In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to London after meeting with Germany's Adolf Hitler in Munich. A world fearing it was on the brink of war was assured by Chamberlain he had negotiated an agreement with Hitler, assuring "peace in our time."
Known as the Munich Agreement, it was a complete surrender of England's commitment to help defend an ally by allowing Germany to annex Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. Chamberlain gave in to Hitler's demands as the German chancellor made it clear war was the only other option.
History records the peace Chamberlain negotiated was short-lived as Hitler used the agreement as a stepping stone to a war he desperately sought.
The freedom of the Czechoslovakian people was a pawn sacrificed by democracies eager to preserve peace at any cost.
In his Jan. 21 inaugural speech, Obama said: "We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice -- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice."
Chillingly reminiscent of Chamberlain's failed foreign policy was Obama's reference to "peace in our time."
Neither strategic interest nor national conscience prompted democracies to act on behalf of Czechoslovakia 75 years ago nor do they prompt democracies to act today "on behalf of those who long for freedom."
Advertisers use "puffing" -- the practice of using expressions or exaggerations that present opinions rather than facts -- to promote products. Obama uses it too, to promote his agenda.
It was disconcerting enough Obama felt compelled to use the "peace in our time" sound bite, which has a historically negative connotation. Perhaps its subtle reference escaped notice by listeners due to the puffery surrounding it. Obama's foreign policy to date should in no way be construed as supporting those longing for freedom.
The United States did nothing on behalf of those who long for freedom in June 2009 when a democratically elected president in Honduras sought to abuse the country's constitution by overstaying his welcome. In fact, the United States acted contrary to democratic interests and conscience by supporting the would-be demagogue over opponents seeking to uphold the constitution.
Again in June 2009, the United States did nothing as voters in Iran took to the streets in protest after the presidential election was stolen from them by their religious leaders. Any indication of U.S. support on behalf of those who longed for freedom would have been welcome. None was forthcoming from Washington.
In late 2011, the U.S. reversed a decades-long policy of not dealing with one of the foremost groups recognized for lacking a freedom and human rights compass -- the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. While the Muslim Brotherhood uses the framework of democracy to gain control of the governmental reins of power, once fully entrenched it will sacrifice the freedom of the Egyptian people just as England sacrificed that of Czechoslovakia.
Obama's "peace in our time" comment hits close to home as this will be the year the U.S., confronted by a similar situation as was Chamberlain, has to choose, in dealing with Hitler-like mullahs in Iran, whether to sacrifice freedom for peace or to accept war as the only way to remove a world threat.
It is estimated by the middle of this year, Iran will have reached a break-through point in its technological drive for nuclear weapons. After that point, military action will be futile.
While Obama still claims all options are on the table in stopping Iran's nuclear program, he sends Tehran all the wrong signals that military action is one of them. His nomination of both a Chamberlain-esque secretary of defense and secretary of state, coupled with a soon-to-be imposed sequestration program that will have a significant negative effect on defense training and maintenance, only encourages Iran that Obama isn't seriously considering military action as a viable option.
In 1971, singer Marvin Gaye released the song "What's Going On." The song included the verse, "War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate." For most of his first term in dealing with Iran, Obama unsuccessfully tried love, which only allowed Tehran to move closer to its goal. Unfortunately, Obama must now accept "what's going on" in Iran and that war is quickly becoming the only answer.
(James. G. Zumwalt, a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, is author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie--North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking.")
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
Defense at risk, but not why you think