Monday, June 15, 2009


Hope No More?

For many months, I have felt a twinge of hope that the Obama administration's willingness to talk with Iran with no preset conditions could move us forward in negotiations to end their pursuit of Nuclear weapons. I, along with millions of others around the world, held our breath in anticipation of the results of a seemingly democratic election process that offered change and moderation. I thought that the Supreme Ayatollah (how, I'm not sure) would allow a peaceful transition based on the will of the people. How wrong I was and how sadly I faced my own naivete and disappointment this morning.

The horrifying image of six burly men surrounding a woman with their hands raised to strike as a young man lay on the ground, clarified for me the intent of the Supreme Ayatollah and his protege Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to let any force deter them from maintaining an iron grip on the Islamic "Republic" - a moniker made all the more ironic given the results of the "election."

What we now face is the terrifying and sobering thought that no negotiations, elections, protests, or sanctions will slow this regime's advance toward acquiring nuclear weapons. A New York Times editorial stated in unequivocal terms the facts of the matter, "The elections are another potent reminder that there can be no illusions about Iran’s government and its malign intent." And that, "Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning and its nuclear program is advancing at an alarming rate." What is surprising is that given these acknowledged scientific and political facts, the editorial board concludes that "The only choice is negotiations backed by credible incentives and tough sanctions."

I so wish this were the only choice, and that it seemed to me a workable option. But, this morning I rose with historical nightmares in my mind - a grainy film of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain landing at Heston aerodrome on September 30, 1938 after his meeting with Hitler at Munich. Declaring "Peace in our time" while holding aloft the Peace Agreement between Germany and Britain. I was also struck with dread at the thought that Barack Obama might someday be associated with a failed policy of attempting to "appease" dictators determined to acquire nuclear weapons. And that, like Chamberlain, a man of reason and peace, attempting to avoid war in his time, Obama would fail to recognize the uselessness of negotiating with determined and belligerent tyrants.

It might be tenuous at best, but there is a link (beyond the obvious "appeasement" discussion) between Chamberlain's historical moment and the situation we find ourselves in today. The failure of the League of Nations to stop aggressive dictators through negotiations and sanctions led, in part, to World War II and to the creation of nuclear weapons. These same weapons, now amplified by decades of scientific research and development, are being pursued by today's dictators. If they achieve their aims and we fail to deter them with negotiations and sanctions - I shudder to imagine the conflagration that will ensue. Are we not duty bound to consider what more aggressive responses now could avoid such an all-encompassing disaster?

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