The recent agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries (China, France, Great Britain, Russia, the United States and Germany) in regard to the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme has evoked a broad spectrum of responses from around the world.
Many strongly applaud the treaty while many powerfully criticize it. Can Iran be trusted? Do we have strong enough safeguards in case they cannot? Will this further peace or instability? Answers abound but we do not really know the answer. If anything, post Munich 1937, the only thing we really know is that we do not really know the answer.
Whether we like it or not, we live in the shadow of Neville Chamberlain's Munich deal with Hitler. It must affect our perspective on any agreement of this nature. This is not to say that this treaty is a repeat of Munich but it is also not to say that it is not. What we learned from Munich, though, was that deals do not finalize the results.
Agreements only work to the extent that both parties share a commitment to the mutual goal that is hammered out in the deal. What Hitler absolutely taught us was that what one says and even promises is not necessarily what one means.
Hesitancy in celebrating the present agreement between Iran and the P5+1 should, thus, be understandable. It is, perhaps, what should be the proper response of all. This is not to say, though, that the deal may not be a repeat of Munich and, as such, a possible stepping stone to a final, positive conclusion. It is thus, perhaps, just as improper to project Munich upon this deal and similarly, unilaterally dismiss it. The cloud of Munich, though, must surround the agreement and, as such, it is proper to be concerned.
There are many questions. In a recent article presented on Huffington Post, Neville Chamberlain Was Right To Cede Czechoslovakia To Adolf Hitler: Seventy-five Years Ago, The British Prime Signed The Munich Pact, it was maintained that Chamberlain did not really have a choice but to agree; Britain was not ready for war.
There is so much behind the scenes of events such as these that we do not really know what the truth of the situation is. We, essentially, live in the dark about the real facts. As such, we cannot truly voice an opinion on whether this present agreement is good or not. This quandary alone must make us hesitant to be jubilant.
There is one thing, though, that we should be aware of in looking at this deal even within the limitations that I have outlined. We must honestly recognize with whom we are structuring this agreement. The only critique I ultimately have with Chamberlain is that the facts were already evident in 1937 about the kind of person Hitler was.
Desired recognition of equality between the parties of a contract is a simple legal principle of contract law; without it, the contract is inherently flawed. With this in mind, how could a person such as Hitler, who publicly articulated a view of racial superiority, ever be expected to revere this principle of respect for the equality of contractual parties when he inherently believed the other side to be racially inferior? I do not know what Chamberlain was thinking; maybe he had no choice. But did he not know with whom he was dealing?
There is the argument that the new President of Iran reflects a new outlook in the country. His attitude to the Western World seems to be different. As such, the negative outlook of the previous regime is discounted. Yet the Supreme Ruler of Iran remains the same person and the attitude towards Westerners that have permeated the country since the revolution has not really been challenged. As much as we may wish the other to share with us some basic values that allow us to communicate, negotiate and concur, this may not necessarily be the case.
Did Chamberlain really believe that Hitler shared some basic values with him that would allow for an agreement? If so, he was more than tragically wrong. Did he know the truth about Hitler but felt there was no other alternative? We do not know. We also do not know, presently, what is really going through the minds of the leaders of Iran. Do they truly share with us the basic values that would ensure the success of this agreement? To be honest, we do not know. Does this mean the deal was wrong? Maybe, no. We also do not know if there was another choice. Hesitancy and caution thus must be our guidelines.