Munich, 1939. Thousands of articles around the world must be starting with those words today. But how truly similar is President Obama’s Iran deal with Neville “Peace-in-Our Time” Chamberlain’s now-notorious Czechoslovakian giveaway?
In truth, the reason why Old Europe caved in and appeased Hitler was because they’d done it before. Appeasement works. It worked to keep Europe cold for the two decades following the Great War, before its much more devastating sequel made it a hotbed of hate.
Munich was appeasement’s final gasp. The image of Chamberlain holding aloft Hitler’s signature in one hand and the “V for Victory” in the other only became the iconic symbol of appeasement because it didn’t work.
I sincerely and fervently wish that Obama’s process works. No fan of him I am, but I would grant him the ticker-tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes if Iran gives up its nuclear program, returns the U.S. embassy building, and we New Yorkers get an embassy in Manhattan to protest outside of.
I would grant Obama the honors even if Iran were to continue funding terrorism in Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iraq and chunks of South America. I would agree to the deal even if Iran continues with their “Death to Israel.” If Obama gets Iran to drop their colorfully stated antipathy to the Great Satan, he deserves his Nobel.
But that’s where we diverge sharply. Iran will not bend. Comparisons to the Soviet Union, of which there were several in Obama’s address on Tuesday, are disingenuously dangerous.
The Russians were inflexible with presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter in the 1960s and 1970s because they had superpower status, not because they were an implacable enemy. They finally caved in the 1980s because their money ran out, the U.S. beat them on military spending and the space race, and America had a president who called them out for what they were — evil. It wasn’t because they finally realized that “you don’t make deals … with your friends,” like the president said.
The reason I am so pessimistic is because for Iran, ancient Persian glory is as real as the bazaar on the next block. See what benefits their nuclear program has already brought them. From a ragtag imam-ocracy dealing in gun running and abductions to finance their budget, the ayatollahs are now masters of their universe. The 1,500-year-old rivalry between the Sunnis and Shiites is now coming down on the Shiite side — thanks to a Western country.
The deal is more than a bad deal. It’s the worst deal in diplomatic history. Munich brought WWII, during which it took Germany and Japan six years to kill 50 million people. This deal is frighteningly closer to home, and allows the godfather of terror access to history’s most deadly machine.
The deal sunsets in 15 years, a lifetime in politics but a mere blip on the field of human events. But even before that, Iran doesn’t even have to cheat to get their deadly ammo.
On Sept. 13, 1938, Chamberlain announced he was going to Munich. On Sept. 13, 2015, Congress meets its deadline to vote on the Iran deal. (What’s 77 years among friends?) That night will be Rosh Hashanah.
Some count the 60-day deadline differently, so that it ends on Sept. 11. Either way there is more than enough symbolism involved to tell Obama and Kerry to hold the champagne.
Obama has grown to like the Obamacare nickname given his signature achievement. Obamerlain would be harder to embrace.