Friday, March 30, 2007

Echoes of Neville Chamberlain

Peace at any price...

Of all the myriad accusations and clichés in politics and world diplomacy the charge of appeasement and comparisons to Neville Chamberlain have to be very near the top of the overused to the point of being silly list. That said, Max Hasting's op-ed piece in Friday's New York Times demands that comparison. It literally screams appeasement. Seriously; this guy could have been Chamberlain's speech writer.
We must keep talking to the Iranians, offering carrots even when these are contemptuously tossed into the gutter, because there is no credible alternative. Even threats of economic sanctions must be considered cautiously. Their most likely consequence would be to feed Iranian paranoia, to strengthen the hand of Tehran’s extremists. A state of declared Western encirclement could suit President Ahmadinejad very well indeed....

...No matter how it ends, the seizure of the British sailors is likely to be viewed by most of the world as an Iranian victory. Thus it is unlikely to be Iran’s last affront to us. It is not the American way, but only patience, statesmanship and a refusal to respond in kind to outrageous behavior offer a chance of eventually persuading this dangerous nation to join a rational universe.
His assessment of options is remarkably narrow and seems almost completely confined to military ones. But a far more effective action would be to close off Iran's access to the international banking system. This would have immediate and devastating consequences for Iran's economy. Any number of economic sanctions if applied with determination would be a very serious threat. And even in the military sphere options are not restricted to bombing Iran or invading the country which are admittedly not realistic alternatives. One easy option would be a naval blockade of one or more of Iran's ports. Simply put the mullahs on notice that if the sailors are not released within 72 hrs we will close one of their ports. While I am not in favor of rash actions, and I strongly support a diplomatic effort to resolve this situation, it must not come at the expense of emboldening Iran's already lawless regime.

I usually don't have such a visceral reaction to an opinion I disagree with. But in this case I really must say that Mr. Hastings comes across as a spineless weasel.

Read the entire article here.

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