The good news is that Iran has announced it will release the 15 British sailors and Marines captured over a week ago by Iranian forces. Britain says it was performing its duty in Iraqi waters, but Iran claims British forces were in Iranian waters. Frankly, I don’t trust anything coming out of Iran, knowing that they have admitted to lying before. This reminds me of another time when Iran held Westerners as hostage. I’m old enough to remember hearing the nightly news reporters count the number of days that Americans had been held hostage by the Iranian government. After 444 days, Iran released these hostages as President Reagan stepped into office. Their release came because of actions taken by President Carter on the eve of leaving office. And President Carter pretty much gave Iran everything it wanted in the Algiers Accords of January 19, 1981. Iran was paid, and Iran released the hostages. So what did Iran get in exchange for their current British hostages? We may never know, but I do know that once you start paying the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.
Again I am struck by the way history appears to be repeating itself. Back in the early months of 1936, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. But here’s the interesting thing that we didn’t realize until many years and millions of dead later: Hitler could have been stopped easily at that point, as outlined in the following snippet from Wikipedia:
Heinz Guderian, a German general interviewed by French officers after the Second World War, claimed: “If you French had intervened in the Rhineland in 1936 we should have been sunk and Hitler would have fallen”. Hitler himself later said:
“The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance.”
Had France squawked about the re-arming of the Rhineland, Hitler would have been forced to retreat, and that retreat would have caused him to lose power. But France had no backbone, so Hitler proceeded, and millions died. Merci beaucoup, France.
Did we just miss the equivalent event this time around? I am afraid that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the same man who is thought to have been involved in the U.S. Embassy overthrow in 1979 — received his Danegeld to negotiate the release of the British hostages. This makes me wonder whether we just missed the opportunity to use a little force now in order to stop a greater threat later. And make no mistake: Iran poses a threat to the Middle East and the world right now with its support and funding of terrorism, and it will become an even worse threat when the country gets nuclear weapons.
In 1936, Hitler could have been overthrown easily with a show of force at the right time. Have we missed the opportunity to do the same in 2007 with Ahmadinejad in Iran? I hope not.