|Munich, 1938: Chamberlain-Hitler Geneva, 2013: Zarif-Kerry|
Vietnam alienated American liberals from war as an instrument of diplomacy. Starting in 1968, the Democratic Party base opposed war, and believed the world’s greatest enemies of peace were other Americans still willing to fight. In the 1980s, Democrats backed the Western Europe “nuclear freeze” movement. In 1991, only 10 of 56 Senate Democrats voted for war to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion (“Desert Storm”).
In 1994, Democratic president Clinton failed to check genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, due to his party’s reluctance to use force under any circumstances. He later did authorize an air war against Serbia in Kosovo, a sanitary operation that resulted in one American death. Democrats could not oppose war in Afghanistan following 9.11, the worst attack ever on American soil. But the party bitterly fought against the U.S. effort to overthrow and replace Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and once President Obama had pulled the U.S. out of Iraq, went to work to end our combat role in Afghanistan as well.
Under Democrats, U.S. diplomacy is returning to appeasement, negotiations that unfold when one side won’t fight. With war off the table, the appeasing diplomats simply try to craft a document that looks like “compromise.” But in truth, if only one side is willing to consider war, the “compromises” that result--North Korea (1995, 2007), Syria (2013)--leave the aggressor with what they want.
Such is the likely outcome of our one-sided negotiations with Iran. Michael Hirsh in the National Journal and others are already comparing Saturday’s Iran agreement to Richard Nixon’s famous 1971 opening to China, complete with a Nixon-Mao handshake photo:
the rapprochement between Washington and Tehran . . .could open new doors to the resolution of long-festering conflicts that have left the two countries on the opposite side of bloody divides in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and even the Israeli-Palestinian issue, altering the strategic landscape in a way not seen, perhaps, since President Nixon blindsided the Soviets by making friends with Communist China at the height of the Cold War.The differences are so striking. China in 1971 respected American power, and wanted the U.S. to help counter Beijing’s unfriendly Soviet neighbor to the north. Negotiations involved two parties willing to war. Negotiations were aimed at a common adversary.
The Obama administration, ostensibly opposed to a nuclear Iran, is by contrast negotiating away its sanctions leverage over Iran, appeasing Tehran by allowing Iran to re-enter international trade without giving up its nuclear ambitions. And who does Hirsh identify as the common “foe” that brings Iran and the U.S. together, the way opposition to the Soviet Union brought the U.S. and China together? Says Hirsh, astonishingly, “Israel and Saudi Arabia, hitherto America's two closest allies in the region”!
Come again? We are uniting with adversary Iran against our two best allies in the Middle East? For what possible end? How does Iran’s gain at the expense of Israel and Saudi Arabia in any way advance world peace? Or in any possible way U.S. interests? The way Chamberlain caving to Hitler at Munich advanced Britain’s interests (“Peace for our time”)?
Appeasement doesn’t work. And “peace through strength”--a willingness to use force against those who understand only force--is the two-millennia-old true path to peace.