Monday, July 20, 2015

In defense of Neville Chamberlain, hindsight’s most battered punching bag

By Ishaan Tharoor July 20 at 5:00 AM

After the final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program was announced in Vienna last week, references to one long-gone politician surged on social media: Neville Chamberlain.

This is not surprising. The late British prime minister, who presided over the ill-fated Munich agreement with Adolf Hitler in September 1938, is the metaphor of choice for all who prefer confrontation to mediation.

As my colleague Philip Bump noted, Twitter mentions of “Neville Chamberlain” spiked on July 14, with neo-con hawks and others on the American right lambasting the Obama administration’s supposed “appeasement” of the Islamic Republic.

[The Iran deal: How it works.]

The historical talking point centers on Chamberlain's negotiated pact with Nazi Germany, which granted Hitler the right to extend his rule over German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia rather than risk the prospect of a full-blown invasion. In a speech delivered upon his return to Britain, Chamberlain quoted a phrase first uttered by an earlier 19th century British premier who had also conducted diplomacy with the Germans.

(More here.)


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