Bush: Munich, Munich Munich


If you’re a conservative and your ideas make no sense, then your opponents must be Neville Chamberlain. Hence, Bush at the Knesset:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

The standard point to make in response to this is still a true one — we refer to this day to the “lessons of Munich” and make a big deal out of Adolf Hitler because that was really unusual whereas to hawks it’s always 1939, every foreigner we don’t like is a new Hitler, and preventive war is always the only solution. Bush and McCain truly are the ideological descendants of the folks who urged Eisenhower to go for “rollback” and who insisted that Ronald Reagan betrayed the true path when he sat down with Gorbachev for arms control talks.

Meanwhile, Bush continues to fundamentally misunderstand the purpose and nature of diplomacy. The idea of talks isn’t that you marshall convincing arguments and beat your enemies back with force of words. The idea is that it’s sometimes possible to achieve a reconciliation of partially divergent interests. Maybe Iran wants a nuclear weapon in order to deter American attack. And maybe America wants a nuclear-free Iran to help preserve stability in the region. Down one path, we have conflict and the U.S. sanctions and bombs Iran which causes suffering but only delays Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. But down another path, each side discusses it’s top priorities and we reach an agreement on verifiable disarmament in the context of security guarantees and a path to normalized relations. Down the road, that gives the U.S. the stability we want and creates more prosperity and security for Iran.

Maybe that won’t work — it wasn’t possible to reconcile interests with Hitler — but that’s what’s on the table. Now if you believe that literally every antagonistic force in the world is exactly like Hitler, then the distinction collapses, but only an idiot would believe that.