The follies of Santorum’s Hitler analogy

CNN

CNN Opinion -(Tue Apr 1, 2014) Iranian official Hamid Babaei says it is baseless and unfair to compare Iran to Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Editor’s note: Hamid Babaei is counselor and head of press office for the Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Hamid Babaei.

(CNN) — The recent op-ed by Rick Santorum and Joel C. Rosenberg is yet another attempt to stymie and shackle Iran and international negotiators in ongoing talks about Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.
Iran should be able to enjoy its right to peaceful nuclear energy while avoiding further hostilities and instability.
Particularly illogical is their joining in the decades-old rhetoric, comparing who they see as their foe — Iran — to Adolf Hitler.
Their view of the diplomatic path is misguided. Their attempt to compare the Iranian government to the murderous Third Reich is ludicrous, counterproductive and unfortunate.
The Hitler analogy has a long and tortured history. For many decades, those seeking to circumvent peaceful conflict resolution have resorted to the crude Hitler analogy, comparing others to the hideous ruler.
Santorum and Rosenberg affirmed comparisons of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler earlier in the same article.
But their comparisons to Hitler carry some insidious inferences. They say that since Hitler’s claim that he desired peace was a lie, Iran’s claims to want peace cannot be believed. Therefore diplomacy in general can’t happen and thus nations are locked in a policy of continuous war and aggression.
They also seek to undermine any constructive debate about policy, and instead have the public and policy makers act out of sheer panic rather than thoughtful statesmanship.
Those favoring a rush to hostility have always used the Hitler comparison to circumvent sensible deliberation and intimidate others. They want nations to support the impulsive use of force at times when they know using force is the wrong path and that diplomacy is best for national and global security.
This is not to say that there aren’t many valuable lessons to be learned from the failure to quickly confront the menace of the Third Reich.
The world should not have stood by as Hitler invaded his neighbors. Iran, by contrast, has not invaded any of its neighbors over the past 250 years. Thus, comparing Iran to Nazi Germany is illogical and should be condemned for the sake of peace and global security.
The current efforts by the Iranian government to reach a diplomatic resolution on the nuclear file is not a tactic but, as many independent observers have noted, reflects its will to compromise and re-engage the world with mutual respect and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
President Hassan Rouhani, who won an election that had a voter turnout of 73%, campaigned on the platform of reaching understanding with the West on a number of issues, including the nuclear file. That is the basis of Iran’s current policy.
Santorum and Rosenberg also recommend President Barack Obama support efforts by some in Congress to pass new sanctions. But those sanctions would violate the terms of the interim agreement, or at the very least, impose the strictest possible parameters on the American negotiators. Those parameters would either significantly harm sensitive international negotiations or derail the process altogether.
Also, the interim accord reached in Geneva is a very transparent agreement based on verification as well as strict inspections, so both sides feel assured as they seek a final status agreement.
Santorum and Rosenberg also point to a poll commissioned by Rosenberg that they claim indicates popular support for their perception of Iran. It’s worth noting that neither Rosenberg nor the conservative polling firm have disclosed the full results of the poll or their methodology.
But even if this poll was to be given weight, the spread of this extremely negative perception of Iran among some in the American public — championed by people like the authors — is not a logical rationalization.
Additionally, if we are to look at polls, numerous ones published by major nonpartisan polling firms show strong support for diplomacy among the American people, according to some by a 2-to-1 margin. For example in a CNN/ORC International Poll, three out of four Americans support diplomacy over conflict, including 87% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans.
Rosenberg is a former Israeli official. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s complete opposition to any peaceful solution has been on full display since the potential of diplomatic conflict resolution became apparent.
Santorum’s attempt to put out hawkish statement is understandable in light of his electoral ambitions.
But since global security is on the line, the decisions that guide this process should not be made based on political posturing or hysteria. And they should not give outsized consideration to the overzealous hyperbole of those who reflexively oppose diplomacy, who still consider the Iraq boondoggle a prudent war.
They should rather be made with meticulous consideration of the national interests and with an eye — and cautious optimism — toward a negotiated settlement that could relieve tensions and even a reversal of the current dynamic of hostility.

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