Posts Tagged 'appeasement'

Napoleonic Appeasement

It is not easy to fathom the mindset that believes Obama has found a path to peace in our times. We call it appeasement because that is what Neville Chamberlain, its best-known advocate, proudly called it.  Appeasers believe that every opponent is a reasonable person suffering only from an inferiority complex, in need of friendly outreach and professional counseling.  It is a twin error with isolationism, which is the belief that we have enemies only because we have friends.

We tend to frame appeasement in 1930’s Hitlerite terms.  Since the reductio ad hitlerum is properly suspect (one only needs to counter that “Iran is not Hitler”), it may be useful to look for other examples.

In the early years of the 19th century, European leaders were perplexed by the problem of an aggressively revolutionary France.  The Chamberlains and Obamas of the day thought that they could cut deals with Napoleon.

Here are some prescient words from a 1954 doctoral thesis on the subject.

The defenders of the status quo therefore tend to begin by treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations were merely tactical; as if it really accepted the existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargaining purposes; as if it were motivated by specific grievances to be assuaged by limited concessions.  Those who warn against the danger in time are considered alarmists; those who counsel adaptation to circumstance are considered balanced and sane… 

“Appeasement”… is the result of an inability to come to grips with a policy of unlimited objectives. But it is the essence of a revolutionary power that it possesses the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles to their ultimate conclusion.

It does not take much vision to see in these words the thinking of the Islamic Republic of Iran:  “a revolutionary power that it possesses the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles to their ultimate conclusion.”

Think about today’s leaders in the West (including Mr. Obama), “…treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations were merely tactical...” As if “Death to America!” and “Erase Israel from the Map” were just political sloganeering!

“…as if it really accepted the existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargaining purposes…”  As if Iran really wanted to live in peace with its neighbors, or anyone else (except other Shiite Muslim theocracies, of which there are thankfully none yet)!

“…as if it were motivated by specific grievances to be assuaged by limited concessions…”  As if the Mullahs really wanted only to build nuclear power plants, so they could end their reliance on foreign oil!  (Has any diplomat ever asked Iran why it wants or needs ANY nuclear capacity?)

“Those who warn against the danger in time are considered alarmists”, as Mister Netanyahu, Joe Lieberman, and other voices in the Wilderness know only too well.  Someday (heaven forfend), their names may be listed on a tragic honor roll along with that of Winston Churchill.

As for the wishful optimists, the “balanced and sane” folks who counsel “adaptation to circumstance”, well, you know who they are.

[If you are interested in the name of the doctoral student who wrote the above analysis, it is Henry Kissinger, in A World Restored; Europe After Napoleon: The Politics of Conservatism in a Revolutionary Age.  It is well worth a read.]
As always, I’d be interested in your reaction.  Just click the “Leave a comment” button up top, and have at it.

Many People Believe They Are Only Sacrificing Israel

Faced with the unmasking of the neo-isolationist Obama and his Chamberlain-esque foreign policy (appeasement of enemies, abandonment of friends, and underfunding of defense), I cannot help but think back to the last time world peace was threatened by such fuzzy-brained pacifism: the 1930’s.

Then, too, building strong defenses was anathema, because it was the easiest place to cut costs, and also to avoid worrying our enemies. Then, too, the concern was that our edgy ally (then France) would get us into big trouble with its extreme demands.  And, then, too, we worried that the seemingly aggressive (to judge them by their deeds and their words) upstart nation with the seemingly irrational leader were really only trying to correct past injustices and imbalances; appeasing their demands while uttering soothing reassurances was the best way to settle them down.

So the current Obama foreign policy farce has already had a full dress rehearsal and tryout on the road; it was…less than a hit.

Much has been made of the possibility of a nuclear Iran contemplating an intentional genocidal attack on Israel’s 6 million Jews (now conveniently gathered together in an area smaller than New Jersey).  The apocalyptic nutcases who hold power in Iran have in fact talked about doing just that, many times over the past dozen years.  Fortunately, the wise “realists” of the foreign policy establishment have always known it was just talk.  “You know how kids are.”

The other worry (as if Holocaust II were not enough to get your attention) is that a nuclear Iran will be the undisputed power center of the Middle East.  Here we ought to heed the warning given by Winston Churchill after the 1938 Munich sellout of Czechoslovakia.

“It must now be accepted that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi power

“In fact, if not in form, it seems to me that all those countries of Middle Europe… will, one after another, be drawn into this vast system of power politics – not only power military politics but power economic politics – radiating from Berlin, and I believe this can be achieved quite smoothly and swiftly and will not necessarily entail the firing of a single shot.

Many people, no doubt, honestly believe that they are only giving away the interests of Czechoslovakia, whereas I fear we shall find that we have deeply compromised, and perhaps fatally endangered, the safety and even the independence of Great Britain and France.”

How chillingly familiar it rings.  Already we see Egypt making its obeisance to the new regional power.  “It must now be accepted that all the countries of [the region] will make the best terms they can with the triumphant…power.”   It may not “entail the firing of a single shot” – just a few successful nuclear weapon tests.

In the 1930′s, inflated and premature fears of German military power paralyzed French and British (and American) action when it might have succeeded, and put off the showdown until Hitler was actually ready.   Excuses for inaction are always plentiful.

Of course, “Many people, no doubt, honestly believe that they are only giving away the interests” of our ally – isolated, democratic, freedom-loving Israel.  But here, as in 1938, they may find themselves mistaken.

The uncomfortable deja vu of all this brings to mind Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Bullwinkle: “Hey, Rocky; watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”

Rocky: “That trick never works.”

Bullwinkle: “This time for sure.”

Bullwinkle (after trick fails): “I gotta get a new hat.”

What Can History Teach About War?

An outstanding essay by Victor Davis Hanson is currently up on PJ Media here and here.  It is a two-part (so far) study of the history of wars, and the interplay of Greek tragedy – victory leading to hubris and overreaching and failure.  Part 1 analyzes WWII and Korea, while the second looks at the Peloponnesian War, and draws conclusions to describe our present situation.

It is outstanding, and you ought to read the whole thing.  But here is the conclusion. Continue reading ‘What Can History Teach About War?’

Remembering Why They Hate Israel – and Us

I have not been a big fan of William Kristol.  He often seems to derive too much enjoyment from being different and clever.   I have always put great stock in Burke’s commitment to avoid such things: “I assure you I do not aim at singularity.”  Kristol sometimes seems to aim for it. (Maybe all pundits have to do that these days.)

But his piece in the upcoming issue of Weekly Standard, entitled “The West Fights Back”, is a cogent and powerful reminder of something that is all too forgotten in America today: Israel and the US are both hated and attacked by the same people and for the same reasons.

The Walt-Mearsheimer hypothesis, embraced by right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats alike, says that Israel and the Jewish Lobby run US foreign policy for Israel’s benefit, to our own detriment.  Now this stuff is at least as old as the Zionist movement.  It was the thinking of FDR when he suppressed support for Zionism in order to appease Ibn Saud.  It was the mindset of the “realists” in the State Department who urged Truman to withhold recognition of the State of Israel.  (Their “realism” invariably fell back on the belief that Israel would require 100,000 US troops, “boots on the ground”, for its survival in the first year.  The “realists” were wrong, of course, but never acknowledged it.)

And it underlies the thinking of today’s administration “realists”, who think a little “daylight” between the US and Israel will somehow improve things in the world.

Kristol quickly and brilliantly lances the boil of this thinking.  The anti-Israel front doesn’t hate us because we support Israel; they hate us because we are LIKE Israel:  democratic, respecting free speech and religious freedom, willing to live in peace with our neighbors, modern, and economically successful.  Everything the Arabs and Iranians and their allies are not.

Anyway, I suggest you read Kristol’s column here.    And let me know what you think: click the “Comments” button up top.

The Arc of Appeasement: Germany and Iran

Once again, a rising military aggressor is bent on domination of its neighbors and holocaust of the Jews.  And once again, the nations (in this case, one nation) which could stop them fails to act.

The arc of the Iran story is so redolent of the 1930’s British appeasers (not just Baldwin and Chamberlain, but a genuine broad-based political consensus, except for Churchill) that both stories can be told in the same words.

Stage One:  “(Germany/Iran) may be arming for war, but it is not strong enough to threaten peace anywhere. The real danger is posed by our ally (France/Israel).”

Stage Two: “(Germany/Iran) may be arming for war and getting stronger every day, but they are not irrational.  They may threaten the peace, but their fear of our ally (France/Israel), backed by their fear of us, will be sufficient to deter them.”

Stage Three: “(Germany/Iran) is a threat to peace.  They are already too strong for us to stop them militarily.  We must rely on diplomacy to make the best deal with them we can.” Continue reading ‘The Arc of Appeasement: Germany and Iran’

Iran’s Underground Weapons Program Moves Underground

Lost in the (certainly justifiable, if premature) celebration of the imminent fall of the monster Gaddafi, the world seems to be underreacting to this disturbing AP news story from the Middle East:

Iran moves centrifuges to underground site

“Islamic Republic transfers some of its uranium enrichment machines to subterranean facility
offering better protection from possible airstrikes:  Associated Press”

Iran has moved some of its centrifuge machines to an underground enrichment site that offers better protection from possible airstrikes, the country’s vice president said Monday.”

“Engineers are “hard at work” preparing the facility in Fordo, which is carved into a mountain to protect it against possible attacks, to house the centrifuges, Fereidoun Abbasi was quoted as saying by state TV.”

What makes this puzzling is that authoratative-sounding media pundits and prestigious national security experts have been assuring us for years that Iran’s nuclear program could not be stopped by airstrikes, since it was buried in deep subterranean facilities.  This was all patiently explained to neocon hotheads who called for air action similar to the successful attacks that ended both Iraqi and Syrian nuclear programs in past decades.  As the “wise men” made clear, the only alternative to diplomacy and sanctions was a horrendous nightmare of “boots on the ground”; and nobody wants that now, do they?

So now it turns out that the uranium centrifuges, the biggest and most vulnerable part of the program, were sitting around in the open air?   Oops.

This whole debate had settled down somewhat in recent years, as both the Administration and the news media (but I repeat myself?) took their eye off the Iranian ball.  If you want a refresher course in this denialism, take a look back at my dialogue with Frankie Sturm,  then Communications Director of the Truman Democrats (a misnamed organization trying to resurrect national security credibility for the Democratic Party).  The title was “A Perfect Storm of Appeasement”, and it was written in February of 2009 – two and a half years ago.

Here is Mr. Sturm, expressing the left’s conventional wisdom at the time (and since):

There’s a lot out there on the futility of air strikes. Here is one article from the Atlantic and another link to a study by the Oxford Research Group. It was easy to take out Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1983 because the entire program was contained in that single, above ground installation. The suspected nuclear site in Syria that Israel took out recently is a similar story – it was just one above ground building. Iran learned from the Israeli airstrike against Iraq in 1983. That’s why they’re so thoroughly buried underground.

Oops. Continue reading ‘Iran’s Underground Weapons Program Moves Underground’

Lead, Mr. President !

[An old union buddy of mine wrote the following letter to his local newspaper.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  It would be a good thing if every concerned citizen did the same with his or her local paper.  The author assures me he won’t object to any degree of plagiarism.]

During the 2008 campaign, Candidate Obama was clear about the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  In a “60 Minutes” interview (9/22/2008), he said:

“I think that a nuclear armed Iran is …a game changer in the region. It’s unacceptable. And that’s why I’ve said that I won’t take any options off the table, including military, to prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Earlier (July 23, 2008), he told an Israeli audience: “That is our single most important threat to Israel but also to the United States of America. So this is something that we’re going to spend a lot of time working on.”

Since then, Iran’s nuclear weapons program has progressed unimpeded.  The centrifuges continue to hum, fuel continues to be stockpiled, and the only remaining question is when the first Iranian nukes will be ready to mount on their missiles.  When, not if.

And where is President Obama’s commitment “to spend a lot of time working on” the problem?  Whatever happened to all the “options” he so boldly kept on the table?  It appears that the options, along with the “single most important threat to the USA”, have somehow fallen off the president’s table. Continue reading ‘Lead, Mr. President !’

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