The Corner

National Security & Defense

Thucydides on the Iran Deal

There’s not much to add to the torrent of condemnation of Barack Obama’s deal with Iran. President Obama justified the deal in part by appealing to hope, arguing that in ten years time Iran may no longer pose a threat, since “it is possible to change.” In response to the president’s fond desires, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed that his country’s “policies towards the arrogant government of the United States will not be changed at all.” A betting man would take Khamenei at his word, given that the Iranian regime has in no way liberalized or become less of a threat to global security since it took power in 1979. Instead, as Hugh Hewitt searingly wrote today, a nuclear Iran is now guaranteed.

The future may consider it a tragedy of unimaginable proportions that the president did not take time to read Thucydides before sending his negotiators off to Vienna. Over 2,400 years ago, the master historian stripped away false hopes such as those embraced by Obama with a clarity that has never been surpassed. In the very first speech of Thucydides’s history of the Peloponnesian War appears the following admonition:

“Concessions to adversaries only end in self-reproach, and the more strictly they are avoided the greater will be the chance of security.” (I:1.34)

It is a bitter truth in an anarchic world. Unpalatable as it may be, nothing more can be added to a maxim that has been universally proved for nearly two and a half millennia. Only a profound ignorance of history could lead one to believe that this time will be different. 

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