Irresponsible On Iran


Awareness of the very real danger posed by a nuclear Iran has become a given in Washington. But that may prove a mixed blessing as the issue gets sucked into the maws of partisan politics. In reality, the Iran threat is too important and too complex for the chest thumping, sloganeering and jockeying for partisan gain that define the Iran debate on the 2008 presidential campaign trail.

Politicians in both parties are vying to establish their hawkish bona fides. Tehran will “never” get the bomb under their watch, contenders promise; some
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hint about a military option whose details and consequences they always avoid, but the implication is always that they alone have the backbone to use force.

The reality of Iran is vastly complex. Sanctions and diplomacy have proven difficult in a world where so many stand to gain from trade with the rogue state — and where U.S. credibility is at an all-time low.

All military options pose huge risks with uncertain chances of success, especially with U.S. forces depleted by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Analysts on both the right and left have pointed out that the Iranian people seem to rally around their unpopular government with each new threat from Washington. If our goal is regime change, as some candidates have suggested, bellicose campaign rhetoric is hardly the way to encourage it. Similarly, raking over the partisan coals any candidate who suggests talking to Iran is not a useful contribution to the debate.

Negotiating with terror-supporting regimes clearly raises difficult questions, but it is irresponsible to suggest that negotiations are, by definition, the equivalent of appeasement, just as it is irresponsible to take the military option off the table entirely.

Let us reiterate: Iran is a threat, and not just to the Jewish state it says it wants to eradicate. It is contributing to the carnage in Iraq, and its leaders are all too willing to use the bogeyman of Israel as a distraction from the terrorism they support around the world and their oppression at home. But stopping their nuclear program will take creative thinking, sober policymaking and a willingness to make tough choices in a universe of imperfect options. The escalating shouting match on the campaign trail contributes nothing to those goals.

 ‘Chain Of Memory’

 Germany opened an important museum this week at the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where tens of thousands of victims were killed. Part of the Holocaust memorial there, the new center will ensure that the “chain of memory” will never be broken, explained Christian Wulff, governor of the state of Lower Saxony, in addressing 1,000 guests, including 100 survivors.

In an effort to portray the lives of those sent to Bergen-Belsen, exhibits feature drawings and diaries of the prisoners as well as photographs, prisoners’ records and artifacts donated by survivors.

“The genocide of Europe’s Jews — a crime against humanity of unimaginable proportions — will now and forever keep its paramount place within the German memory,” said German Minister of Culture Bernd Neumann, at the opening ceremony.

At a time when Turkey still refuses to deal with the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians almost a century ago, credit should be given to Germany for taking on such projects, and making such pronouncements, painful as they are.

Menachem Rosensaft of New York was one of more than 2,000 children born in the displaced persons camp on the Bergen-Belsen site between 1945 and 1950. His late parents, Josef and Hadassah, were leaders of the survivor community there. Rosensaft spoke at the opening event and credited the museum for allowing visitors “to see the survivors not as skeletal, two-dimensional figures in concentration camp uniforms staring blankly into the camera on the day of liberation, but as proud, vibrant men and women who wrested control of their own destiny from their very first moment of freedom.”

Bergen-Belsen has come to symbolize the depth of Nazi depravity. But the new museum, with its exhibits and archives, not only reminds us of the horrors of the past but of the efforts to learn from tragedy and step up from the depths toward humanity.