Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen moved us one step closer to reality recently with his statement that Iran now has enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb, thus confirming a similar report by the United Nations nuclear weapons agency. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was quick to add that “there is some time”, but how far are we from the day when we will be forced to confront a nuclear-armed fanatic that has pledged to eliminate us and our strongest and only true Middle East ally? Everything we have attempted has failed–talks conducted by the Europeans, sanctions, economic and diplomatic pressure–and in fact, much of it has served to embolden Iran’s Ahmadinejad, who knows very well that we will not get help in the form of pressure on him from Russia, even if we concede on every contentious point with Putin–Georgia, Ukraine, the Eastern European missile defense shield, etc. And he also knows that the United Nations Security Council will veto any proposed resolution of military force against them. President Obama’s team is “studying” the management of relations with Iran, and evidently remains committed to diplomacy in an international configuration as an end in itself. Meanwhile, this is not a rhetorical exercise for Israel; it is life or death. And the new Israeli government being organized by Benjamin Netanyahu will not be bashful about moral clarity on the issue. Nor should we.
I have just read a short, but compelling book, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, by George Weigel. In it he reminds us that the war we are in (and have been since at least 1979) requires first, that we understand our enemy. In describing Ahmadinejad, he distinguishes his mission from that of the Sunni jihadists like Osama bin Laden, who want to restore the Islamic caliphate. Shiite jihadists like Ahmadinejad have an entirely different objective: to hasten the return of a messianic figure, the Twelfth Imam, who will cleanse the world. Hence, the mission is of an apocalyptic cast of mind and he and his cult believe that they are obligated to do whatever they can to hasten this age, including incinerating Israel and its allies, even if it means self-destruction. Not exactly the symmetry in a relationship that makes it anywhere close to analogous to our Cold War with the Soviets. So I wish our President well in his diplomatic attempts, but meanwhile, we’d better be well prepared, militarily as well as emotionally and politically, for the next step, which might come sooner than we think.