The difference between Iran and Nazi Germany is one of degree but not of kind — strategically speaking. Let’s remember that nobody knew in 1938 (not even most Nazis) that the Holocaust was coming. And yet all that was horrifying about the Nazis was plainly visible during their opposition period in the late 1920s and early 1930s, during which time their propaganda message was not much more objectionable than that of Michael Moore — and not really all that different (By the way, I firmly believe that all the similarities between Farenheit 9/11 and Nazi propaganda of the opposition period are purely accidental — I can’t believe he would have plagiarized the Nazis intentionally).
The key thing to understand is that, in the remilitarization of the Rhineland, in the violation of the Versailles troop limits, and in the elimination of Czechoslovakia (the key link between France and Poland, upon which the containment of Germany vitally depended) Germany captured a series of offensive strategic advantages. An attack was not imminent in any of those cases, but as Winston Churchill said after the betrayal of Czechoslovakia at Munich in 1938: “We faced a choice between shame and war. We chose shame and will get war.”
Churchill understood, as so many pseudo-pacifists did not, that allowing Germany to alter the status quo in a way that gave it a huge offensive advantage guaranteed that the Nazis would attack when they were ready. He understood that the last moment for effective self-defense was Munich in 1938–when there was no imminent attack. The choice was preemption or appeasement.
And likewise the choice Bush faces now. Waiting until an attack might be imminent is suicide. If Iran wants nuclear technology, they need to go about getting it in a way that the international community will consider safe. Otherwise, we must understand Iran’s current violations of applicable Security Council resolutions as acts of aggression, which is what Germany’s diplomacy was during the 1930s. And we should responsd accordingly.
Zakaria’s conclusions, based on a comparison of mass between Germany and Iran, are infantile. We did not even know, in 1938, that there would ever be such things as nuclear weapons. Are we to understand that Zakaria thinks that because 10 Al Qaeda guys get their hands on a nuke, we shouldn’t worry, because they have no million-man S.A.? What sense does that make?