Yes, Mr. Waldman, the Iran Nuclear Negotiations Are Munich in 1938

Paul Waldman nay-says comparisons of the Lausanne nuclear talks to UK prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler with respect to Czechoslovakia ("No, the Iran nuclear negotiations aren’t Munich in 1938," Washington Post, April 1).

I get where Waldman’s coming from – it’s annoying to hear American hawks on both sides of the aisle draw that analogy – but I disagree. Not so much because he gets it wrong as because he gets it backward.

The nuclear talks ARE a lot like Munich in 1938. But it’s Iran acting out the role of Chamberlain in response to a US strategy that’s textbook Hitler. There’s little doubt the Iranians will regret going to the trouble of hammering out the just-announced "framework."

The Hitlerian method is this: Invent a "controversy" (for example, "ethnic Germans in Czech Sudetenland are oppressed"). Make a set of demands. If the demands are met, add new conditions. When you’ve pushed things as far as they can go and the other party finally refuses, accuse that other party of acting in bad faith and claim justification for doing what you wanted to do anyway (invade and occupy Czechoslovakia).

The Iran "nuclear weapons controversy" is an invented crisis of that Hitlerian type.

The US intelligence community says Iran doesn’t seem to be developing nuclear weapons, nor to have had a program to do so since at least as long ago as 2003. Iran’s "supreme leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says that development and possession of nuclear weapons is a sin against Islam and that his regime won’t engage in it. The International Atomic Energy Agency cites some resistance to its inspection protocols, but has never claimed that Iran is, or even might be, developing nuclear weapons. There’s just no "there" there.

Meanwhile, under the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is fully entitled to develop civilian nuclear power without submitting to US demands concerning how it may do so.

Nonetheless, the US and its allies have imposed sanctions on Iran to force it to do … well, something. That something changes every time the Iranian government agrees.

At the end of March, all parties seemed ready to sign an agreement – so the US piled on new conditions, concerning export of spent nuclear material, at the last minute. After which the US immediately issued a statement blaming the Iranians for the impasse its own negotiators had intentionally created.

As I write this, the tentative outlines of an agreement have been announced. That agreement consists mostly of up-front demands on Iran with the dangling fruit of lifted sanctions in the future. I’m confident in my prediction that the US will break or void the agreement and trot out a new list of demands within a few months, having never lifted the sanctions. It’s the Hitlerian method in spades.

Appeasing the US in 2015 is a bad idea, for the same reasons (and likely to produce the same results) as appeasing Hitler was in 1938. But like Czechoslovakia back then, Iran now finds itself isolated and without friends.

It’s time for Americans to stand up for peace and demand that our government mind its own business. End the fake talks, the raw deals and the real sanctions.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. He lives and works in north central Florida.

This article is reprinted with permission from William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

  • Michael E. Piston

    Munich was a disaster for Czechoslovakia because it cost it the series of forts along the German border which were the key to its defense strategy. By contrast here Iran has been consistently denying any intention of developing of nuclear weapons. Accordingly, by allowing itself to be subject to terms which will make the development of such weapons more difficult, it seems to be giving up nothing. Knapp's Munich analogy only makes sense if the Iranians were in fact planning to develop nuclear weapons. In which case yes, this is a big loss for Iran, but a big gain for the cause of nuclear non-proliferation.

    • Guest

      What about Izraels offer to South Africa "democratic" regime for few atomic bombs to defend the whites from the black population?????
      That is not proliferation !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Michael,

      Astute observation, but somewhat orthogonal to the point I was making.

      I'm not as interested in whether or not Iran loses anything in particular by making this or that deal as I am in that the US interest in the deal is not resolving a real crisis, but rather imposing its will via continuously escalating unreasonable demands; and that appeasing the US by giving in to one set of demands merely leads to 1) assertions that previous demands weren't met; 2) new demands; 3) war or other irreconcilable conflict.

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  • Sam

    Oustanding analysis. This post needs as wide a distribution as possible.

  • El Tonno

    I concour. However, wasn't "ethnic Germans in Czech Sudetenland are oppressed" in effect true and not an "invented controversy"? IIRC Czechs were never happy to have been entrained into WWI by the two german-speaking imperial buddies.

    • El Tonno,

      You may be right. I've only done limited reading on the subject, and of course most material on the topic starts from the premise "Hitler bad, everyone else victim."

      That said, my impression is that most ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland were just living their lives and didn't feel especially oppressed. If asked, many of them might have expressed a preference for being part of Germany, but the movement to make it a "crisis" of "oppression" seems to have been purpose-built by a few extremists, aided by "outside agitators" infiltrated by the Third Reich itself.

      That's just my impression. Like I said, I could be wrong. I do think that the main point holds: Every time Hitler got what he wanted, he escalated to the next steps of 1) asserting that his counterparts weren't living up to the deal; and 2) demanding more.

      In my opinion, US policy vis a vis Iraq from 1991-2003 followed that same arc. As well as numerous other US policy packages vis a vis various countries.

      • mulegino

        Read "The War that Had Many Fathers" by Gerd Schultze-Rhonhoff, probably the most thorough and comprehensive study of the long run up to the Second World War.

        Hitler's views on foreign policy were, in many respects, more moderate than those of his Weimar predecessors.

        The appeasement strategy was a British ploy to buy time in order to build up their military strength. The British balance of power policy had made war with the Third Reich inevitable.

    • jasonditz

      1920's and early 1930's Czechoslovakia was a weird beast for the era, a combination of classical liberal ideology with a strong ethnonationalist undercurrent. Czechs were a narrow majority, but the nation being a democracy meant they tended to dominate the elections.

      The big issue in Czechoslovakia in that period would actually look remarkably similar to the issues in Ukraine today: a lack of federalism and comparative lack of self-determination for ethnic minorities. Germans were the largest minority, but Slovaks also saw this as a serious problem throughout the period.

      That said, Czechoslovakia in the 1920's-1930's never went off the rails to the extent 2014-15 Ukraine has. Germans were irked by the lack of autonomy in their portion of Bohemia, and Slovaks likewise in Slovakia, but the Czech-dominated government at the very least granted some nominal protections to both, including the right to use their respective languages for official business. Significant German parties were at times in the 1920s part of coalition governments, though never more than a token offering.

      The controversy may have been real to some extent, but the "crisis" which Hitler capitalized on was very much invented, and the result of Nazi Germany heavily subsidizing a German nationalist party in the Sudetenland to stir up trouble.

      The problems of 1920's Germans in Czechoslovakia wouldn't even register as problems to most people. They dominated one of the most prosperous regions in the country, which was itself one of the most prosperous countries in central Europe at the time. Admittedly, they couldn't have serious political aspirations, and the best they could hope for was some provincial position in a comparatively powerless provincial government, but the Czech central government was quite economically liberal and didn't impose any really onerous restrictions on anyone doing business.

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  • redwood

    That was a very fine article. I never thought of it that way. It is a Munich moment. Obama, Cameron & Hollande are like Hitler. Iran is like Czechoslovakia.

  • Guest

    Spot on.

    Even now, we are hearing about how Iran must stop "supporting terrorism" and "recognize Israel" and so on. Same deal as with Serbia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc. There is also some further demand, dressed up as "diplomacy," and when it is not met, well then, the awful regime, run by "hardliners," has to be removed, because diplomacy has "failed."

    No one who bucks Uncle Sam and/or Israel can be allowed to survive. The demands, as per the article, simply escalate, until the offending regime just can't say yes any more. All the while, it is subject to a full court press of sanctions, political and economic isolation, encouragement of internal revolutionaries and coup makers, etc. Finally, under a barrage of propaganda, usually culminating, ironically, with the leader of the offending regime being compared, and unfavorably at that (!), with Hitler, some sort of Danzig/Gulf of Tonkin incident is ginned up, and the regime is bombed into oblivion.

  • Duglarri

    Outstanding. Correct in every respect.

  • Dominik

    Great article, except for the last sentence. Though honorably we may try, the American people have exactly the same amount of input into the great questions of war and peace as the citizens of the Third Reich: nil.
    We can keep ourselves informed (to the extent the regime allows us), we can walk around with a few placards and signs in tame and government-sanctioned demonstrations. But we won't Really change a damn thing. That's one truth we must learn to handle. And here's another (coming from a follower of Antiwar.com since I was 15 years old in 1999) could it be that all these wars, terrible though they may be, are actually in America's interest? And (here's the big one that will no doubt get me accused of apostasy) could the government actually know what it's doing?

    • Porgy

      I'm curious, Dominik, after being a follower of Antiwar.com since you were 15 years old in 1999, how is it that you see a war as being in anyone's interest?

  • Taylor

    Every non-US ruler is Hitler and every deal is Munich, 1938. How many more times are they going to spew that sh*t?

  • I costi di mantenimento record (costi di manutenzione) unità di attività un impatto subito di corsa che la gestione delle esigenze private della propria organizzazione. il valore del consumo di energia o per il set e inoltre i thereforelutions medie mobili (compresi abbonati alla rete e ADS L) così off.

  • It's better countries involved, such as America, Iran and others immediately reconciled alone, for what continues to conduct a nuclear war? it will only damage the earth and humans living.

  • kinnari123