British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin is not usually touted as the kind of leader one hopes our politicians would emulate, but since we haven't seen Obama's college transcripts, I can't say with certainty how well he studied history.
Anyway, if you aren't familiar with the details, in late September 1938, Chamberlin returned to London after the signing of the Munich Agreement, clearing the way for Hitler's Nazi regime to occupy the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Speaking to the British people about the Agreement, Chamberlin gave what is remembered as one of the most ironic and naïve speeches in the last century, announcing that they had secured "peace for our time."
Of course, feeding Czechoslovakia to the Nazis only staked their thirst for power, and instead of securing "peace" for his time, Hitler was emboldened by the weakness of the other European leaders. Their cowardly appeasement allowed the Nazis to have nearly free reign to spread their regime across the continent with alarming speed.
Now, I do not think it is fair to blame Chamberlin for Hitler's evil deeds, but I do think it is fair to say that if there had been any actual threat of opposition at the beginning, it would have at least slowed the Nazis down.
Fast forward to 2012. Obama gave an interview on Tuesday with a Miami-based television station in which he was asked about several foreign policy issues, and had this to say in response to a question about the close relationship between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Iran:
We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe. But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us. We have to vigilant. My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs, and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don't always see."Not a serious national security impact?" Iran is a country run by an oppressive, anti-American regime, they are feverishly working on developing nuclear weapons, and have sworn to wipe our ally Israel off the map, but hey, no big deal.
Obama was also slammed for what many viewed as an overly simplistic and dismissive view of the Castro regime in Cuba, and a number of prominent Florida Republicans and presidential candidate Mitt Romney swiftly released statements strongly condemning Obama's remarks:
Mitt Romney: "This is a stunning and shocking comment by the President...Obama's remarks continue a pattern of weakness in his foreign policy, one that has emboldened adversaries and diminished U.S. influence in every region of the world. As president, I will speak clearly and resolutely on the challenges we face so that both our allies and our adversaries will know where we stand."
Senator Marco Rubio: "It’s now disturbingly clear that President Obama has been living under a rock when it comes to recognizing the national security threat posed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez...[he] continues to display an alarmingly naïve understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face in the Western Hemisphere."
Congressman/Senate candidate Connie Mack: "Hugo Chavez is a man who has spread anti-American hatred around the globe and has formed partnerships with countries that hate the United States, like Iran and Syria. He has been deeply engaged in supporting narco-terrorists who advance his interests. He has crushed opposition at home, seeking to model the internal workings of Venezuela on the Cuban revolution. His close friendship with Fidel Castro is legendary. And he has worked closely with the Castro brothers in subverting American policy and undermining freedom and democracy across Latin America. President Obama should be working to isolate Chavez, not downplaying the dangers he poses."
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart: "It is deeply disturbing that in the face of the [Castro] regime’s demonstrated depravity, President Obama continues to expect that his acts of appeasement will somehow convince the regime to ‘recognize that their system is no longer working.’ Miraculously, the President fails to notice that it is precisely his policies which have increased the channeling of U.S. dollars to the Cuban dictatorship and have only emboldened it further...His willful ignorance on [Venezuela] is shocking from a U.S. president. The President must have forgotten that his own State Department expelled the Venezuelan consul general in Miami for plotting against U.S. security interests, and that Chavez fiercely supports the State Sponsors of Terrorism Iran, Syria, and Cuba, and the terrorist organizations, the FARC and Hezbollah, with his vast petroleum resources, safe harbor, and access to credit."
Babalú Blog has posted a collection of the full responses I've excerpted above, along with comments from several other members of Congress:
Is Obama a 2012 version of Neville Chamberlin? For now, we can only hope history will not repeat itself. This November, however, we can change course and vote for someone who sounds more like Winston Churchill and less like Chamberlin.