History’s Ghosts in Iran

Using historical analogies to interpret the present is both tempting and dangerous, for history never truly repeats itself. Yet, to understand the difficulty of responding to the problems that Iran’s nuclear ambition and anti-Israel obsession now pose, it might be helpful to analyze the three analogies that are most commonly used.

Some compare the Iranian regime to Nazi Germany. Others believe that the only useful analogy is to Europe’s old balance-of-power games. And still others combine the two, pointing to the “balance of terror” during the Cold War. In other words: is Iran to be treated as Hitler’s Germany in 1938, Prussia in 1756, or Stalin’s Soviet Union?

Each analogy contains an element of truth, but none, of course, corresponds to the realities of the challenges Iran represents. Above all, each analogy, if taken seriously, should lead to a specific course of action, and this is far from being the case today.

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