Is Munich 1938 a valid analogy for the Iran nuclear deal?

Many commentators — and not only Jews — compare the agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China to Munich 1938. Is this admittedly overused comparison valid?
July 29, 2015

Many commentators — and not only Jews — compare the agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China to Munich 1938. Is this admittedly overused comparison valid?

Let’s review what happened in 1938. That year, democratic Western nations assured a police state, the Nazi regime, that they would do nothing to prevent its expansion. That year, the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, went to Munich to negotiate with Adolf Hitler. He left believing Hitler’s promises of peace in exchange for Germany being allowed to annex large parts of Czechoslovakia. Upon returning to England, Chamberlain announced, “Peace for our time.”

Now let’s list the similarities between 1938 and now: 

The Nazi regime was a police state. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a police state. 

The Nazis’ greatest aim was to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Iran’s greatest aim is to exterminate the Jewish state. 

Nazi Germany hated the West and its freedoms. The Islamic Republic of Iran hates the West and its freedoms. 

Germany sought to dominate Europe. Iran seeks to dominate the Middle East and the Muslim world.

Britain and France appeased Nazi Germany. Britain and France, along with the United States, have chosen to appease Iran.

And perhaps most important, in 1938, the Western democracies dismissed Nazism as the Jews’ problem. Today, Iran’s nuclear program is viewed as largely Israel’s problem.

Even those who dismiss the Munich analogy cannot deny these parallels. So why do they dismiss it? One example appeared in these pages. A professor of Holocaust studies wrote: “If I could wave a magic wand, I would ask the Jewish community to stop using Holocaust analogies. They simply don’t work. We are different and the world is different.”

And why, in the professor’s view, is the world so different from 1938?

“Permit me a simple example. No one disputes that Israel has second-strike capacity and that anyone who contemplates a nuclear attack on Israel must take into account Israel’s retaliatory capacity, its ability to attack its attackers and to deliver its own weapons of mass destruction with devastating results. Such a capacity did not exist at Auschwitz.”

This response actually reinforces the legitimacy of the Munich analogy — and increases one’s fears for Israel. If the reason 2015 is not 1938 is that, unlike the Jews of Europe, Israel has a retaliatory capacity “to deliver its own weapons of mass destruction with devastating results,” Israel may be doomed. 


Because the Iranian regime doesn’t care if Israel retaliates.

Just as Hitler cared more about killing Jews than winning World War II (read, for example, Lucy Dawidowicz’s “The War Against the Jews”), the Iranian regime is far more interested in annihilating Israel than in preserving Iranians’ lives. Iran knows it can survive a nuclear attack far better than can Israel. Iran has a population of 78 million people living on 636,000 square miles. Israel has a population of 8 million people living on 8,000 square miles. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) worked to prevent the Soviets from using nuclear weapons because Soviet leaders cared about living and even about their fellow citizens living. But for those Islamists whose motto is “We love death as much as the Jews love life,” MAD is an invitation, not a deterrence. 

Today, people mock Chamberlain. But in fact, there is considerably less defense for the Iran agreement — which gives Iran $150 billion in currently frozen assets, the right to keep its nuclear program, and guarantees of protection against attacks on its program — than there was for the Munich agreement. 

Before 1938, Hitler had not publicly proclaimed his aim to annihilate Europe’s Jews. Yet, Iran has been proclaiming its intention to annihilate the Jewish state for decades. There were no massive “Death to America” demonstrations in Germany as there regularly are in Iran. In 1938, Germany had not been responsible for terror around the world as Iran is now. Nor was Germany responsible for the death of more than a thousand Americans as Iran has been — in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) used the Holocaust analogy in 2012: “I agree with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel. One nuclear weapon, hurled from Iran to Israel, could end the Jewish state and could kill almost as many Jews as did Hitler.”

Retired Israeli statesman Shimon Peres said that humanity must “learn the lessons of the Holocaust and stand up to existential threats before it is too late. Iran is at the center of threat.”

And you don’t have to be a Jew to find the analogy apt. In The Wall Street Journal last week, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson wrote: “Like President [Barack] Obama today, Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was playing for time in 1938, reasoning that a conflict at that point would be worse than a conflict in the future.”

The agreement is so awful that, if it stands, Iran won’t even need to use a nuclear weapon in order to become more dangerous than it already is to America, the Sunni Arab world and the West — or to threaten Israel with mass death.

The ending of sanctions gives Iran hundreds of billions of dollars with which to sponsor terror around the world, provide Hezbollah and Hamas with many additional and more powerful weapons to use against Israel and to more fully establish its police state in Iran.

Why then did Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry so push for this agreement — which includes a provision (Annex Three) that compels the United States and all the other signatories to aid Iran in protecting that country against a cyber or physical attack on its nuclear facilities? Because, as they repeatedly say, they want to bring Iran into the “community of nations.”

Whoever believes that the agreement will bring Iran into the community of nations betrays a breathtaking ignorance about that regime. The Iranian regime is composed of religious fanatics who are morally indistinguishable from ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and all the other mass-murdering Islamist movements. 

Such naive thinking about evil is why responsible people liken Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain. Iran should be excluded from, not brought into, the community of nations.

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles from 9 a.m. to noon on KRLA (AM 870). His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.