground were it not for foreign technology, foreign manpower, and a Western fetishization of domestic environmental aesthetics.) ...

...Four years into the “war on terror,” the Bush administration has begun promoting a new formulation: “the long war.” Not a reassuring name. In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs—our strengths. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower—their strengths, and our great weakness. Even a loser can win when he’s up against a defeatist. A big chunk of Western civilization, consciously or otherwise, has given the impression that it’s dying to surrender to somebody, anybody. Reasonably enough, Islam figures: Hey, why not us? If you add to the advantages of will and manpower a nuclear capability, the odds shift dramatically.

...

We now think it perfectly normal for Muslims to demand the tenets of their religion be applied to society at large: the government of Sweden, for example, has been zealously closing down websites that republish those Danish cartoons. As Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said, “It is in our revolution’s interest, and an essential principle, that when we speak of Islamic objectives, we address all the Muslims of the world.” Or as a female Muslim demonstrator in Toronto put it: “We won’t stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.”

If that’s a little too ferocious, Kofi Annan framed it rather more soothingly: “The offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were first published in a European country which has recently acquired a significant Muslim population, and is not yet sure how to adjust to it.”

If you’ve also “recently acquired” a significant Muslim population and you’re not sure how to “adjust” to it, well, here’s the difference: back when my Belgian grandparents emigrated to Canada, the idea was that the immigrants assimilated to the host country. As Kofi and Co. see it, today the host country has to assimilate to the immigrants: if Islamic law forbids representations of the Prophet, then so must Danish law, and French law, and American law. Iran was the progenitor of this rapacious extraterritoriality, and, if we had understood it more clearly a generation ago, we might be in less danger of seeing large tracts of the developed world being subsumed by it today.

...

What’s the difference between a hothead and a moderate? Well, the extremist Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” while the moderate Rafsanjani has declared that Israel is “the most hideous occurrence in history,” which the Muslim world “will vomit out from its midst” in one blast, because “a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world.” Evidently wiping Israel off the map seems to be one of those rare points of bipartisan consensus in Tehran, the Iranian equivalent of a prescription drug plan for seniors: we’re just arguing over the details.

...

Once again, we face a choice between bad and worse options. There can be no “surgical” strike in any meaningful sense: Iran’s clients on the ground will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Europe. Nor should we put much stock in the country’s allegedly “pro-American” youth. This shouldn’t be a touchy-feely nation-building exercise: rehabilitation may be a bonus, but the primary objective should be punishment—and incarceration. It’s up to the Iranian people how nutty a government they want to live with, but extraterritorial nuttiness has to be shown not to pay. That means swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime—but no occupation.

The cost of de-nuking Iran will be high now but significantly higher with every year it’s postponed. The lesson of the Danish cartoons is the clearest reminder that what is at stake here is the credibility of our civilization. Whether or not we end the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic will be an act that defines our time.

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