April 25, 2006
What if America Acted Like the French?By James Lewis
Suppose the United States followed the ideas of the Left and took the French approach to Iranian nukes: Ignore the threat and just try to buy into Iran's oil and gas fields. As for Israel, it is only "un petit pays pissant," in the famous words of the French diplomat in London: It's only a sh**ty little country. Who needs it? Let them go to hell in their own way.
Or, as Jimmy Carter's foreign policy genius Zbigniew Brzezinsky told us last week, "Time is on our side" with the Mullahs.
He said the same thing in 1979, when Carter let Ayatollah Khomeini overthrow the nasty Shah of Iran. That was 27 years ago, but Zbig still thinks that time is on our side. If Jimmy and Zbig's excellent adventure hadn't allowed good old peace—loving Khomeini take over a country of 60 million people, Iran would be a constitutional monarchy today and nuclear war would not be in the offing.
Well, Carter did what he did and got a Nobel for it, and Zbig is still out there explaining the Mullahs away with an air of infinite moral superiority. The Carter Administration did nothing in 1979, and today their advice is to do nothing again. It's the French way.
Question: Is that a viable strategy for the United States, or any other responsible world power?
Right now, the 'do nothing' crowd is in control of Democrat foreign policy thinking. If Hillary, John or Algore come to power, watch for the US to adopt a very sophisticated French strategy on the Middle East. Europe will stand up and cheer. But not for very long.
The trouble is not just that it is treacherous and indecent to abandon a small democratic country that wants nothing but peace. The Left has no problem with treachery and indecency. The strategic trouble is that it wouldn't ever work.
Suppose the US and Israel allows Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs to get their first nukes in 2008 or 2009 — a plausible deadline. And suppose Iran did to Israel whatever it felt like doing. (It's not sane for Ahmadinejad to toss nukes at Tel Aviv, because Israel has 200 of them pointing the other way. But he's enough of a nutter to make it a 50—50 tossup.)
So Washington joins with Paris to denounce Iran's first nukes, Jimmy Carter style, and does nothing.
We're safe, right?
The Khomeiniacs would then have an immense power advantage in the world.
1. They are immune to any nation not willing to engage in a nuclear duel. That's any other country in the world, including Russia, China, Europe and the United States.
2. They could safely carry out terrorist strikes anywhere in the world without fear of retaliation. (They have struck before: The US Embassy in Beirut; the US Marine barracks there as well; an Argentinean Jewish community center; a French (!) Iranian opposition group; and any number of Hezbollah—Hamas attacks on Israel).
Ahmadinejad is an old—fashioned jihadi imperialist, straight from the 8th century, when Islam conquered one—third of the known world in just one generation. He's not going to sit on his nukes. He's going to use nukes — to threaten, to infiltrate, and perhaps, when he has enough, to strike, and maybe to achieve his promised apocalypse.
3. But suppose that sanity takes over in Tehran. Armed with nukes, Iran is still sitting on the biggest oil artery in the world. (Look at the map, if you doubt it). Saudi oil goes through the Gulf, Iraqi oil does, too, and the small Gulf States are right at the mouth of the Gulf. With a nuclear Iran, the US Navy cannot operate surface ships in the Gulf ——— it would be suicide. Subs can still try to control the Straits of Hormuz, and possibly small surface vessels, but capital ships are now sitting ducks. The US 5th Fleet must retreat far over the horizon.
4. The Saudis and Gulf States are therefore without American protection for the first time since World War Two. Japan is now utterly dependent on Iran for its oil supply; so is China; so — come to think of it — is the United States itself, and of course, Paris, London and Berlin. Europe is now well within range of Iranian nuclear—armed missiles, and of course terrorists can go anywhere with a truck bomb packed with radioactive materials, a "dirty nuke." If the terrorists are suiciders, the Iranians will just deny they had anything to do with it.
5. If your answer is "No blood for oil!!!" — sorry, you're out of luck as far as the inverse is concerned. The next time you hear an ambulance siren wailing as it rushes somebody to a hospital, think where they would be without oil. No ambulance, no hospital, no food for the doctors, nurses and patients. As economists keep telling us, oil and blood (and every other thing of value) have a close relationship. Oil and health, food, transportation, and jobs. All those things become less affordable as oil becomes scarcer. Oil is part and parcel of the prosperity we take for granted; but why should Ahmadinejad care? The infidels are now being squeezed dry, just as Allah promised. As the New York Times likes to say, the poor will be the first to suffer. Africa and Latin America will hurt the most.
5. The Saudis are rumored to be getting a nuclear deterrent with the aid of Pakistan. It's easy. Pakistan is poor, the Saudis are rich. If the price is right, they can just fly over the bombs in a cargo plane. Cooperation has already started. The Arab Sunni powers now have to contend with an aggressive Shiite Iran next door. They must get their own nukes, or make an alliance with a great power they can rely on. But if the US is sitting this one out, who are the Saudis going to rely on for protection?
What is the French strategy? Carter will tell us. He will preach at us from a higher moral plane that to do anything would be sinful. Jimmy never changes his mind. Neither do Zbig, Hillary, Al, John, and Madeleine. They haven't had a new idea about American power since the Sixties, and they are not about to start now.
The French came out of WW II mostly unharmed, just saddled with a permanent inferiority complex. So the US could appease the Mullahs and hope for the best. The French approach.
What's the best we can hope for? If we believe Ahmadinejad and his Islamist rivals, it's dhimmitude. Pay up, bow down, and you won't be killed. France is preparing for it. The London Guardian is agitating for surrender even now.
The US might be able to learn dhimmitude, but Israel can't expect any mercy. So what are the Israelis going to do with those 200 nukes? If it feels at mortal risk, Israel would do the same thing the US and the USSR were ready to do in the Cold War.
The French option will end very, very badly for all concerned.
Doing nothing is a choice, with its own predictable consequences. The Left never gets that point, but adults understand it all over the world.
The French option works only because the French know that the United States is there to act like a responsible adult in the world. Kids can act like kids because Mom will kiss their scraped knees and make them feel better. But the world doesn't have a lot of adults. If the United States acted just like France, even Paris would face disaster.
James Lewis is a frequent contributor.