Monday, April 6, 2015

Misunderstanding Munich

Obama is not Chamberlain, Lausanne is not Munich and Iran isn't Nazi Germany.

by Paul Iddon

Neville Chamberlain waving Munich Agreement, 1938.
A recent article on Slate discussed a 2008 interview in which an American senator adamantly argued that U.S. President Barack Obama was like Neville Chamberlain vis-á-vis Iran, even though he did not actually know who Chamberlain was. The short article concluded that Munich analogies for modern day politics and events “needs to be taken into a bunker with Eva Braun and shot.”

This scribbler loves historical comparisons and believes that any analogy to Munich should only be used sparingly, if ever, given the magnitude and significance that event has in the history of the 20th century. In accordance with this firm-held belief I believe that comparing Obama to Chamberlain and contending that the recent deal over Iran's nuclear program is the equivalent to Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler and ceding to him the Sudetenland, when the Führer was on the ascent to conquering most of Europe, is fatally flawed, not to mention overly simplistic.

For one thing Iran wasn't necessarily appeased. Yes it gets to keep parts of its nuclear program but it is clear that the U.S. is ceding much less to Iran than Iran is ceding to it in order to get some of the economic sanctions leveled against it lifted. It appears clear that many of the wide-ranging sanctions on Iran are impediments and obstacles, not assets, to welcome bottom-up political change, in the long-term, to the present order in Iran. Furthermore, the salient distinction for anyone who knows anything about Munich is the fact that the United States is tremendously more powerful militarily than Iran. The opposite was the case with the United Kingdom and Nazi Germany in 1938. Also, don't forget that Germany was appeased and allowed to rearm substantially before Chamberlain became Prime Minister (the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was in 1935, Chamberlain became Prime Minister two years later) and when it became self-evident that appeasement wouldn't quell Hitler's ambitions to conquer Europe it was Chamberlain's Britain, along with France, which warned Germany that if it would go to war over Poland if Germany invaded it. And indeed it was that September 1939 invasion of Poland which sparked the wider war between the UK and its allies on the one side, and Germany on the other. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Merely implying that the United States is a weaker power militarily than Iran today is risible. Also, the notion that it is appeasing it and will ever let it, especially under this regime, become anything more than a nuclear “threshold” state which could potentially threaten Israel or its regional allies is also extremely doubtful. A war against Iran will likely serve to empower the regime, do great damage to the country, and probably see to the population suffer tremendously as a result. This regime, remember, cemented its hold power following Saddam Hussein's 1980 invasion of western Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini's subsequent counter-offensive into Iraq in mid-1982. Another war will likely see that regime further empowered, the Revolutionary Guards garner even more economic clout and power and the Iranian people as a whole weakened further and further rendered unable to determine the trajectory their ship-of-state is taking them. Surely a deal which will see Iran prevented from becoming a nuclear power would be a much better outcome. Especially if one really does care about Iran and its people but isn't enamored, to put it mildly, by the ruling regime and its various actions and policies at home and abroad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

" will ever let it, especially under this regime, become anything more than a nuclear “threshold” state which could potentially threaten Israel or its regional allies is also extremely doubtful"

this is the only weak spot in a fine little essay.

while I agree that the US wouldn't WILLINGLY allow Iran to assemble nukes, it's not entirely impossible that the Iranian regime would try to do so in secret.