Cliff May

To be fair, the document signed in Geneva is not meant to neutralize the threat posed by those who rule Iran. It is meant only to be a “confidence building” measure, a first step toward the “comprehensive solution” that President Obama envisions — or at least hopes for.

It’s not a treaty, just a “plan of action,” though its purpose, at least from the Western perspective, is to induce inaction — to persuade Iran’s rulers to halt their development of nuclear weapons. In exchange, America and the West are to stop economically ostracizing Iran. In this first phase, however, the centrifuges will continue to spin, while sanctions pressure is reduced. Small wonder Iran’s rulers have been celebrating.

The preamble to the plan states: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” President Obama reads that as a significant concession. But it is a claim that Iran’s rulers have repeated many times in the past. We know beyond any reasonable doubt that they have not been telling the truth. So it may seem to Iran’s rulers that the United States and other nations are now complicit in the big lie that the nuclear infrastructure they have assembled is intended only to provide electricity for kindergartens and hospitals that prefer not to rely on Iran’s abundant petroleum reserves. Call me a “naysayer” but that doesn’t build my confidence.

Several commentators have compared Geneva 2013 to Munich 1938. It is today commonly accepted that the deal Neville Chamberlain concluded with Germany’s Nazi rulers was a desperate and wrongheaded attempt to secure “peace for our time” through appeasement. Chamberlain faced what Winston Churchill called a “choice between war and dishonor.” Churchill told the British prime minister, “You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens rightly points out that Chamberlain actually had little choice because Britain lacked the “military wherewithal to stand up to Hitler.” That was because British politicians, with the encouragement of the British public, had for years declined to invest in Britain’s armed forces — despite the rise of militants in Germany.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.