Let’s get back to the Iran debate. The tried-and-true analogy, for people opposed to the deal, is of course the Munich agreement of 1938. The comparison works because it suggests that the enemy is implacably evil: Nazi Germany then, Iran now. And it works because it also suggests that people who consider themselves peacemakers are dupes: Chamberlain then, Kerry and Obama now. Google “Iran deal Munich” and you’ll see what I mean.
First, from Robert Levine, a
lawyer musician in Wisconsin, with a suggestion of how the Munich analogy should be applied:
Those who have compared the deal to Munich, while wrong, do have one point: the situation is indeed rather similar to Europe in the first half of the 20th century, and the problem is unsolvable in the same way.
I don’t know if you have ever read the English historian AJP Taylor. I discovered him many years ago with his most controversial book, The Origins of the Second World War (which appears to have been continuously in print since its publication in 1961).
Taylor was an Oxford historian who became a "talking head" on the BBC. Among other things, he was a first-class writer: likely one of the best writers ever to write history in English, in fact. [JF note: I agree.]… Origins was the first post-war attempt at a revisionist history of the inter-war period, and was controversial in large part both because he spread the blame for the war pretty widely and because he described Hitler, as far as his foreign policy goals went, as no worse than any other German leader—although that was not meant as a compliment to the others.
His fundamental point was that the other European powers were grappling with an unchangeable reality: that Germany was bound, after WW I, once again to become the leading power in Europe, simply due to economics and demographics, whether or not Hitler had come on the scene. Their failure to deal with the aftermath of the war and the Versailles Treaty, and their failure to choose between appeasement and resistance in dealing with Hitler, was what led to the outbreak of war in 1939—which, of course, was not the war which it became after Hitler invaded Russia and Japan attacked the US.
One could view the Middle East landscape in similar terms; Israel's fundamental problem, in terms of Iran, is that Iran is inevitably the regional hegemon, once freed of the sanctions regime. But, if Iran gives up pursuit of nuclear weapons, it is free from sanctions. So Israel either has an Iran with nukes or an Iran that is powerful regionally in every other way. Bismarck might have been able to thread that needle; Bibi certainly can’t.
In this picture, Israel is France; secure militarily from the natural hegemony (notwithstanding the events of May 1940, which were a massive failure of leadership and not a reflection on France’s inherent military position) but unable to stop Germany/Iran’s hegemony. France’s attempted solution was to string out the Versailles Treaty in such a way as to cripple Germany’s return to hegemony by various diplomatic tricks and maneuvers, very much as Bibi is doing now by trying to derail the Iran deal (or as those who suggest a weakened Iran with a few nukes might be the best outcome are implicitly suggesting). It didn’t work because it couldn’t work over the long term.
In fact, Israel’s position is worse than France’s, because Iran, unlike Germany, doesn’t have to deal with its natural competitor for regional hegemony, Iraq. It’s rather as if, after WW I, England and France had invaded the Soviet Union and left it in permanent chaos (and indeed England tried to do just that). Germany always had to look over its shoulder before operating against the Western powers; we solved that problem for Iran with the invasion of Iraq and destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The irony is that Israel was instrumental in the rise of Iran as regional hegemon.