Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The "Appeasement" Attack: Nothing New

Good, short piece in the Sunday Times Week in Review situating the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld efforts to tie, if subtly, opponents of the administration's Iraq policy to 1930's appeasement policy.

The upshot: Although perhaps most prudent to never take appeasement option off the table in dealing with a hostile state, post WWII American history shows unequivically that American presidents of both parties (starting with FDR's own attacks on Republican isolationists as appeasers) have employed to bully pulpit to paint their political opponents as treading in the footsteps of Neville Chamberlain.

Most entertaining, if somewhat off-color: LBJ's quote re: opponents of his Vietnam policy, "If you let a bully come into your front yard one day, the next day he’ll be up on your porch, and the day after that he’ll rape your wife in your own bed.”

Most prescious: The fact Bush's own efforts to portray Democrats as appeasers have complicated by the fact the Bill Kristols have simultaneously opened a similar line of attack against him re: the administration's diplomatic overtures to Iran. It's hard to credibly make the appeaser attack stick when many of your former friends are trying to do the same to you. The desire to extricate themselves from this stickly political dilemma may explain as much as anything else the turn-up in the rhetoric from the President re: Iran this past week.

2 comments:

Dr. Duke Nukem said...
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Dr. Duke Nukem said...

On the other hand the use of the "appeasement" does play into our current study of international relations - mainly the attempt to construct a global theoretical framework for the 21st century based on European events of the 19th and 20th. Some see concerts becoming the model for collective security. Some see facism and totalitarianism reflected in radical Islamism - as well as far right-wing American politics. These elements are as important to forming an accurate picture of current events as their historical counterparts were to bringing current events to pass.

It was the great powers of Europe that helped transform the culture, borders, military and market structure of the Middle East. It was WWI and WWII that set the stage for the Iron Curtain, the USSR and the modern European political landscape. Words such as facism and appeasement are still tragically relevant, albeit a bit overused, regardless of what role they play in current journalistic/pulpit jargon. They signify a reality beyond mere rhetoric.

We live in a universe of powerful national and political ideologies, ideologies that can change the weight of words and actions like the gravity of another planet. Between two like-minded nations, with similiar ideas of status quo, appeasement is a viable and prudent option. Between nations with polarized values, a diplomatic gesture of appeasement can be catastrophic. Appeasement can be the concession concerning an economic or border dispute that prevents a bloody war, or it can permit the destructive Soviet occupation of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Afghanistan and countless other nations. It can be argued that appeasement was at least an inappropriate - if not disastrous - tactic to use in dealing with facism and totalitarianism in the past. It might not be imprudent to think long and hard before bringing it to the table in dealing with the suspiciously facist- and totalitarian-esque regimes of today.

It's also true that figures such as Rumsfeld should be careful when throwing around terms like appeasement. But we should be just as careful about simply throwing them away.