And the Neville Chamberlain Award for 2008 Goes to . . .

The Wall Street Journal
Saturday, June 7, 2008


And the Neville Chamberlain Award for 2008 Goes to . . .

Sen. Charles Schumer’s June 3 commentary “Russia Can Be Part of the Answer on Iran offers an excellent illustration of why the Democrats are no longer a party that can be safely entrusted with America’s foreign policy.

Sen. Schumer offers three reasons for dismantling the antinuclear missile defenses the U.S. is constructing: (1) the weapons are “ineffective”; (2) the primary threat they are intended to defend against — an Iranian nuclear attack — is “hypothetical and remote”; and (3) they drive Vladimir Putin to “apoplexy” because they strengthen “the relationship between Eastern Europe and NATO,” thereby mocking “Mr. Putin’s dream of eventually restoring Russian hegemony over Eastern Europe.”

Sen. Schumer offers no evidence of the missile defenses’ ineffectiveness, and if they were known to be ineffective, Mr. Putin would hardly care about them. As for the Iranian nuclear threat, by implausibly dismissing it as “remote,” he weakens his own case for taking action to prevent it. In fact, of course, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad has publicly threatened to use nuclear weapons when available to destroy Israel. This is “remote”?

Most remarkable is Sen. Schumer’s suggestion that in pursuit of Russian cooperation in a boycott of Iran, we should not only assist in the restoration of Russian hegemony over Central Europe, but even “make Russia whole” for the cost of sanctions by paying its government, currently basking in a sea of oil revenues, some “$2 billion to $3 billion a year” — a figure Sen. Schumer observes is “about what we spend in Iraq each week.”

Less than two decades ago the friends of liberty throughout the world celebrated the fall of the Iron Curtain. Is America now to assist in the reversal of that event in a bootless endeavor to secure Russia’s “cooperation” on Iran — when by the senator’s account Russia has no independent interest in such cooperation?

Aside from the removal of Iran’s nuclear weapons capacity by military means, antimissile defense offers the only hope of staving off Mr. Ahmadenijad’s nuclear blackmail. As for Sen. Schumer’s dismissal of the cost of bribing the Russians to cooperate by comparing it to the cost of fighting the Iraq war: What ever happened to the honorable slogan worthy of a great nation, “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute”?

David Lewis Schaefer
Professor of Political Science
College of the Holy Cross
Worcester, Mass.

Paying off a not-too-friendly power to disarm an unfriendly power and disrespecting one’s allies — what should we call that? Appeasement may not be too strong a term to describe Sen. Schumer’s three-part offer to Russia. Untroubled by the use of bribery and willing to dismiss the cooperation of our good NATO allies in Eastern Europe, the senator wants to pay Vladimir Putin millions of dollars annually and coolly abandon plans for missile defense sites in the Czech Republic and Romania.

Is it wise to place more trust in the increasingly authoritarian Putin/Medvedev regime than in our NATO allies? Memories of pre- and post-World War II diplomacy come to mind. If awards were given for troubling diplomatic gambits, Sen. Schumer might be a candidate for the Chamberlain Trophy or the Yalta Cup.

George Dz. Berzins
Osprey, Fla.

This is the kind of appeasement approach that Congress has consistently proposed only to have later generations deal with it. I would agree Iranians do not want sanctions. That is a card they fear we hold. So do it without Russia. Why give up Poland and the Czech Republic to appease Russia? Mr. Putin is never going to be our ally. He is quickly becoming a nationalist dictator who creates fake elections like the Soviets of old.

We do not need United Nations cooperation if all countries vested in a global economy work together. Mr. Putin will only use the U.N. to get what he wants — more acreage between east and west. If tougher sanctions will cause political change in Iran, why would we give something up like Poland and Czech to gain the inevitable change in Iran caused by sanctions?

For the love of all Americans, do not play a Neville Chamberlain and give in to Russia. FDR did not heed Mr. Churchill’s plea to protect Poland and look what happened. Is history going to repeat itself?

David Henson
Omaha, Neb.