The sight of vast graves opening and the undead clawing out should unnerve us all. But we haven’t even noticed. As more blood flows than any horror film offers, it’s brought the hope of eternal life to bygone empires we all thought dead and buried — and good riddance.
Blinded by the flash of headline events, we fail to see the strategic arcs of our era: the agonized collapse of Europe’s empires — climaxing in the Soviet Union’s demise — and now, amid the chaos and fanaticism, the belief on the part of once-mighty powers that they can rebuild fallen empires.
History is vengeful toward the ignorant. And we’re historically illiterate.
A Turkish attempt to establish a neo-Ottoman Empire failed (none of their neighbors wanted the Turks back), but three other imperia have gotten at least one foot out of the grave: the Persian Empire, the Arab Caliphate and the Russian Empire.
Not one means us well.
The Persian Empire
Iran is piling one brick on the other. As I’ve warned on Fox News and Charles Krauthammer described — eloquently — in The Washington Post, today’s Iranians, with their Persian heritage, are on the march as surely as were the armies of Xerxes 2,500 years ago. Desperate for a legacy, our president obsesses about a deal (no matter how wretched) on Iran’s nuclear program, while ignoring Iran’s aggression across the Middle East. In his recent State of the Union message, the president even defended Iran against Congress and further sanctions.
Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons matters. It’s a potential strategic disruptor of the first magnitude. But it’s only one aspect of Tehran’s grand design. And a bad deal is worse than no deal. To date, Iran has given up nothing, while we’ve given its rulers time, sanctions relief and almost $12 billion in “unfrozen” assets.
And what are the modern Persians doing as they drag out the talks? Iran has established hegemony over western Afghanistan. The junta-for-Allah has turned the Shia rump of Iraq into a vassal state and our president’s “no-boots-on-the-ground” minimalism has led to American airpower serving Iran’s ends against the Islamic State.
If the caliphate is rolled back, Iran will control the territory regained. And not just in Iraq. Syria long has been Iran’s client state. Now it’s become a vassal. If the Assad regime survives — which it probably will — Syria, too, will pay tribute to the reborn Persian empire.
Through Hezbollah, Tehran dominates Lebanese politics. And our refusal to directly arm the Kurds (as we continue pretending that Iraq can be nursed back to health) drives our only allies amid the Islamic State chaos into the arms of Iran for their own protection.