The Lesson of Munich and Geneva: Tyrants cannot be satiated

The legitimacy of the analogy between the infamous Munich Agreement of 1938 and the current Geneva deal between the so-called ‘P5+1’ and Iran — that is, whether or not, in both cases, Western democratic powers believed that tyrants could be satiated — has been greatly discussed by Israeli and U.S. lawmakers. With leaders from both sides traveling back to Geneva for more talks on implementing the interim Iran nuclear accord, that analogy is worth a closer look.

At Munich, the democratic Western powers caved, thus allowing Hitler to annex Czechoslovakia, and later, to steamroll across Europe. They did so not only because they affixed themselves to Hitler’s peaceful declarations, which cast Czechoslovakia as the extent of his ambitions, but also because they were overly fearful of commencing military action against Germany, which the West considered too unpleasant and costly of an undertaking. In the end, the West wound up paying an even greater price — both in lives lost and dollars spent — during the Second World War.

As was the case with Munich, the Geneva agreement involved a selective reading of the opponent’s intentions. The agreement with Iran resulted from an optimistic reading of the Iranian leadership’s declared intentions to use its nuclear research for peace purposes. However, because Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including its many thousands of centrifuges, has no civilian nuclear applications, few would believe that this is the case.

Iranian leaders have explicitly stated that the elimination of the cancer of Israel is their priority, and that having a nuclear bomb is essential for carrying out this cause. Moreover, it is clear that Iran seeks a more dominant role in Middle East geopolitics more broadly.

Nevertheless, the democratic West has — once again — turned a blind eye to these key statements and events because they have deemed military action against bellicose Iran far too unpleasant and costly of an option. But historical perspective shows us that preventing Iran’s development of nuclear weapons now, when it could be stopped by using soft power such as tough diplomacy and sanctions, would be less costly than using force of arms later, as threatened by President Obama, to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons.

So far, the U.S. has displayed either an inability or unwillingness to honestly confront Iran’s nuclear program. The asymmetrical nature of the concessions which were hammered out in the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) — Iran gave away almost nothing and in exchange received billions in cash — has led many Sunni-dominated and oil-laden countries in the Persian Gulf to rethink traditional alliances, largely out of fear that a U.S.-backed security guarantee has become downgraded.

In October, 2013, Saudi Arabia was one of five countries elected by the U.N. General Assembly to serve a much-coveted two-year term on the U.N. Security Council, which has powers to authorize military action, impose sanctions, and set up peacekeeping operations. In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia declined to take up its seat. According to a statement made by that country’s foreign ministry, the move was designed as a show of anger at the failure of the U.S. (and the West more generally) to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Expounding on the unprecedented changes occurring in the Arab world regarding Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ in November, 2013, that the world should listen to the chorus of voices who oppose the deal currently under discussion between Iran and world powers over the country’s nuclear program.

“You know when you have the Arabs and Israelis speaking in one voice, it doesn’t happen very often, I think it is worth paying attention to,” Netanyahu said.

A clear majority of U.S. senators are in apparent agreement with the prime minister’s assessment: Recent reports indicate that 59 senators and counting are in support of the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act,” legislation that, if passed, would impose new sanctions on Iran if Tehran refused to dismantle its atomic program. Included in that group are a considerable number of Democratic senators, a running count which could reach 34, according to a top Jewish insider.

The White House has repeatedly threatened to veto the bill, insisting that the legislation would derail talks with Iran. But the sequence of events that directly led to World War II — and more specifically, the barbaric genocide of European Jewry which ensued — is clear proof that the march toward tyranny is paved with good intentions. President Obama should avoid the far costlier option by supporting the Iran sanctions bill now, before tough diplomacy and sanctions are too late.

About the Author
Mr. Raskas is a combat veteran of the IDF.
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