Negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program are nearing their end, and though there are still areas of disagreement, it looks more likely than not that some kind of deal will be worked out. Even though we don’t yet know what the deal will contain, we know exactly what will happen next.
The Obama administration will say that the agreement isn’t perfect but it’s nevertheless historic and constrains Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while the administration’s opponents will say that Barack Obama is Neville Chamberlain, and we just appeased Hitler all over again.
Those opponents will say this, it’s important to understand, regardless of what the deal actually does or doesn’t do. We know this for a number of reasons, most particularly that they’re already saying it. And we all have to understand what the Munich analogy really means. Anyone who uses it is really saying that we need to start a war with Iran.
Many of us roll our eyes and poke fun at endless Hitler analogies, but in this case their use is extremely revealing. If you believe that the negotiations with Iran are the equivalent of those in Munich in 1938, what you’re basically saying is that war with Iran is inevitable, so we might as well get started on it right away. After all, it isn’t as though, had Chamberlain left Munich without an agreement, Hitler would have retired and gone back to painting. The whole point of the “appeasement” argument is that the enemy cannot be appeased from his expansionist aims, and the only choice is to wage war.
That’s what Iran hawks are arguing: We shouldn’t pussyfoot around trying to find a diplomatic solution to this problem when there’s going to be a war no matter what.
Some might protest that, No, what the hawks advocate is a “better deal” on Iran’s nuclear program. But that’s a ridiculous canard. Let’s be clear about one thing: this agreement (which, we need to stress, nobody outside of the administration actually knows the details of) might indeed be a bad deal. That’s possible. But the alternative is walking away without an agreement, in which case Iran would have no reason at all not to go ahead and pursue nuclear weapons.
You can spin out a fantasy, as Benjamin Netanyahu did in his speech to Congress, of a deal in which Iran concedes every demand the United States and Israel might come up with, and also agrees to scrap its nuclear program. But that’s not remotely serious. If these talks break down, Iran isn’t going to say, “No wait! We’ll give you everything you asked for!” There will be little to stop them from ramping up their nuclear program.
And I strongly suspect that’s just what the Iran hawks really want. They think that Iran is going to do that regardless, and the sooner we realize it the better so the war can begin and we can stop them permanently. The lesson of Munich isn’t: “Make sure you negotiate carefully and get the best deal possible.” The lesson of Munich is: “Negotiations with evil tyrants only delay the inevitable war.”
But are conservatives really throwing around the Munich analogy? Yes they are.
“If we go forward with a deal that allows Iran to acquire nuclear-weapons capability, I believe that history may well record it as a mistake and a catastrophe on the order and magnitude of Munich,” says Ted Cruz.
“Mr. President: Fighting al-Qaeda made you like Churchill. Appeasing Iran will make you like Chamberlain,” read a full-page ad in yesterday’s Post from something called the World Values Network.
The Weekly Standard asks, “Is Barack Obama another Neville Chamberlain?” (you’ll never guess the answer). Its editor, William Kristol, strolling to his Jerusalem hotel, finds his thoughts inevitably turning back to 1938: “In pondering the path of the Obama administration, I couldn’t get out of my mind Winston Churchill’s admonition to Neville Chamberlain after Munich: ‘You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.'”
To repeat, this agreement won’t give us everything we would want in a perfect world — that’s what happens when you negotiate with an adversary. But if you’re going to advocate war with Iran, you should at least have the courage to admit that’s what you’re after. Any time you hear the words “appeasement,” “Chamberlain,” or “Munich” in the coming days and weeks — and you will — know that war is exactly what’s being promoted.