The Occasional Winston: The Iran Deal

So President Obama is billing the agreement as a “first step” in confidence building with Iran.  Of course, “confidence building” is how con men trap their marks and empty their pockets.  And to be sure Obama is an easy mark.  Selling arms to Iran in the late 1980s to “build confidence” was how the Reagan administration nearly came undone.  I’ll let others parse the details of the deal (my old AEI pal Danielle Pletka does a good early job of it here), and focus on a more fundamental question: just what kind of regime is Iran today, any why do we think we can trust them to end their drive for nuclear weapons in a “phrased” negotiation?

This sent me back to one of Churchill’s most prescient newspaper articles, from Colliers magazine in October, 1937, entitled “Can America Keep Out of War?”  Here, two years before war broke out, Churchill reminds us that nations in the grip of ideological fervor take on a certain character, reminding us also the general population is too often suppressed by fanatical rulers, as we have seen in Iran repeated over the last few years.  (By one account, Iran has somewhere in the area of 400,000 internet censors, monitoring the internet constantly to prevent control the flow of information and dissent in the country.)

Here are a few excerpts from Churchill that would seem to apply well to the mad mullahs of Tehran:

The world remains at peace; but the internal strain on the German people grows with every month that passes.  Their patriotism, their docility, their helplessness in the hands of a powerful propaganda and strong party machinery lead them to continue on this somber path of sacrifice.  But at any moment trouble may rise in the interior of Germany.  Beneath the smooth surface and well-ordered parade of Nazidom there stir and smoulder all the passions of a great people. . .

But what is the regime to do in the face of all these difficulties?  They promised to cure unemployment.  They have largely done so, but how?  Only by a process of rearmament and of ever more severe national discipline which cannot be kept up perpetually.  To relax their grip may be at the same time to release avenging forces.  Dictators and those who immediately sustain them cannot quit their offices with the easy disdain—or more often relief—with which an American President or a British Prime Minister submits himself to an adverse popular verdict.  For a dictator the choice may well be the throne or the grave.  The character of men who have raised themselves from obscurity to these positions of fierce, dazzling authority does not permit us to believe that they would bow their heads meekly to the stroke of fate.  One has the feeling they would go down or conquer fighting, and play the fearful stakes which are in their hands. . .

This we are confronted with a situation in Europe abhorrent to its peoples, including the great mass of German and Italian peoples, in which bands of competent, determined men under ruthless leadership find themselves alike unable to go or to stop.  It may well be that the choice before Germany is a choice between an internal and an external explosion.  But it is not Germany that will really choose.  It is only that band of politicians who have obtained enormous power, whose movements are guided by two or three men, who will decide the supreme issue of peace or war.  To this horrible decision they cannot come unbiased.  Economic and political ruin stare them in the face, and the only means of escape may be victory in the field.  They have the power to make war.  The have the incentive to make war; nay, it may well be almost compulsion.

Wondering whether John Kerry said to the Iranians: “If you like your stockpile of low enriched uranium, you can keep your stockpile of low enriched uranium.”  Careful where you place the period.

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