Jewish World Review Jan. 17, 2006/ 17 Teves, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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Here we go again; Is anybody coming?

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Not since frightened mice sat around a wheel of camembert, arguing over who would bell the cat (which every little mouse agreed would be a very good thing to do), have so many mice occupied themselves with high statecraft.


Everybody who's anybody is getting very cross with Iran. The Europeans, suddenly aware that a nuclear Iran might interrupt German reveries of sausages and raise the temperature of Islamic nightmares in France, are grumbling that somebody really ought to do something. Russia and China, who make a fine living selling exotic arms to famously bad-tempered regimes, agree with the United States and the Europeans that Iran should "fully suspend its nuclear program."


Even in Washington, where Democrats have taken a blood oath never to agree to anything the Republicans bring up first, there's growing agreement that Iran is a catastrophe-in-waiting for everyone. Chuck Schumer, fresh from stopping in a single bound the confirmation of Samuel Alito, is disturbed. Not disturbed enough to want to do anything in particular about it, but disturbed enough to put it on his to-do list of things to worry about.


Both the casual and careful observer can be forgiven if they think this must be where they came into this movie about a rogue state with a history of bluster, spilling the blood of its neighbors, encouraging terrorists, building and using weapons of mass destruction and conducting a clever game of hide-and-seek with the United Nations weapons inspectors, flouting and then mocking the international institutions dedicated to peace, happiness and only good stuff. Sounds like Iraq, looks like Iran.


It's a new movie, but the plot and the script are old. The usual suspects of good will and happy talk are peddling the familiar line first devised by Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?" Why don't we sit down at a convenient table and talk about our differences? Peace is nice, fuzzy bunnies are cute and "if your friends like my friends, and my friends like your friends, we'll all be friends together, and won't that be fine?" Didn't we all sing that song together in grade school? The New York Times editorial page will lead us in another rousing chorus.


You don't have to be a warmonger to understand that without somebody big and willing to be hard and mean standing behind the peacemongers, bullies prosper. Who would pay attention to diplomacy and good will unless there is assurance that somebody will get his rear end rearranged if all else fails? Diplomacy and talking is all to the good as long as the bullies understand that diplomacy and talking is only the opening act. Our dovish friends — the Europeans forever huddling together as the coalition of the unwilling, some of our congressmen and the editorialists at our largest newspapers — are determined that U.S. policy must be a one-act play.


Even some of our pragmatists, who recognize that survival is at stake and can look without blinking at the enemy and the unyielding religious ideology that drives him, are tempted to imagine that someone else will supply the muscle to back up our pretense of resolve. The Israelis did it once before, in 1981, destroying Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirik before he could build the nuclear weapons that would have changed, and changed utterly, the delicate balance of power in the Middle East and the world. The Israelis will do it for us again.


The reputation of the efficiency of Israeli arms and intelligence is well-founded; nobody does it better when the chips are down and something absolutely, positively, unequivocally, categorically and unmistakably has to be done. But the Israelis are not as eager to do the good deed for the rest of us as many in the West — including many Europeans who are ready to condemn publicly and praise privately — think they are. The politics of Israel are, to put it mildly, in severe flux, with Ariel Sharon lying at the point of death on the eve of national elections. "Before you send bombers to take out nuclear installations," a senior Israeli military analyst told me one day last week, "it helps to know exactly where they are. Getting there and getting back is not the holiday trip a lot of people imagine."


But not to worry. Only yesterday the British Foreign Office said all five permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, the United States, France, Russia and China — had shown "serious concern over Iranian moves" to resume Tehran's nuclear program. So it's not like everybody's doing nothing. There are lunches to share, resolutions to consider, concern to show, dismay to demonstrate, alarm to view, and pride to point with. And there's a lot of pretty lace on a lot of pants.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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