The United Nations Security Council approaches the sinister summer of 2006 confounded by the nuclear-tipped threat of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its hallucinatory leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France urge confrontation and sanctions under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter; the Russians and Chinese urge accommodation without an endgame. Meanwhile, Iran, radiating potency, announces advances in uranium processing, yellowcake mining, the construction of a breeder reactor to produce plutonium, the deploying of more sophisticated and mirved ballistic missiles. In response, gray beards in the United States and Europe sincerely counsel peacefulness, generosity, dialogue, mutual respect, timeless patience.
It is instructive to turn to an eerily parallel episode from three generations back, when most of today's gray beards were unborn, when civilization was confronted by another confident, apocalyptic wickedness. In the sinister summer of 1938, when Europe was still at peace though Asia was burning, a cocky if doomed Junker aristocrat named Ewald Kleist-Schmenzin rode in a German intelligence Mercedes to Berlin's Tempelhof Field and enplaned for London. Kleist, carrying a false passport, was met at the Park Lane Hotel by a British intelligence operative named Lloyd. In the silent privacy at Claridge's, Kleist and Lloyd discussed in French a deal so secret that it was dangerous to both Germany and England.
Kleist, speaking for the Prussian military elite and German monarchists, said that there was a plot ready to arrest the Hitler gang and occupy Berlin with the Third Panzer Division. What the plotters needed was a written cabinet pledge that England would stand fast against Hitler with words and deeds when Germany moved against Czechoslovakia. As sign of good faith, the plotters provided the date of the imminent invasion, Operation Green. Later, Kleist made a more detailed offer to Chamberlain's diplomatic adviser that complicated the deal with the unhappy desires of ambitious, bloody-minded men who were risking everything in order to betray their homeland.
The next day, Kleist repeated the offer to the then marginalized, Cassandra-like Winston Churchill. War is unavoidable, Kleist said. If England stands up to Hitler now, we will put him in an insane asylum. Kleist begged for an official letter from the British cabinet to use to rally the wavering German general staff.
Churchill listened bleakly, knowing that the cabinet would not take the risk of negotiating with traitors, knowing also that the British public would not suffer a confrontation with Germany. Churchill did send an unofficial secret letter to the chief of the plotters back at Berlin, the mysterious, doomed Admiral Canaris; it was gloomy, fatalistic, and prescient about the likelihood of war.
"It is difficult for the democracies in advance and in cold blood to make precise declarations but the spectacle of an armed attack by Germany upon a small neighbor and the bloody fighting that will follow will rouse the whole British Empire and compel the gravest decisions," Churchill wrote.
The end of the story is vicious. The plotters were ignored. Worse, there is a credible case that Chamberlain rushed to Munich in mid-September to forestall the risk of the coup, announcing, "We have found peace in our time." Churchill called the deal with Hitler, "sordid, squalid, sub-human, and suicidal." Later, the plotters were discovered and tortured and hanged; much later, Hitler took poison, but not until after the planet burned.
What is to be done with Iran's nuclear appetite and the genocidal Ahmadinejad? In plain English to the United Nations Security Council, stand up to Iran with words and deeds; do not accommodate, do not retreat, do not, as did Chamberlain, choose disgrace rather than war and get both. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is as non-negotiable now as Czechoslovakia's sovereignty was then. The IAEA findings that Iran is in blatant violation of its obligations are as stark a piece of evidence of Iran's war-making now as the details and date of Operation Green was then. The Chamberlains on the Security Council must be identified and challenged. In the meantime, it is critical also to identify the plotters inside Iran and in the Iranian diaspora, whether they are monarchists, socialists, anarchists, militarists, or even mercenary back-stabbers. Offer them whatever deal is credible. Tell the plotters, hang the regime now, or they will hang you later, and then the planet will burn again.
Mr. Batchelor is host of the John Batchelor Show on the ABC radio network. The show airs in New York on 770 AM from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.