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October 1, 2013 11:26 am

Obama and Rouhani: Securing Peace…For a Time

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain visits with Nazi Officials in Munich, 1938. Photo: German Federal Archive

It turns out that peace for our time was but a phone call away. Late last week, a breakthrough conversation was held between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. Following this phone call, all of the presidents’ men took to the airwaves, speaking with one voice about a unique opportunity to make progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama’s wide array of overseas misadventures have been guided not by a ‘trust but verify’ approach, but rather a naïve, Peter Pan-like ‘think happy thoughts and fly’ philosophy. Obama’s strategy has produced a lazy, reactive, and complacent U.S. foreign policy.

In the mind of the well-meaning but utterly misguided U.S. President, Iran would never actually use a nuclear weapon – or use its nuclear umbrella to step up its support for terrorism, murder, and violence across the Middle East and the world.

If you’re wondering where Obama’s diplomatic dance will lead, recent history may provide the answer.

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Just like Barack Obama’s statesman-like gesture, the diplomatic adroitness of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was at first greeted with acclaim.

After all, imminent war with Nazi Germany had been avoided.

In 1938, Chamberlain applied progressive, Western logic to diffuse another crisis. And following what became known as the Munich Pact, many believed that conflict had been averted and a peaceful resolution had been reached:

“It [the Sudetenland] is the last territorial claim that I have to make in Europe.” – Adolf Hitler (1938)

“My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.” – British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1938)

Chamberlain was greeted as a hero by the royal family and invited to the balcony at Buckingham Palace.

But while most of England slept, an isolated voice warned of the need to confront Germany:

“We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat… you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi regime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude…we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road…we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged…” – Winston Churchill (1938)

The Munich Agreement is one of the most derided diplomatic agreements in history. Chamberlain returned from Munich proclaiming that he had achieved “peace for our time.” He was wrong. Less than a year later, German troops invaded Poland. The Second World War had begun.

In May 1940, Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill became prime minister.

Or, to sum it up for President Obama by way of just one more quote:

“There are a few ironclad rules of diplomacy but to one there is no exception. When an official reports that talks were useful, it can safely be concluded that nothing was accomplished.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

For now, the dance continues. There is some fear as to what will come after the music stops.

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