Will President Obama Become the Next Neville Chamberlain?

Michael Tobin, Advertising Editor

On September 30, 1938, the world rejoiced when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from a conference in Munich with Adolf Hitler, waving a slip of paper in the air proclaiming that there would be “peace for our time.” Less than a year later, on September 1, 1939, that “peace” would be shattered by the second world war, which would carry with it a death toll of over 60 million people. Ultimately, World War II is the deadliest war in history, and many have pointed fingers at Britain’s Prime Minister and other Allied government officers as responsible for the immense number of casualties. No one blames them for the evils of Nazi Germany, but most realize firmer action by the Allies in the early days of German expansion could have prematurely ended the brewing conflict with a much lower death toll. After the war, many presumed there would never again be a leader foolish or soft enough to permit an appeasement policy when global stakes are in the balance. And yet, President Barack Obama has proven to be at least one of these things, especially with the looming issue of a nuclear-armed Iran.

To keep this editorial focused, I am not going to address the President’s domestic policy. Certainly, it is rare that domestic policy in the U.S. should ever be a pressing danger to the lives of citizens. It is much more common for American foreign policy to threaten lives around the world, including at home, and the foreign policy of President Obama is one of these instances. His administration has done nothing to halt Russian expansion and return to Cold War power levels, especially with their recent invasion of the Ukraine. In fact, his removal of missiles from our Eastern European compatriots has simply functioned to encourage Russian aggression. He has even, on occasion, refused to negotiate with Russian president Vladimir Putin, despite campaign comments stating that President Obama would “reset” our relationship with our rival Russia. The Arab Spring championed by his administration has destabilized much of North Africa, leaving a vacuum for terrorist groups like ISIS to gain ground in places like Libya, completely disconnected from their brethren fighting in Iraq and Syria. The Arab Spring nearly toppled Egypt, one of the most reasonable of the Middle Eastern nations. Fortunately, the U.S.-friendly military enacted a coup upon the radical government. Finally, the Arab Spring ultimately bears some responsibility for causing the Benghazi attack. Switching subjects, when he was unable to negotiate with Iraqis on a functioning American exit plan, President Obama removed American soldiers from Iraq before Iraq was ready. While I expect most of you cite how Iraq is Bush’s fault, I also expect you won’t be so unreasonable as to say that the power vacuum caused by a premature removal of troops is Bush’s fault as well. From this power vacuum sprung today’s most infamous terrorist organization: ISIS. But the most frightening of all of the Middle Eastern developments the Obama administration has permitted is Iran’s continued work at manufacturing their own nuclear weapons.

We have yet had very little in terms of tangible evidence from the summits, forcing the American people to sift through the opaque statements of a “transparent” administration, the statements of Iranian officials and a “fact sheet” released by the White House. Certainly, the public statements from our government have been conveniently short and lacking in key details. I am frightened by the possibility that we can gain more information from the Iranian statements, which mock and deny every statement from the White House about the nature of the deal. In fact, I am even more frightened by the possibility that Iranians are more honest than our officials. But, fear not; the one source of actual news we can trust is the fact sheet from the federal government. Except, you can barely get past the preamble without asking yourself: how in the world is this going to be obeyed and enforced? “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” They deny funding terror groups that we’ve had cited as on their payroll for decades. They kidnapped our workers from our Tehran embassy in 1979. They tweet about destroying an entire country (Israel). All our talk of inspectors and restrictions on what they can and can’t produce with reactors comes to naught if they bar the inspectors they agreed to show around from even entering the facilities. If we can’t trust them to permit inspectors as promised, then how can we trust this untrustworthy country not to use their reactors outside of treaty permitted usages?

Unfortunately, while we cannot trust the Iranian government, neither can we trust our own government.  We currently have economic sanctions, and that’s the only thing we are willing to spring on Iran if they renege on their part of the deal. Who is to say we will even have the strength to reinstitute the sanctions, having already caved to their demands this far?

Now, the most crucial recent development is this: the President has signed a bill handing the negotiating reigns over to Congress. This is fantastic news, eliciting positive reactions from both sides of the aisle, where members of both parties were infuriated by President Obama’s circumvention of Congress’ role in foreign relations. Certainly, there now appears to be hope for a treaty that will actually prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons. However, it is possible Congress could capitulate to Iranian demands too, or that Obama could veto the Congressional draft, leaving Iran even more time to work on achieving its goal while American officials squabble.

I’ll end with a word of caution. It is an interesting fact that Neville Chamberlain shared many ideals with President Obama. Both are well-intentioned men. Both are domestic reformers. Both champion the cause of women and children. Both tried to better the work conditions and housing of the economically downtrodden. And both are in danger of going down in history as appeasers that allowed world wars to develop. It is my hope that President Obama and the current Congress do not go down in history as the second version of Chamberlain and applauding Parliament members, but rather that they are remembered for their role in preventing WWIII.