Friday, Sep 19, 2014
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Is another Chamberlain moment arriving?


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In September 1938 British Prime Minister Chamberlain signed a paper with Adolph Hitler permitting Germany to take over the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia so that "peace" would be maintained in Europe. The prime minister returned to Britain waving the paper signed by Hitler and claiming, "Peace in our time."

A year later Germany invaded Poland and World War II started.

In February 1945, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and General Secretary Stalin met in Yalta, in the Crimea, to determine the administration of Europe following the end of the war that was rapidly approaching. 

During the Vietnam War, President Johnson thought that he could negotiate with Ho Chi Minh and started the peace talks.

Now we have talk and unbelievable hype about the possibility of some type of breakthrough concerning Iran and its desire for a nuclear bomb. The new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, and President Obama are both in New York for the United Nations meeting.

Rouhani is described as a moderate by the media and someone that we may be able to talk with. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has stated that Iran is open to talks concerning its nuclear program.

What do all of these events have in common? On one side of the negotiations was a dictator who had one thought in his mind and that was how to get exactly what he wanted and was willing to promise anything in return. On the other side was one or more individuals who represented a democratic country that desired peace and prosperity for all and was willing to negotiate honestly.

These individuals were naive enough to believe that the other side wanted the same. History has a nasty habit of repeating itself, and a wise person pays close attention to events from the past. Germany had lost World War I, although its military was never defeated. As a result, many Germans did not accept the fact that they had lost. The terms of surrender were quite harsh, and according to many experts were the roots for the cause of the second world war.

When Hitler assumed power, he began to rebuild his military in violation of the armistice. The West did nothing. In 1936, Hitler moved troops into the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Again, the West did nothing. In 1938, Germany occupied Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia.

That is when Chamberlain went to meet with Hitler and signed the paper allowing the occupation of a portion of Czechoslovakia and the Hitler promise that he did not want any more land. That lasted a year.

President Johnson had a reputation for being a superb negotiator when he was the Majority Leader in the Senate. When he became president he was successful in implementing many programs, including the Civil Rights Bill and the War on Poverty.

He assumed that he could just as easily negotiate with Ho Chi Minh. But he was no longer dealing with an individual who would honestly negotiate. Ho Chi Minh had one goal, and that was to unite the North and South under one banner under his rule.

President Nixon discovered the same problem when he assumed the presidency in 1969. He continued the talks with the North and started withdrawing troops while turning more responsibility over to the South Vietnamese. 

The peace talks stalled in 1972 when the North Vietnamese walked out of the talks. Nixon ordered the Christmas bombings of Hanoi by B-52s and it continued until the North returned to the negotiations. 

The final points were ironed out and Americans left the country. The North did not obey the terms and in 1975 invaded and defeated the South.  

That brings us up to the present time with President Obama. When he was initially inaugurated, he stated that he was willing to talk to anyone, including those who were not friendly.

That really sounds great, but Obama is committing the same error as those I previously mentioned.

Dictators and despots do not negotiate in good faith. Their goal is win at any cost. Promising the moon or any thing short of that is fine by them because they have no intention of fulfilling any promises, or at least any meaningful promises.

I fear that all too often our side looks at these negotiations as a debate, with specific rules that everyone follows. That is not how it works.

President Reagan was the only one who dealt with the Soviet Union properly. He called it an "evil empire" and demanded that the Berlin Wall be torn down. Members from our side were appalled by his words because there were confrontational, but true.

Remember when he said "Trust but verify." Unlike every president before him, he decided not just to "get along" but to win.

When we decide to buy a product, we go to the dealer with a good reputation, not one with a bad reputation. When we look for a college for our children we look at schools with a good reputation that offer the major that our child seeks, not a fly-by-night school.

We have friends and we have acquaintances. Friends are those we trust while acquaintances are merely people we know. Smart people choose their friends carefully. It is a big world, and there are many countries that we must deal with, but trusting all the same is foolish. 

Iran is suffering because of its economy and the sanctions from the United States and other countries. It could promise many things in return for our good will, but I doubt if its leaders will faithfully follow through.

Look at history. Look at North Korea. How many times have we provided support only for the Koreans to violate what it promised after we fed them or provided fuel? 

Dictators and despots are not interested in their people, but rather their power. It is time to realize that and operate accordingly. 

Donald J. Myers a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, is a regular columnist for Hernando Today. He lives in Spring Hill and can be contacted at dmyersusmc@aol.com.

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