Iran is pressing forward with its nuclear program. The Obama administration is dithering. Bent upon getting a Security Council resolution rather than assembling a coalition of the willing, the White House and American policy is being held hostage by Russia and most of all by China. Here’s an informed prediction: if Beijing does come around and support a new round of sanctions, it will be hailed by the White House as a major breakthrough: peace in our time. But the actual sanctions will be weak to worthless. China has too much at stake in Iran as a source of energy. It also sees an opportunity to poke us in the eye.
Letting the Chinese play the role of lowest common denominator is a formula for permitting Iran to proceed on its path toward nuclear status. Assuming that the United States does not change its policy in time, and that Israel shrinks from a military task that it might not have the means to accomplish, we are approaching a point of no return.
One question that should be asked is what we will say the day after Iran tests its first nuclear device. Back in 1935, the great historian John W. Wheeler-Bennett wrote a brilliant book called The Pipe Dream of Peace: The Story of the Collapse of Disarmament. It was a history of the General Disarmament Conference that opened in 1932 and dragged on ineffectually for more than two years even as shattering events unfolded all around. In the preface to this book, Wheeler-Bennett reflected on the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. His words are pertinent to the picture unfolding before our eyes:
The role of Cassandra carries little satisfaction for those who play it, and now that the worst has happened and the blackest forebodings are justified, there is no time for repining. The milk has been spilt. It was worth while to try every expedient up the last moment, but it is fatal to be content now to say, "We told you so."
Wheeler-Bennett was profoundly right and profoundly wrong at once. His blackest forebodings were justified. But the worst had certainly not yet happened. That was to come in forms unimaginable.
If the Islamic fanatics running Iran get the bomb, our blackest foreboding will also be justified. But the worst will certainly not yet have happened. The imagination recoils at what might follow.