It might seem very clever and statesmanlike to European governments wedded to Barack Obama and John Kerry’s misguided Iran nuclear deal that French President Emmanuel Macron brought a skunk with him to the G-7 garden party in the person of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The upshot of the stunt is that President Donald Trump, the supposed warmonger, suggested Monday “there’s a really good chance” he’d agree to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani soon to discuss a new accord. But if we know anything about the “Art of the Deal” author it’s that he’s willing to meet with practically any fellow political leader, in hopes of possibly making some sort of deal. Witness Trump’s personal relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, a dictator as insulated from the world as he his brutal to his own people.
Iran’s bluff, in effect, called, Rouhani retorted that he won’t meet Trump until sanctions on Iran are lifted. “Without this step, this lock will not be unlocked,” the usually all-smiles political henchman of the Ayatollah Khamenei said on Tuesday. Rouhhani wants a negotiation that only enhances Iran’s power to make war and terror.
There might still be a meeting. Down the road there could even be a new agreement. But there’s a lesson here that really ought to have been learned 30 years ago. Or perhaps 80 years ago. Or perhaps the many millennia ago when war, and bargaining for truces, began.
Who were the peacemakers in the 1980s? Were they the unilateral disarmament activists who demonstrated at nuclear bases in Europe? Or were the real peacemakers Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who rebuilt the free world’s military to confront the Soviet threat; refocused to recognize Moscow as an expansionist enemy, rather than a moral equivalent; but also availed themselves to opportunities to win the conflict at the negotiating table from a position of strength?
The Free World Keeps Peace By Preparing For War
Media coverage and political rhetoric always speak of “tensions” that must be “eased” to prevent war. But Reagan’s declaration of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” quite an accurate description, preceded the decline of Soviet aggression, while less than seven months after Jimmy Carter kissed Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev’s cheeks and signed SALT II in Vienna in June 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.
An astute Thatcher in 1984 likely helped Mikhail Gorbachev attain power by famously stating publicly that “we can do business together.” Reagan during his first term, it is too little remembered, did not meet with three successive old guard Soviet rulers — Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko — waiting for the opportunity that Gorbachev presented. Reagan’s walking out of the 1986 Reykjavik summit rather than giving away U.S. plans for nuclear missile defense likely assured the demise of the Soviet Union, which came in 1991 after a failed coup attempt allowed Boris Yeltsin to replace Gorbachev.
But the folly of negotiation for its own sake was even more infamously on show in September 1938 when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stood at the Heston Aerodrome after disembarking from his plane from Germany, and reported that “I had another talk with the German chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine.”
Later in the day Chamberlain declared, “I believe it is peace for our time.” It turned out to be the prelude to the bloodiest war in history.
The ayatollah is not Hitler, but it would be hard to find a government with more ill will for the Jewish state than his. He may not have Moscow’s nuclear arsenal, but Russia was instrumental in building Iran’s nuclear program, going back more than a quarter century. The world’s longtime pre-eminent state sponsor of terrorism is going to use the negotiating table as a battlefield, with lies as its weapons, every bit as much as Hitler and Brezhnev did.
Trump and advisers such as national security chief John Bolton, like George Washington, understand that preserving peace means “to be prepared for war.” Purported peacemakers such as Emmanuel Macron think peace equals well-formulated words on pieces of paper. France’s history is a testament to his error.
— Written by Thomas McArdle
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