Monday, 19 April 2010

Israel Matzav: Obama makes Chamberlain look prescient

Obama makes Chamberlain look prescient

Like many people who are concerned with nuclear proliferation in Iran, I have compared US President Barack Obama to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who famously declared that he had brought 'peace in our time' after sacrificing Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in 1938. Mark Steyn points out that with last week's 'nuclear disarmament' summit in Washington, Obama goes beyond anything Chamberlain could have dreamed about.

In years to come — assuming, for the purposes of argument, there are any years to come — scholars will look back at President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit and marvel. For once, the cheap comparisons with 1930s appeasement barely suffice: To be sure, in 1933, the great powers were meeting in Geneva and holding utopian arms-control talks even as Hitler was taking office in Berlin. But it’s difficult to imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia, and Thailand . . . but not even mentioning Germany.

Yet that’s what Obama just did: He held a nuclear gabfest in 2010, the biggest meeting of world leaders on American soil since the founding of the U.N. 65 years ago — and Iran wasn’t on the agenda.

In fact, to find a real comparison to what Obama just did, says Rick Richman, you'd have to go back to 1921, to the Washington Conference on Naval Disarmament in the Pacific, described by Winston Churchill - Chamberlain's successor - in the opening chapter of his book, The Gathering Storm:

At the Washington Conference of 1921 far-reaching proposals for naval disarmament were made by the United States, and the British and American governments proceeded to sink their battleships and break up their military establishments with gusto. It was argued in odd logic that it would be immoral to disarm the vanquished unless the victors also stripped themselves of their weapons.

If that sounds familiar, it should. President Obama has argued that the United States has a special obligation to be the first to disarm, because thus far it is the only country to have used nuclear weapons on the battlefield. As if an American nuke and an Iranian nuke are comparable.

Steyn argues that nuclear disarmament is irrelevant today.

Five years ago, when there was still a chance the world might prevent a nuclear Iran rather than pretending to “contain” it, I remember the bewildered look from a “nonproliferation expert” on a panel I was on after I suggested nonproliferation was a laughably obsolescent frame for this discussion. You could just about enforce nonproliferation back in the Cold War, when the only official nuclear powers were the Big Five at the U.N. Security Council and the entry level for the nuclear club was extremely expensive and technologically sophisticated. Now it’s not. If Pakistan and North Korea can be nuclear powers, who can’t? North Korea’s population is starving. Its GDP per capita is lower than Ghana’s, lower than Zimbabwe’s, lower than Mongolia’s. Which is to say its GDP is all but undetectable.

Yet it’s a nuclear power.

What Steyn doesn't mention, but which should be obvious from the list of countries cited, is that the nuclear powers with the high GDP's are the ones we need to worry about. They're the non-democratic countries where the leadership is most likely to be indifferent to their population's safety. On the other hand, the big five are all rational actors even if (in the case of China and Russia), they are not entirely Western democracies.

Read the whole thing. Read this one too.

Israel Matzav: Obama makes Chamberlain look prescient

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