In Defense of Mike Huckabee
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee caught quite a bit of flack when he told Breitbart News that President Obama's naivete and fecklessness in trusting the Iranians would have the effect of marching Israelis "to the door of the oven."
The President's response was extremely well done. Nodding his head more in sadness than in anger, he opined that the American people "deserve better" than to have policy debates descend into such "ad hominem" attacks – attacks which he labeled both ridiculous and sad.
To which Huckabee replied succinctly: "What's ridiculous and sad is that the president does not take seriously Iran's repeated threats to 'annihilate' Israel."
No question Huckabee's criticism was harsh. And certainly, Holocaust references or analogies should be kept to an absolute minimum and are almost inevitably offensive because they trivialize the Holocaust. I cannot speak to Huckabee's motivation. Perhaps, as some have charged, he was seeking to gain attention in the crowded Republican field.
Even Paul Mirengoff at the reliably conservative Powerlineblog found Huckabee's rhetoric overwrought on the grounds that if anyone, chas ve'shalom, is marching Israel's Jews to the oven it is Iran, not Obama. Neville Chamberlain may bear a degree of responsibility for the 55 million lives lost in World II, but he was not Hitler, and to suggest otherwise is to lose all moral perspective.
Moreover, absent an American willingness to employ its air power to destroy Iran's nuclear program, Iran was going to get nuclear weapons with or without the P5+1 deal because that has been the goal of the regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. And countries – even poor ones like North Korea and Pakistan -- that single-mindedly pursue nuclear weapons eventually get them. Continuing sanctions would have dramatically limited Iran's ability to wreak havoc in the Middle East and around the world, and might have threatened the long-range stability of the regime, but they would not alone have forced the mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.
STILL, I THINK HUCKABEE made an important point in an extremely vivid fashion. Far from "smearing the memory of Holocaust victims," as the predictably foolish Debby Wasserman-Schultz, Democratic National Chairwoman, charged, Huckabee demanded that we recall the Holocaust – in particular, the indifference of the Western world to the fate of Europe's Jews. As historian David Wyman writes in The Abandonment of the Jews, the great fear of Western leaders was not that Nazi Germany would not release Jews under their rule, but that they would. Hitler interpreted the unwillingness of Western governments to take in desperate Jews as tacit acquiescence in his Final Solution.
About Huckabee's deep feelings for Israel there can be little doubt. A Baptist minister before being elected governor of Arkansas, he has visited Israel many times. Perhaps I'm projecting a bit, but my guess is that he felt a little bit like Chushim ben Dan observing Yaakov Avinu's sons negotiating with Esav over the right to bury their father in Maarot HaMachpela, as he watched Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif beam at each other and exchange pleasantries.
Coming on the scene from afar, and incapable of being sucked into the process because of his deafness, Chushim perceived with a greater clarity than the brothers the face of evil in Esav's refusal to permit Yaakov to be buried. The ease of Western leaders and pervasive air of bonhomie while negotiating with a regime committed to annihilating the Jews of Israel represents a similar deadening of sensitivity to evil.
The Holocaust teaches clearly that when Jew haters express their desire to wipe out the Jewish people should be taken at their word. That too was part of Huckabee's message.
Hitler, ym"sh, laid out his plans clearly in Mein Kampf. And former Iranian president Ayatollah Rafshani – a "moderate" – famously called Israel a "one-bomb" state and laid out the logic of a nuclear exchange with Israel. And Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini just published a book outlining his plan for the destruction of Israel.
Huckabee did not accuse President Obama of seeking the deaths of six million Jews, but rather of being too cavalier about that possibility and far too facile in his assurance that Iran's Supreme Leader and/or his successors will not act "irrationally" and employ nuclear weapons. At the very least, such weapons will serve as a protective umbrella for Hezbollah, which is today in possession of at least 60,000 missiles aimed at Israel.
The Iran deal ensures that thirteen years from now Iran will possess a far more advanced nuclear infrastructure than today, and be capable of producing a bomb in a matter of months. That's the president's estimate not mine. And that's a best case scenario, which assumes that Iran will not cheat or find a pretext for abrogating the agreement earlier after having pocketed its sanctions relief. Whenever Iran decides to start producing bombs, they will already possess intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering them to Europe and beyond, as well as top of the line anti-aircraft defenses to defend their nuclear program. (The deal does not address Iran's ballistic missile program, and explicitly allows Iran to acquire any weapons money can buy a few years down the line.)
Again, Huckabee's indictment of the president was harsh. But in a democracy, there are worse things than lese-majeste. Trafficking with evil men with genocidal intent is one. By reminding the president and secretary of state of what they are doing Huckabee performed a service.