Today vs. 1935: Hyperbole or Prescience?
Former speaker of the U.S. House of Representative Newt Gingrich can at times be brilliantly prescient but occasionally hyperbolic. Recently, he suggested the present-day global situation bears a striking resemblance to 1935, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's pursuit of nuclear weapoins capability--not to mention his anti-Jewish sentiments--strikingly similar to Adolft Hitler's quest in the 1930s for weapons superiority.
Which is it? Is the Gingrich assessment hyperbole, with President Ahmadinejad merely one of a number of verbose, sometimes nonsensical dictators in need of diplomatic containment? Plus, Ahmadinejad may not be as politically powerful as many analysts assume. Or is Gingrich correct, with the civilized world, beginning with Israel, at serious risk from the whims of a madman perhaps as early as by the end of this decade? Or is there an alternative assessment of the situation in Iran?
Historic parallels always pose difficulties, but Ahmadinejad is clearly a loose cannon and an embarrassment.
Former Secretary, U.S. Defense and Energy Departments, and former Director, Central Intelligence Agency
Historic parallels always pose difficulties--for there are as many differences as similarities. Hitler never achieved weapons superiority. Germany's advantage lay in superior tactics and strategic surprise. Hitler actually failed to exploit Germany's industrial capacity for fear of its impact on German living standards. Late in the war, Germany developed the V1, the V2, and jet engines--but that was already too late.
Iran, by contrast, lacks the industrial capacity and technical expertise to compete with the West. Of course, nuclear weapons can, to some extent, be "a great equalizer." In terms of weaponry, however, Iran will always be seriously outclassed. Iran can utilize nuclear deterrence, terrorism, and, in addition, sheer boldness in dealing with the outside world. Moreover, Iran's immediate neighbors have reason to fear her. Still, Ahmadinejad himself is a loose cannon--and something of an embarrassment to Iran's real leaders.
A prescient observation.
ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE
Senior Adviser, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Worried about Iran today? Consider this 2025 scenario
President and Founder of PlaNet Finance, and founder and first President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
News item, two decades from now: Never, since the Cuban missile crisis over sixty years ago, has the world come closer to nuclear catastrophe than at the beginning of 2025. It took courage, certainly, in the face of folly, for leaders of the Alliance to foil the most successful attempt at atomic blackmail in the history of humanity.
Everyone knew of course that nuclear arms would one day return to the scene: too many nations and groups had access. Yet no serious episode had taken place since six years ago when terrorists exploded a radiological bomb in Singapore.
The leaders of Iran, having swallowed Turkmenistan (the top gas producer in the world), and the Shiite party of the former Iraqi state (the second largest petroleum producer in the region), made clear their ambition. This ambition was first expressed twenty years ago by the current chief of the revolution, Ahmadinejad, when he was president of Iraq: Chase the West out of the Middle East.
To reach that goal Ahmadinejad first, over the course of a decade, did everything possible to destabilize the Arab regimes and destroy the state of Israel. Then, just last week, the Iranians entered the second phase of their project: taking control of the Arab peninsula, and, with that, a good third of the world's fossil energy supply. By announcing--at the same time as their troops crossed the Strait of Hormuz--that they possessed nuclear weapons (as had been rumored for more than ten years) and long-range missiles, Iranian leaders thought none would be able to resist them. …