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Back to Munich

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

"There are none so blind as those who will not see."

One might think that after denying the evidence of Adolf Hitler's rise and objectives that resulted in World War II, Europeans might be more attuned to modern threats.


Last week on a visit to Munich (oh, the irony), Vice President Mike Pence criticized Europe's continued support of the Iran nuclear deal from which President Trump has withdrawn. According to, under the deal, which was never ratified by the Senate, "Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions."

And why didn't the Senate ratify the Iran deal? Because, writes National Review, it was "...deliberately negotiated by the Obama administration in a way that enabled it to evade the U.S. Constitution's requirement that treaties be ratified by the Senate."

Pence said, "The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal." He called Iran a "murderous regime" and "the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world."

Speaking at the same gathering, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sounded as if she was channeling the late British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain when she acknowledged Iran's military buildup and the threat it poses to Europe and the world. In spite of those known facts, Merkel, like Chamberlain, remains in denial.

Merkel said, "I see the ballistic missile programs, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria. The only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?"


This takes wishful thinking to an entirely new level. Better to help the younger Iranians who hate the regime to topple it as the U.S. is doing in Venezuela. How can Merkel acknowledge the threat that Iran represents and in the next breath diminish it? Not surprisingly those assembled, many of whom believe as Merkel does, gave her remarks thunderous applause.

The flaw in this thinking -- and in the Munich Agreement, the 1938 settlement reached by Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy that permitted German annexation of the Sudetenland, which led to World War II -- is that Westerners too often impose our morality on those who are evil. Evil should not and cannot be accommodated, or "contained." Evil must be crushed and eliminated. Imagine if the policy of the United States and Britain had been to contain Hitler and his Nazi regime instead of defeating it. For decades, containment of the Soviet Union was the policy of the United States (authored by the U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan) until Ronald Reagan had a better idea. His goal was to eliminate "the evil empire" of Soviet communism.

Students of Scripture will recall God's admonitions to the Israelites: "You must purge the evil from among you." Deuteronomy 13:5 is one of many such commands in both Testaments.

Purging evil is not easy and requires a choice. It may be more difficult at the start, but if delayed it becomes costlier in lives and the destruction of property on the back end.


In her speech, Merkel defended and promoted the importance of a multilateral approach to global affairs. Under the right circumstances and with the right policies, multilateralism can work, but not when proponents of a multilateral approach to serious problems choose to play down the threat before them.

World War II should have taught Merkel and the rest of Europe a lesson about denial. One hopes it won't take another disaster with many more deaths caused by Iranian nuclear weapons to show those who survive how mistaken they were.

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