My friend David Smith is keeping the heat on Montana’s isolationist senators. Here is his latest letter.
WHERE ARE BAUCUS AND TESTER ON IRAN?
Last August, 76 of the 100 members of the US Senate sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to act resolutely to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons development. The letter stated:
“We believe there are four strategic elements necessary to achieve resolution of this issue: an explicit and continuing message that we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations, the maintenance and toughening of sanctions, and a convincing threat of the use of force that Iran will believe. We must be prepared to act, and Iran must see that we are prepared.” (1)
Our Senators, Jon Tester and Max Baucus, were among the small minority that refused to sign the letter.
President Obama has spent the past year urging the Senate to back off on Iran sanctions – the same sanctions that drove them to the bargaining table.
Two weeks ago, the US came to the brink of signing an agreement with Iran that would have allowed the Mullah-dictators to maintain their nuclear weapons program while we lifted the sanctions. In return, we would have received a written promise from the Mullahs not to continue a weapons program they claim doesn’t exist.
Only the opposition of France blew the lid off this Munich-like sellout. (Unsurprisingly, Russia and China supported the deal.)
From these recent events, we may consult the “Diplomacy 101″ textbook example of such policy: Neville Chamberlain’s failed attempt to appease Hitler’s Germany. British historian Martin Gilbert gave it a fine summary: “British policy, far from appeasing Hitler, showed him that the British government were willing to come to terms with him at the expense of other nations.” (2)
Other nations? Of course, Israel is menaced by the specter of a nuclear Iran led by apocalyptic Jew-haters committed to a second Holocaust. But almost every other state in the Mideast feels threatened by the potential of an Iranian bomb. Saudi Arabia has come close to breaking relations with the US over our weakness. When Israel and Saudi Arabia agree on a threat, it may be worth taking seriously. And lest we forget, Iran also sees us as its greatest enemy. “Death to the US” is, after all, an official national motto of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Are we doomed to repeat Chamberlain’s mistake of believing that our security can be preserved by throwing “other nations” under the bus?
At the time of the Munich sellout, one German diplomat referred scornfully to “that typically British mentality which prefers a bad compromise to a straight solution, if that solution involves the assumption of any responsibility.” (3) Unfortunately, this isolationist mentality has resurfaced in the White House.
A British diplomat, who knew him well, later summed Chamberlain up as follows: “It can be fairly said that he was not well versed in foreign affairs, that he did not fully realize what it was he was doing, and that his naïve confidence in his own judgment and powers of persuasion and achievement was misplaced.” (4) This, too, sounds eerily familiar.
Of course, analogies are always imperfect. Iran is not Germany, 2013 is not 1938, and Obama is not Chamberlain. But we have an obligation to try to learn something from history. If it has become a cliché to call Obama Chamberlainesque, perhaps we should think of Chamberlain as the Obama prequel.
The peace of the world now stands or falls (as all too often before) on the resolution of our country. We don’t seek this role; but we will rue the day we shirk it.
One sign of hope can be found in the united, bipartisan action of 76% of the Senate.
But we must ask: where are Senators Baucus and Tester?
(1) The Telegraph newspaper, August 3, 2013: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/10221163/Full-text-Senators-letter-to-Barack-Obama-on-Iran-sanctions.html
(2) The Appeasers, Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott, 1963, p. xi
(3) Theo Kordt, quoted in Gilbert, p. 53
(4) William Strang, quoted in Gilbert, p. 54