Given the dramatic and historic nature of the agreement between the United States and Iran, it's perhaps no surprise that the criticism has been similarly dramatic. The deal, multiple critics suggest — including in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, is worse than the appeasement of Hitler in 1938. We have here the geopolitical corollary to Godwin's Law: the more significant an international agreement, the more likely it is that a participant will be compared to British prime minister Neville Chamberlain.
The Iran deal is tricky for President Obama and the Democrats. CNN's slow trickle release of a poll from last week showed on Tuesday that the party has lost its lead on the generic congressional ballot. This is fallout from Obamacare, not a response to the Iran deal — but even a successful deal on Iran likely wouldn't have changed that trend. Americans, as Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik argues in Politico, are less inclined to see foreign policy as an important focus of the federal government. Meaning that even in the best case, the Iran deal wasn't likely to change Obama's political fortunes.
Being compared to one of history's most notorious failures won't help. By now, Chamberlain's name is synonymous with diplomatic capitulation, bearing the blame for a deal made in Munich in which Nazi Germany was permitted to annex portions of Czechoslovakia, in the hopes that it would slow the country's aggression. Obviously, that didn't work. Conservative commentators were very quick to compare that to the deal brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and his peers with Iran. Here's the Journal's Bret Stephens falling victim to (what we'll call) Chamberlain's law: the Iran deal is worse than Munich.
Britain and France came to Munich as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure. Britain and France had overwhelming domestic constituencies in favor of any deal that would avoid war. The Obama administration is defying broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress for the sake of a deal.
That argument is more developed than the one made by Charles Krauthammer on Fox News and that in the Washington Times. Obama betrayed a small country (in Stephens' formulation), Israel, that relies on "Western security guarantees." And, Stephens argues — based on nothing in the Iran example — that "each deal was a prelude to worse."