LEDEEN: For Iran, no red line means green light

Illustration Iran’s Red LIne by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

On Sept. 17, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations that the world must draw a clear “red line” around the Iranian nuclear weapons program, and tell the Tehran regime that if that line is crossed, war will ensue. He said the red line should be drawn right now, so that there is no room for ambiguity, and he added that “red lines don’t lead to war, red lines prevent war.”

Serious strategic thinkers have long argued that it’s dangerous to encourage an enemy to believe he can take provocative action without serious consequences. In the 20th century, several ambitious leaders marched into war at least in part because they believed their potential enemies would not respond. Adolf Hitler was never told to stop — or else — and didn’t, until the West had to fight a world war. North Korea invaded the South in part because the United States gave no clear indication it would enter the fight. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 in part because the American ambassador to Baghdad told him that the United States had no opinion on “Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border dispute with Kuwait.”

And, of course, there is the celebrated phrase from the Roman military strategist Publius Flavius Vegetus: “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Mr. Netanyahu was in good company when he called for clarity, and he was on solid ground when he said that red lines can avoid wars....

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