"[W]e have taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched more than 3,000 centrifuge machines, installing a new cascade every week," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced this week.
The world will watch and do nothing while Iran creates a nuclear arsenal, Ahmadinejad bragged. Political players within Iran, Ahmadinejad told a gathering of Iranian academics, were pushing for compromise with the West. But, Ahmadinejad said, there is no reason for compromise: "God says that those who walk in the path of righteousness will be victorious. What reason can you have for believing God will not keep this promise?"
Ahmadinejad may be a kook, but he’s no dummy. He has only one assurance that the United States will turn a blind eye to his nuclear weapons program: the assurance that the American anti-war left will stop any prospective military action cold.
Normally, the American anti-war left is a fringe element. In the aftermath of the Iraq War, however, many Americans are wary of another military entanglement in another Islamic country. Americans are particularly nervous about the prospect of military action against an Islamic country over weapons of mass destruction.
Ahmadinejad’s strategy is simple: Imitate Saddam Hussein circa 2002-2003. Americans largely regret the invasion of Iraq; over 50 percent of Americans now believe that entering Iraq was a mistake. Saddam’s behavior, Americans now say, did not justify war.
Which means that all Ahmadinejad must do is imitate Saddam’s behavior to the letter. In the lead-up to the war, Saddam Hussein prevaricated about the status of his WMD programs; he vacillated between stonewalling and appeasing UN weapons inspectors. Most of all, Saddam talked tough. The popular view is that Saddam was playing games because he faced opposition within his own regime, and therefore had no choice but to stand up to the Americans.
And so Ahmadinejad mirrors Saddam’s behavior. He posits that Americans are so afraid of repeating the Iraq "blunder" that they will allow him to acquire nuclear weapons. He openly champions Iran’s WMD program — he knows that Americans will remember Saddam’s bluster, and assume that Ahmadinejad is all talk. He obliquely hints at internal dissension while invoking Allah’s aid in achieving nuclear holocaust — he knows that Americans will remember the supposed conflict within Saddam’s regime, and write off Ahmadinejad’s religious ravings as an attempt to appease his base. He stonewalls International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, then gives them bits and pieces of information, enough for them to ridiculously theorize that Iran is truly attempting to cooperate with international standards — he knows that Americans will remember Hans Blix and the missing WMDs.
The anti-war left swallows Ahmadinejad’s Hussein-lite strategy hook, line and sinker. Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com writes, "the Iranian nuclear program is contracting, not expanding, and furthermore Tehran has agreed to a timetable for making their entire program transparent, and bringing it within the parameters established by the IAEA." Of course, this deliberately misreads the available information. Tehran claims that it is complying with international standards by slowing its production of centrifuges; still, they have produced hundreds of new centrifuges since May. As for agreements regarding weapons production and UN inspections — well, that clearly worked to everyone’s satisfaction in North Korea.
The anti-war left has applied the Vietnam Syndrome to the Iraq War, with some success. Now the anti-war left has translated the Vietnam Syndrome into the Iraq Syndrome: every dictator must be considered innocuous, innocent or incompetent until a bomb bearing the dictator’s fingerprints strikes American soil. Pre-emptive war is out.
Ahmadinejad is the beneficiary of the Iraq Syndrome. He will don his Hussein mask, laughing and building, as Americans, paralyzed by memories of Iraq, wonder idly whether Ahmadinejad is another Hussein.