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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Serious or suicidal?

by Thomas Sowell (Townhall.com)

When you are boating on the Niagara River, there are signs
marking the point at which you must go ashore or else you
will be sucked over the falls.

With Iran moving toward the development of nuclear weapons, we are getting dangerously
close to that fatal point of no return on the world stage.

Yet there are few signs of alarm in our public discourse,
whether among politicians, the media, or the intelligentsia.

There is much more discussion of whether government anti-
terrorism agents should be able to look at the records of
books borrowed from public libraries.

The Iranian government itself is giving us the clearest
evidence of what a nuclear Iran would mean, with its
fanatical hate-filled declarations about wanting to wipe
Israel off the face of the earth. But send not to know
for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Just last year, before the American election, Osama bin
Laden warned that those places that voted for the re-
election of the President would become targets of terrorist

We could ignore him then.

But neither we, nor our children,
nor our children's children will ever be able to ignore him
again if he gets nuclear weapons from a nuclear Iran.

We will live at his mercy -- of which he has none -- if he
can wipe out New York or Chicago if we do not knuckle under
to his demands, however outrageous those demands might be.

We will truly have passed the point of no return. What will
future generations think of us, that we drifted on past the
warning signs, preoccupied with library records and with
giving foreign terrorists the same legal rights as American

We could deter the nuclear power of the Soviet Union with
our own nuclear power. But you cannot deter suicidal
terrorists. You can only kill them or stop them from getting
what they need to kill you.

We are killing them in Iraq, though our media seem wholly
uninterested in that part of the story, just as they seem
uninterested in the fact that the fate of Western
civilization may be at stake just across the border in Iran.

Of course they would like us to prevent Iran from going
nuclear -- if it can be done nicely by diplomacy, with the
approval of the U.N., and in ways that do not offend "world

It is as if we were on the Niagara River and wanted to go
ashore before it was too late, but did not want to turn on
the motors for fear of disturbing the neighbors with
excessive noise.

But at that point, the choice is between being serious or
being suicidal.

That is where we are internationally today. Many years ago,
there was a book with the title "The Suicide of the West."
It may have been ahead of its time.

The squeamishness, indecision, and wishful thinking of the
West are its greatest dangers because the West has the power
to destroy any other danger. But it does not have the will.

Partly this is because most of our Western allies have been
sheltered from the brutal realities of the international
jungle for more than half a century under the American
nuclear umbrella.

People insulated from dangers for generations can indulge
themselves in the illusion that there are no dangers -- as
much of Western Europe has. This is part of the "world
opinion" that makes us hesitant to take any decisive action
to prevent a nightmare scenario of nuclear weapons in the
hands of hate-filled fanatics.

Do not look for Europe to support any decisive action
against Iran. But look for much of their intelligentsia,
and much of our own intelligentsia as well, to be alert
for any opportunity to wax morally superior if we do act.

They will be able to think of all sorts of nicer
alternatives to taking out Iran's nuclear development
sites. They will be able to come up with all sorts of
abstract arguments and moral equivalence, such as: Other
countries have nuclear weapons. Why not Iran?

Debating abstract questions is much easier than confronting
concrete and often brutal alternatives.

The big question is whether we are serious or suicidal.

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