Winston Churchill once remarked that the poor response of the free world to the emergence of Nazi Germany told much about the profound “unteachability” of mankind. Can a more appropriate commentary be made regarding our own handling of contemporary Iran?
Two weeks ago reports began to surface that the Iranian Parliament had passed a law requiring Jews and Christians in that country to wear badges identifying themselves as belonging to one of these respective religious minority groups. It turns out that these reports may have been premature – Iranian law-makers may not have actually passed the proposed measures after all. Be that as it may, it should be obvious to everyone by now that the regime in Iran is perfectly capable of enforcing such a rule.
Canadian Prime Minister Harper responded to these reports by expressing his astonishment that any government would act in a manner so reminiscent of Nazi Germany. He shouldn’t be surprised. The similarities between contemporary Iran and pre-war Nazi Germany are uncanny and chilling.
Both modern-day Iran and Nazi Germany of the 1930s share a national inferiority complex that is difficult to explain. Both emerged from devastating wars – World War I in the case of Germany and the Iran-Iraq War in the case of Iran – that deeply damaged the already fragile social fabric of each country and led to periods of profound political and social instability.
Nationalism and its symbols took on a religious character in Nazi Germany that is very much like the nationalist religious fervour sweeping much of Iranian society. And in Iran, like Germany before her, a demagogic leader has emerged who is inculcating his fellow citizens with a passionate belief that they have a divine mandate if not obligation to transform the world. (Actually, Hitler was an Astrian citizen, but that’s another story.)
And of course, there is a perceived enemy common to both regimes – the Jews.
It’s difficult for people raised in the relative comfort and security of Canada to comprehend how deep-rooted and pervasive this hatred and suspicion of Jews is, particularly because it is so irrational. To use a colloquialism peculiar to our times – it simply does not compute.
The Nazis believed that the international community, led by Jews, conspired against Germany to impose the Treaty of Versailles, an ongoing badge of shame for the German nation. Once in power, they set out to repudiate Versailles and its corollary agreements and embark upon a crash rearmament program to further their strategic goals.
Iran too believes that the international community, under the control of the Jews, conspired against the Islamic nation as a whole by imposing upon them, according to their twisted narrative, a foreign scourge called Israel, the continued existence of which is also a source of perpetual shame. It too has embarked upon a mission to acquire the military strength to reverse this alleged shame.
The situations of Iran and Nazi Germany are different in two important and unhappy respects.
The ability of the Nazis to gain converts throughout the world was limited by the absence of effective modes of communication for spreading their ideology. These restrictions have been, for all intents and purposes, eliminated today. In much of the Islamic world modern technology such as satellite television and the internet has become an instrument of proliferation and reinforcement of this irrational hate, rather than the moderating and modernizing influence it was once hoped it would be. And, as David Harris – a former Chief of Strategic Planning for CSIS and Senior Fellow at the Institute – pointed out in his column last week, the scorn normally reserved for Jews is increasingly targeting Christians as well. The result is that millions of more vulnerable minds are being poisoned around the world today by the doctrine of hate than ever were when the Nazis were at the pinnacle of their power. Technology has become a powerful tool in the hands of the enemies of freedom.
The second significant difference between Iran and Nazi Germany rests in the destructive power potentially at the disposal of each regime. Nuclear technology, in its infancy during the dark days of World War II, is now widely available, as is the technology to deliver such weapons of mass destruction into the heart of Europe – not just Israel.
As disturbing as the similarities between Iran and pre-war Nazi Germany are, however, they are eclipsed by the similarities between the actions of the free world, then and now.
It is perhaps one of history’s great slanders that the leaders of the free world in the pre-World War II years were cowards. In truth, they were serious and experienced diplomats who rightly feared the resumption of the catastrophic warfare that they themselves had lived through from 1914-1918. They sincerely believed that they could avoid such an outcome and were prepared to take risks to do so. Silly tactical mistakes were certainly made that complicated the diplomacy of the time, but the real mistake was not appeasement in principle as many historians claim, but rather their failure to grasp that appeasement, i.e. diplomacy, would inevitably fail because the strategic aim of the Nazis was not the redress of grievances, but war itself.
So it is with Iran today. The free world is diligently pursuing a diplomatic solution to the crisis in the honourable, but ultimately, mistaken belief that the Iranian regime is prepared to accept a diplomatic solution.
Iran today is being carefully transformed by its leaders into a single volk with an apocalyptic mission to fulfill. That mission requires provoking and fighting a war of destiny. Allowing diplomacy to “take its course”, as we are being asked to do, will only delay the inevitable confrontation – a delay that plays into the hands of our enemies.
The time for action has come. Iran must be stopped – now.