iran missile 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
"Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war."
Winston Churchill to Neville Chamberlain at the House of Commons, after the 1938 Munich agreement
On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a rally, "This regime [Israel], thanks to God, has lost the reason for its existence... You should believe that this regime is disappearing."
While this may seem to be primarily a concern for Israel, it is not; we, as Ariel Sharon put it, will not be Czechoslovakia. The question is not whether Iran must be confronted, but who will do it, when, and what cost.
Though it may be difficult to recall so quaint a concept as honor, the word captures what is at stake as the leader of a terrorist nation openly threatens to destroy another state and the free world does nothing.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on the international community not to "bury its head in the sand."
"It is inconceivable that... [the president of] a member of the United Nations continues to be received throughout the world as a legitimate leader while he stands up and says that another UN member state should be wiped off the map," Olmert told a business conference. "We shall never repeat the mistakes of 60 years ago of... ignoring what was being heard then when it was still possible to save lives."
It is a measure of the dangerous state of world affairs that an Israeli leader needs to make such a statement, let alone that such a call would fall on deaf ears.
In 2000, when Austria elected a government that included the party of Joerg Haider, who had exhibited signs of neo-Nazism, the 14 other members of the European Union unanimously imposed diplomatic sanctions on Vienna. The sanctions, the first ever by the EU against a member state, including a freezing of ambassadorial and other intergovernmental contacts, and the rejection of any Austrian candidates nominated for posting in EU offices.
Then-German foreign minister Joschka Fischer explained that Europe must demonstrate that it is a "community of shared values" and distance itself from what EU parliament president Nicole Fontaine called the "insulting, anti-foreigner and racist utterances of Joerg Haider." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana weighed in, saying that the EU had to deliver "clear signals" rejecting what Haider stood for.
The EU acted vigorously then, as was justified. It would have been wrong to allow a party whose leader flirted with neo-Nazism to rise to power without comment or reaction. But Haider and his party did not advocate a return to fascist dictatorship, nor the eradication of another state.
The Iranian regime is oppressing its own people, fomenting terrorism throughout the region, and threatening a new genocide against the Jewish people. Its leaders view Israel as an alien Western implant. Iran's threats against Israel, therefore, are nothing more or less than threats against the West as a whole.
Adolf Hitler escalated his provocations against Jews and Western democracies simultaneously and incrementally; Iran is testing the waters as well. Each ignored blow delivered to the West's honor will be duly noted and lead to the next.
Ahmadinejad's helpfully explains this. Speaking to the US and Europe at the same rally, he said, "You imposed a group of terrorists... on the region. It is in your own interest to distance yourself from these criminals... This is an ultimatum. Don't complain tomorrow... Nations will take revenge."
It is painfully obvious that if Western nations took Ahmadinejad's advice and abandoned Israel, Iran would only become more belligerent, just like Hitler did when Europeans abandoned Czechoslovakia. Neither Hitler nor Ahmadinejad cared or care about their initial target, but rather about what the limp Western reaction says about their prospects for further expanding their power through even bolder acts of aggression.
Now, in conjunction with but regardless of the need to force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, the nations of the world must break relations with a regime that is openly justifying Israel's destruction - a call for genocide against the Jewish people. This must be done not just for Israel's sake, but to choose honor and prevent war.