Let History Judge
Obama and the Munich Katrinas
The Iran deal is good. The Munich Katrinas are wrong again.
It may sound otherwise, given the decibel level of the Munich Katrinas, but the opposition to the Iran deal is in fact fairly limited. Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund makes the point in a calm and level-headed and nicely straightforward description of the details of the deal, which I commend to you. He writes:
The Iran Project headed by Amb. Tom Pickering and Amb. Bill Luers earlier released a letter from 79 former officials and security experts, including Ryan Croker, Wendy Chamberlin, Joseph Nye, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Frank Wisner, in support of the negotiated deal.
Opposition to the deal is confined to the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, some other Gulf states and a small minority of politicians and experts in the United States. There are no senior voices opposed to the deal that compare to the stature or experience of those favoring the process.
Who are the Munich Katrinas? The usual suspects—the people who howl about Munich every time an American (that is, Democratic) administration does something that suggests he seeks any course of action other than the one most likely to bring young men and women home in body bags, or with body parts left somewhere halfway across the earth, and the one most likely to kill thousands of innocent children (who, as far as the Munich Katrinas are concerned, are just the next generation of terrorists anyway).
They howl about Munich, and they want this deal to be Obama’s Katrina. They want everything to be Obama’s Katrina. Hence, the Munich Katrinas. As I tweeted yesterday, it wouldn’t be a bad name for a band, except that it’s already taken by this execrable caucus of paranoiacs and fear-mongers.
The facts, as Cirincione explains, are these. The deal freezes the Iranian program in place while talks commence for the next six months on rolling back the program. It completely stops enrichment of uranium to 20 percent—the level needed to make a bomb. Further, Iran must destroy uranium already enriched to this level. It prohibits the manufacture of new centrifuges and work on the Arak reactor. It opens previously closed sites to international inspection. In return, Iran gets $7 billion now.
But: $100 billion remains frozen. Iran can get that $100 billion only by consummating the long-term deal in six months’ time.
It’s a little early yet to be popping champagne and doling out “enormous credit” to this and that person. But if a long-term deal is reached, history will have favorable verdicts to render on Barack Obama and John Kerry—and, by the way, Hillary Clinton, who was instrumental in assembling the sanctions regime that brought Iran to the table. The Munich Katrinas will be...well, I don’t remember anyone saying “blessed are the warmakers.”
Bibi Netanyahu, of course, is the lead singer of the MK’s, prancing across the stage with his little Snidely Whiplash drawings of bombs. But don’t be fooled into thinking he speaks for Israel. He speaks for Israel’s right wing. As Larry Derfner wrote yesterday at 972mag.com, an indispensible source at times like these, the Israeli military brass doesn’t see this through Bibi’s eyes at all. They’re not jumping for joy, but the figures quoted by Derfner are willing to give negotiation a chance.
We’ve always had Munich Katrinas, long before Munich. They pushed us into Cuba and then the Philippines, where we slaughtered a quarter-million people. After the actual Munich, they thought it was Munich-like of Eisenhower not to drop the big one on China or North Korea. They pushed LBJ into Vietnam, and they found his fatal flaw—that, as brave as he was on domestic politics, being Southern, he could not defy the more rabid generals. The recent JFK blitz has served to remind that maybe, just maybe—having not been raised in that milieu, having served with valor in World War II aboard the PT-109, and thus maybe not feeling he had anything to prove—Kennedy would have had the onions to say no to them.
Obama never served, probably never even knew how big a regiment or brigade was until just a few years ago. And he won the Democratic nomination in 2008, let’s face it, because he opposed the Iraq war. There were a hundred reasons, but that was the big one. It didn’t take any particularly courage for him to do that—he was a state senator whose district was undoubtedly 80 percent anti-war. But it take some courage to build a national campaign around that fact. And it took some courage to say in 2008 that he’d negotiate with the one country in the world that even stupid Americans can identify as an arch-enemy, and it takes courage today to follow through on it.
In contrast, it requires no courage to denounce every attempt at a peaceful solution as betrayal. That’s what reactionaries do, in every culture. They see these clashes in cultural terms and believe—sincerely, I suppose—that in these clashes only one culture or the other will truly survive.
History shows them to be wrong all the time, except on Munich—the one example they can point to, in virtually all of recorded history, when we really were in a clash of cultures with an adversary who had the might to destroy our way of life, and when the leaders who sought compromise did in fact err. That was true then, but it hardly makes every situation Munich. It’s just not. This is not to say that I don't take the prospect of Iran having the bomb seriously. I take it very seriously. It's just manifestly obvious that negotiation, and $100 billion in frozen revenue, has a better chance of preventing that reality than war-mongering--or war itself, which, need we be reminded, has a way of unleashing unintended consequences.