Letter: ‘Munich’ comparison familiar

There’s a depressing familiarity to Cal Thomas calling President Barack Obama’s initial agreement with Iran another “Munich” (The Advocate, Nov. 30).

Conservative pundits call any attempt at negotiation a Munich and even applied this epithet to President Ronald Reagan’s negotiations with the Soviets.

The anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination recalls the hatred that he engendered from the right for being willing to negotiate with the Soviets, despite his proven status as a “Cold Warrior.”

The same Cold War paranoia from the right grips their view of Iran — like the Soviets, the Iranians are not merely an adversary, but one so crazed, so inherently evil that real negotiation is not possible. In the view of actual experts, a military attack could seriously degrade Iran’s program but not stop it. In fact, an attack could spur them to rush ahead in development of atomic weapons since at that point they would have nothing to lose. The only way to potentially stop that response would be a protracted war against Iran, involving other regional partners and unforeseen consequences (the use of nuclear weapons, massive civilian casualties, and long-term U.S. involvement in another war.)

Sanctions against Iran have reached an unprecedented level in recent years and have severely harmed their economy. This is a crucial factor in bringing them to the negotiating table — but it has not slowed their development of atomic power or the capacity to convert enriched uranium to an atomic bomb if they chose to do so at some point.

What President Obama and Secretary John Kerry have done is broker an initial agreement that actually does slow the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has agreed to stop enriching uranium to a level usable in weapons and to destroy uranium already enriched to that level.

They have agreed to daily inspections, including for facilities previously closed, and to halt work on their Arak reactor. For this, Iran would receive $7 billion in sanctions relief, but the larger sanctions and freezing of $100 billion of their assets stay in place. This is an initial agreement, capable of being canceled at any point should the Iranians violate their pledges. At that point, their isolation would be increased and international support for potential military action far stronger.

This is hardly Munich 1938. Interestingly, Iranian hardliners have attacked the deal in their country — like Cal Thomas and the right-wingers here, they remain undeterred by the prospect of a broader, wider war in the Middle East.

Frances Beck

professor emerita

Baton Rouge