Interesting article by Zakaria, Ramesh, but I don’t find it particularly reassuring. Zakaria says that, unlike Germany in 1938, Iran in 2006 is a weak and insignificant power. Hitler in 1938 controlled the world’s second largest industrial base and its mightiest army, so why should we worry about a little punk country like Iran? Zakaria seems to me to be repeating the problem of our overconfidence in the matter of Iraq. We have the world’s largest economy and its mightiest army. We can crush Saddam’s army in a head-to-head fight, so why worry about occupying a little punk country like Iraq? Surely we can figure out a way to secure the place with relatively little bother. Isn’t the very line of thought Zakaria is repeating what got us into trouble in Iraq.
Zakaria says 2006 is not 1938, but I think he misses the bigger difference. Technology has put terrorism and guerilla war (always tough for big powers to stop) in a position to do more damage than ever. September 11 took down many more civilians and did far more damage to America’s mainland than anything that happened in WWII. That’s an old point, but Zakaria seems to have forgotten it. Ahmadinejad may be a populist Huey Long, but a Huey Long with a bomb, living next to the Persian Gulf, has got to be taken seriously. If Iran was as powerless as Zakaria says, how has it managed to get as far as it already has in defying the world? Underestimating our foe has been our problem. Zakaria is doing it again.