Putin ahmadinejad 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
"It is important... that we not only do not use any kind of force [against Iran] but also do not even think about the possibility of using force."
- President Vladimir Putin, in Teheran, Tuesday
"[We have] got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
- President George Bush, in Washington, Wednesday
Ostensibly, the world is dividing into two camps: those warning of war and those warning against war. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner joined the first group when he said last month, "We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war." Now Bush has sounded a similar note.
On the other side, we have Putin warning against even talking about the use of force, and former US general John Abizaid suggesting that America could live with a nuclear Iran.
In such a division, those willing to contemplate war or saying that Iran must be stopped are being painted as the "pro-war" camp, while those speaking against force or for tolerating a nuclear Iran are the "anti-war" faction.
But is this really how an astute observer should look at things, as if there are pro-war and anti-war camps?
In fact, these labels should be reversed. The "pro-war" camp not only doesn't want war, but is working to prevent war much more than is the "anti-war" camp. By the same token, it is the "anti-war" camp that is misguidedly ensuring that war will come.
It is not difficult to understand why this is so. There are two main scenarios in which war, or the use of force, might come about:
1) The West fails to impose sufficient sanctions on Iran, leaving only the military option to prevent the world's top sponsor of terrorism from obtaining the ultimate terror weapon;
2) The West takes neither sufficient economic or military action, Iran becomes a nuclear power and consequently steps up its projection of power through terror and undermining regional regimes.
The latter scenario is what caused World War II. At that time, free nations thought they could ignore Hitler's violations of Germany's disarmament obligations under the Versailles Treaty, and live with an increasingly powerful Third Reich. They thought that each concession would be the last, and that Hitler's "grievances" could be satisfied at a manageable cost.
There is no indication that the current Iranian regime has satisfiable grievances. To deny Islamists mean it when they speak of dominating a weak West and spreading Islamist rule is to be culturally obtuse and insensitive. Why shouldn't they mean it? A culture that idolizes death over life may be incomprehensible to Westerners, but the seriousness of its beliefs cannot be doubted.
Accordingly, Bush is right: It is not the US that is courting war, but those who would allow the current Iranian regime to obtain nuclear weapons. Moreover, the "anti-war" camp is doubly leading the world to war or the use of the force because it is also blocking non-military means of stopping Iran.
Russia and China, the supposed anti-war camp, are blocking tougher sanctions in the UN Security Council. At the same time, The Washington Post reported yesterday that Britain and France are pressing for tougher European sanctions, while Italy, Austria and Germany are resisting.
Imagine if Europe imposed stiff banking, trade and diplomatic sanctions, including denial of air links with Teheran, and sought a ban on oil exports to Iran in the UN. Imagine also if the US and European nations launched an effort to indict Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide, which is a "punishable crime" under the Genocide Convention.
As drastic as such measures might seem, they are less drastic than, and an alternative to, the use of force. And coupled with the credible threat of force, they might work.
For this to happen, however, the "anti-war" camp has to wake up and realize that, by blocking effective non-military measures, it is paving the road to war.