1/27/2005

The Black Curtain

On March 5th in 1946, Winston Churchill gave a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, after receiving an honorary degree. It was in that speech that Churchill coined the most famous term of the Cold War: iron curtain.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.
Almost sixty years later, the power of Churchill's metaphor is not diminished. During a meeting of Israel's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the panel's chairman invoked Churchill as he sounded a warning about Iran's nascent nuclear program.
Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said the minute Iran turns into a nuclear power, a "black curtain" will drop over Israel, the Middle East and the entire free world. But, he added, there is still time for the free world to foil the project that is threatening world peace and prevent the creation of an Iranian nuclear threat.
With regard to Iran's nuclear ambitions, Israrel is characteristically refusing to rule out any option, including a military one. Uncharacteristically, Israel is saying that this is not a threat that they can face on their own.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Monday that Israel will follow the US lead in dealing with Iran's nuclear aspirations, but did not rule out military action if diplomatic and economic pressure fail to stop Teheran from developing nuclear weapons.

"The United States has to decide, not us," he told Army Radio. "If we go it alone, we will remain alone. Everyone knows our potential, but we also have to know our limits. As long as there is a possibility that the world will organize to fight against Iran's nuclear option, let the world organize."
...and organize it must. Iran and North Korea are often mentioned in the same breath, but Iran is far more likely to become a real problem. North Korea is an economic ruin, dependent on its Chinese patron to stave off a complete societal collapse. Iran, on the other hand, requires no such support. Her economy is the 34th largest in the world (larger than Israel's), and ran a budget surplus in 2004 of some $5 billion dollars. We can generally count on China to keep North Korea on a short leash; all we can count on in Iran is the self-restraint of the mullahs.

Still, there is reason to hope, so long as we are quick to act. If one replaces "Soviet Russia" with "Iran", there is a compelling call to action from Churchill's speech in Fulton all those years ago.
I repulse the idea that a new war is inevitable -- still more that it is imminent. It is because I am sure that our fortunes are still in our own hands and that we hold the power to save the future, that I feel the duty to speak out now that I have the occasion and the opportunity to do so.

I do not believe that Iran desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.

But what we have to consider here today while time remains, is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement.

What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become.
We must engage the Iranian government to find a way to slow their race for the bomb, but it's folly to think that we can delay them indefinitely. The best way to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mullahs is to help the Iranian people throw off their yoke. The freedom movement in Iran needs our support, our encouragement, and almost certainly our dollars. If there is any reasonable chance that the Iranian people can take hold of their own liberty, then it our nation's specific obligation - our calling, if I may - to help them do it.

The most effective way to secure the future of every land is through this pursuit, set forward by Churchill and echoed in the inaugural address of a week ago - the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. If we tire, if we falter, if we fail, the consequences will not be a "black curtain" over the Middle East; it will look more like a black shroud.