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Opinion

Op-Ed: Wars and rumors of war

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Opinion,Op-Eds

Of World War II, Winston Churchill wrote, "There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle." Churchill's great history of the Second World War is preoccupied with the fact that had Europe and America acted wisely, Hitler would never have been able to cause the deaths of so many millions.

Hitler -- in "Mein Kampf," in countless speeches and in his actions -- gave the world warning after warning of what would come once he achieved power. But the West did what it does best -- what it is doing now on Iran -- and didn't take the evil madman at his word.

The Iranian regime is evil but not mad, at least not in the context of its radical Shiite culture. Iran's leaders, beginning with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, have stated again and again that Israel must "vanish from the arena of time." Around Iran, the government has erected many billboards and signs like the one that decorated the headquarters of the terrorist Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which reportedly say, in English, that "Israel should be wiped out of the face of the world." Iranian President Ahmadinejad last August said that Israel was a "cancerous tumor." A month later, he told the U.N. General Assembly that Israel would "be eliminated."

Since it came to power in 1979, the Iranian regime has pursued development of nuclear weapons. Only recently has the U.N.'s purblind nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, come to believe what has been evident since at least 1981: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is serious. Iran will not be deterred or stopped by diplomatic action.

But the West is repeating what Churchill called the "unwisdom" of the 1930s. Israel, which is most immediately and directly affected by Iran's nuclear ambitions, is preparing for what will be -- because of the West's unwisdom -- its inevitable war with Iran.

In his speech to the U.N. two months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu urged the U.S. and other U.N. members to draw a "red line" beyond which Iran would not be allowed to proceed. He proposed that the line be drawn at the point when Iran's nuclear ambitions could no longer be stopped militarily. He said that this point would be reached by late spring or summer of next year.

In a Dec. 12 radio interview, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren made it clear that Netanyahu's forecast for next year is really a war warning. Oren told me, "Well, the prime minister has also said it's not important when Iran gets a bomb or even decides when it wants to get a bomb; the important question is at what point could we no longer prevent Iran from getting a bomb. And we have a very good idea of when that point arrives. We know it arrives sometime in the late spring, at the latest early summer. And at that point, we no longer prevent Iran to get the bomb, so our red line is just over the horizon. ..."

Oren also said that sanctions have had no effect on Iran's progress toward nuclear arms. We can wait, but Israel can't. We know the "international community" won't stop Iran from getting a bomb. Israel will have to do it on its own. Its very existence depends on it.

War is coming to the Middle East. If we, and our allies, were not as guilty of unwisdom as the Western leaders of the 1930s, that war might have been avoided. But here we are.

Jed Babbin was appointed deputy undersecretary of defense by President George H.W. Bush. He is the author of such best-selling books as "Inside the Asylum" and "In the Words of Our Enemies."

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