Barack Obama gave an interesting description of Iran and the threat it poses to the United States and our national interests at an appearance in Oregon last night. “They don’t pose a serious threat to us in the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us,” Obama told a cheering audience, explaining why he doesn’t think we need to worry about “tiny” countries like Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.
People often underestimate new kinds of threats because they don’t look like the old threats. In the early 1920s and early 1930s, military aircraft didn’t look very impressive when compared with the warships of the day. It was hard to believe that a flimsy-looking biplane could really be a threat to a battleship of ten thousand times its own weight. Only real visionaries could see what was coming.
But after 9/11…indeed, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki…the danger of rogue states, in league with terrorists and motivated by apocalyptic beliefs…should be obvious to all. Downplaying this threat in 2008 is not like failing to understand the threat of the torpedo bomber in 1930. It is like failing to understand the threat of the torpedo bomber after December 10, 1941. (The date marking the sinking of the British warships Prince of Wales and Repulse, following quickly after the Pearl Harbor attack.)