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On “appeasement”

May 17, 2008

Conservative Republicans (using the terms in their modern corrupted meaning here) have their panties in a knot about the Obama camp’s reaction to Bush’s shot at him from Israel the other day.  They’re hopping around shouting “Appeasement!” and “Chamberlain!” as if they had any idea what either reference meant.

(By the way, Chamberlain’s ‘appeasement’ was not in talking to Hitler, but in giving him half of Czechoslovakia.  Mark that down because it’ll be important in a minute.)

“Appeasement” is a stone the self-styled followers of Reagan should be very careful about throwing. Their poster-boy was a worse appeaser than Chamberlain ever was.  And by that I mean that Chamberlain negotiated a treaty that everyone knew about, but Reagan traded arms for hostages on the sly and got caught.  All the while, talking tough like a movie star reading a script.  Which he was.

The Reaganites are scandalized because Obama has said he would talk to our enemies.  That of course, being the worst thing you can do in any situation.  It’s always better to swagger and sabre-rattle and bluster.  You know, “Speak loudly, because you have a tiny, um… stick.  What would Roosevelt say?  Here’s what Dick Cheney said:

“I believe that it’s not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn’t sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.’‘

Apparently Dick Cheney and I agree on one thing: it was not a coincidence that the hostages came home when Reagan became president.

Learning the wrong lesson from History

Mark Twain said; “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes”.  There was a case back in 1938 where Hitler made demands and Chamberlain compromised on them, and because of that all of WWII is now Chamberlain’s fault.  The lesson?  “Never, ever listen to your enemies!”  All situations are just like Nazi Germany, and sitting down to talk with the other side (who shall henceforth be called ‘the bad-guys’) legitimizes them and invites attack.  You should demand the other side surrender and kiss your ass before you’ll even talk to them, even if it will get them expelled as representatives of their people.  Got it?

Sorry, but that’s just stupid. I mean brutishly, unforgivably stupid in a way that cannot be explained by anything but childish insecurity.  It’s a confusion of naked power with confident strength.  It might be an ideal strategy if you are God and you combine invulnerability with genocidal malice and truly unlimited power, but in no other case.  As a way for mortals to meet mortals, it is the height of hubris. It is the pride that goeth before a fall.  Obama knows that; he is far more a student of history than his critics.

Oh, and Neville Chamberlain, remember him? He pushed for rearming Britain and it was he, not Churchill who in 1939, declared war on Germany.  And though his earlier policies (which had strong public support at the time) had failed and he was forced to resign as Prime Minister, he became an effective member of Churchill’s war cabinet.

Chamberlain was an appeaser like Reagan, then he changed.  But his name and legacy are still used as an epithet for politicians to throw around. You know the old saying about ‘glass houses’…


Categories: Politics
  1. May 17, 2008 at 14:40 | #1

    These venal dimwits are grasping at straws. Unfortunately, in the dimwitted nation, that usually works.

  2. May 18, 2008 at 09:00 | #2

    Aggression has never been stopped by diplomacy..not one single time in history! Slowed down, yes but if the mindset is to take over a territory then diplomacy will not stop it unless it is the diplomacy of Teddy Roosevelt..walk softly and carry a big stick…in other word it is negotiations from a point of supremacy.

    The fact remains that Obama is a left wing socialist who has never..not one time crossed party lines to help bring about any change..and there is no reason to believe he will do so if he is elected. In fact I expect to see him and his left wing supporters make a grab for the constitution and suspend it so they can put their socialist ideas in place..he is to me the same as Chevez..a power hungry mad man who talks a good talk but I just cannot believe..bird of a feather flock together and he has been flocking with some bad birds.

  3. May 18, 2008 at 10:11 | #3

    Thanks, GUYK!  I can always count on you for a view through the looking glass. Of course anyone to the left of Ron Paul is a socialist to you, no point in arguing that. But all talk and no game?  Won’t cross party lines?  The view doesn’t jibe with reality either. In the Illinois legislature and since, Obama established a very solid record of bi-partisanship.  He’s very good at listening to the other side of an argument and so far has been the best candidate at recognizing that America is made up of a wide range of ethnicities and beliefs.  And he is very good at telling people things they need to hear, that they don’t want to hear.

    And by the way, all the “supremacy” in the world won’t help you one bit in asymmetric warfare.  You’re still going to get bombs in coffee shops.  Now if you can change the conditions that are needling the populace that supports the terrorists or dictators, you can pull the rug out from under them. Doors that used to be open to them start closing.  You can accomplish overnight with economics what can’t ever be done with bombs.

    Quick question: if we’d been trading with Cuba instead of trying to isolate them, would they have stayed communist all these years?  Look at China, turning towards capitalism and democracy as fast as any country of a billion people could ever be expected to without a violent revolution that would screw up the entire world. How is it being done?  Metaphorically speaking, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart are doing it.

    Here’s a bitter pill – in case you have not realized it, we’re never going to be “supreme” again.  That was an accident of post WWII history and it won’t be repeated. We are still very powerful, of course, but that power has limits in comparison to the global community. Other countries have to compromise, have to listen to the other guy; we had better start learning how to live in the real world again.

  4. May 19, 2008 at 17:05 | #4

    DOF, that is one of the best pieces of writing on this subject that I have seen.  Thanks.


    Naturally you know I am going to strenuously disagree with you, but I hope you will thoughtfully consider my response.

    First, I take the strong conviction that you convey as evidence of a true commitment to both your personal values and love of country.

    However, what you claim is simply not relevant, and is indeed an illogical position.  Think, for a moment, about the treaty between Egypt and Israel.  You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would admit to at least a high probability that the treaty has prevented another all-out Arab-Israeli war.

    But more than that, I will admit I can’t prove my position, since it is impossible to prove a negative … or that something that didn’t happen was prevented by a particular action.  Your assertion, also a negative, is also unprovable. 

    Beyond the logic issue, there is the whole question of the breadth of your statement.  You have appealed to the entire span of history!  Without being a historian, I quite easily contradicted your assertion with a concrete example (grounded in the historical fact of an actual piece of diplomacy), and I am reasonably certain that a neutral historian could find many more.

    Which leads me to the next observation.  Whenever someone whose “facts”  are formed by their beliefs (rather than the opposite) is confronted with a reasoned discussion with which they disagree, the encounter immediately is diverted with absolutist statements, usually with exclamation marks or other emphatic designation.  Whether these are misinformed sentiments or the simple “big lie” trick of propagnda matters not.  It is of the same cloth: divert from true dialog over competing viewpoints to fear, doubt, hysteria and overwrought emotion.

    It is interesting that you predict the shredding of the constitution by “left wing socialists”, when in fact it is the neo-con right (fronted by Bush/Cheney) who have already done so.  And what does being liberal have to do with anything?  Are you saying that al Qaeda or the Taliban are socialists?  I can’t figure out your argument.  FDR was a liberal (socialist by your view, I suspect,) but he insisted the right of self-determination in article three of the Atlantic Charter, much to the frustration of Churchill, a Conservative.  Churchill’s elitist position (support of continuing colonial rule in the British Empire) had to yield in the face of the practical and desperate necessity of getting help to fight the Axis.  Funny how labels don’t really make too much sense.

    My sincere question to you, Guy, is this: What are you afraid of?  The inability to engage in rational discussion with those with whom you disagree is typically indicative of deeper issues ranging from doubt and insecurity to great fear.

  5. May 20, 2008 at 10:43 | #5

    I will answer your question with a question..why is it that you think that it okay to take from the producers and give to those who do not produce..

    Is it that you are still using the tired old argument that socialism has never worked because capitalists will not let it work?

    But I will tell you what I am afraid of..I am afraid that too many other businessmen will do as I did..just quit producing. I was tired of putting in double the hours than my help was working and making less per hour for my work than they were theirs..and it was my capital that I was investing..capital that I worked hard for and saved because of self discipline. But government rules..rules put in place by socialists who figure that they had more of a right to my production that I did..finally made the decision for me to just sell out and retire..and get back part of the money that I paid into social security and income taxes over the years..you see, once every one quits producing then you socialists will have no one left to loot!

    And if Obama gets elected it will happen sooner than later..businesses will either have to shut down or move off shore to make a profit..oh, I heard Obama say that he would take action to prevent business from moving off shore..how? By making a grab for constitutional property rights?

    He wants to tax big business heavily to pay for his socialist agenda..but is too ignorant of business to realize that taxes on business hurt the consumer in higher prices at the cash register..until business is forced to move off shore to make a profit and then the consumer pays by having shoddier merchandize as well as in the loss of jobs.

    You on the left call it trickle down economics..I call you greedy non producers who think you have a right to what others have earned and want to use government as the tool to steal it.

    It is ironic that we have about a five percent unemployment rate yet you socialists rant about how bad that is..when the socialist countries of Europe you want to emulate have a 10 percent or more unemployment rate..and are electing conservative leaders to try to get their economies back in shape..

    It is also a fact that the majority of people who are supporting Obama are eother the so called academia elite..those who teach because they are not able to make a living otherwise..and the young who have not had the big bite taken out of their paychecks yet and have been taught by academia that they are their brothers keeper. The hell of it is that Bush is also a loser..never one of my heroes and John McCain is not much better..although McCain does appear to be a fiscal conservative and does have a record in the senate of reaching across party lines to get something done.

    As far Obama’s record in the most left wing voting record there..and he has not one time crossed party lines to get something done.

    I am having a hard time rationalizing a vote for Mccain but I will vote libertarian before I will vote for Obama..and buy more lead in preparation to protect what is mine.

  6. May 20, 2008 at 11:14 | #6

    Bush/Cheney have striped away so much of the constitution already I find it laughable that someone would be afraid of any “Liberal” candidate doing more damage. From what evidence is that idea grounded?

    Aggression has never been stopped by diplomacy..not one single time in history!

    If I understand your point correctly, this is not the idea behind Obama’s message. The idea is to keep both sides from going to war in the first place. So with Obama stating we should talk to countries like Iran, he wants to keep us from going to war with Iran. Obviously is one side is already fighting, then defensive and offensive actions need to be taken. But war is not and should not be the only solution.

    You cannot be an imperialist nation and expect the rest of the world to be okay with everything you do as a nation. Actions done globally need global commitment and involvement which is antithetical to imperialism. I somewhat equate it to why dictatorships never work, because the whole collective group hasn’t been taken into consideration.

    The whole anti-social thing though seems a little misplaced. Just because someone might have policy ideas separate from your thoughts doesn’t mean they are socialist. And Just because someone likes some ideas that are socialist in nature doesn’t mean they are a socialist.

    Furthermore it should be said that there is not one size shoe fits all solution in government. For example, a completely conservative policy will not work any better than a completely liberal policy. A completely libertarian policy will work no better than a completely social policy.

    The best system is one that uses policies because they work rather than for ideological reasons. Maybe the answer is for some social policies with a mix of conservative ones, maybe not. But an all or none policy will never truly work.

  7. May 20, 2008 at 17:46 | #7

    Guy:  I never said I believe in taking from one and giving to another in the way you have stated.  And I never said I was a socialist in the way you define that term, though I do support universal health care and some other things you certainly wouldn’t like.

    The rest of your polemic is pretty interesting.  Since there are lots of people who have made a lot of money under the same rules and conditions under which you operated as a business owner, I kind of have to wonder…

  8. May 21, 2008 at 07:31 | #8

    GUYK on Obama’s “partisaniship”:

    “…who has never..not one time crossed party lines to help bring about any change..”
    “…he has not one time crossed party lines to get something done.”

    Repeating it doesn’t make it true, GUYK.  Obama makes a constant practice of getting bipartisan support for legislation.  There are plenty of examples; here’s one that ought to be near and dear to you:

    Obama and Coburn revive effort to stop no-bid FEMA contracts

    Having scored a high-profile victory on their bill to set up an online federal spending database, the unlikely freshman duo of Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are hoping their fourth bid to crack down on no-bid contracting at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will finally make it to the president’s desk.

    The Senate has passed four versions this year of Obama and Coburn’s language requiring FEMA to accept competitive bids for hurricane reconstruction contracts valued above $500,000, but both chambers have yet to give their plan the force of law. As conferees near agreement on the defense authorization bill amid election-year pressures to appear tough on wasteful spending, the freshmen are pushing for their block on no-bids to emerge in the conference report.

    Got that?  He’s working to make federal spending more transparent to the taxpayers who foot the bill – a vital step in ferreting out wasteful spending.  And then he’s trying to keep taxpayer money from being wasted in no-bid contracts.  In a bill co-sponsored by. a. Republican. 

    There’s no rationalizing it or weaseling out of it: when you say he has “not one time crossed party lines to help bring about any change” just remember, you are saying something that is not true.  I’ve watched Obama since he first became prominent here in Illinois and he’s a very different kind of guy.  He reaches out across party lines and keeps reaching out.  It’s one of his defining characteristics and saying otherwise is a lie.

    GUYK on academia: “…the so called academia elite..those who teach because they are not able to make a living otherwise..”

    No one else answered that one so I will.  Odds are good I’ve known a hell of a lot more college professors than you, and most of them could make a lot more money in industry than they do in academia.  They teach because they want to contribute something to the next generation and to our country.  Universities are engines of economic innovation in this or any country – we owe a lot of our prosperity to our higher education system which is the envy of the world and brings in bright, productive people from other countries who want to stay here and make America stronger.

    My dad was a college professor, and I have never met any individual in my life with a wider range of practical skills than him.  So if you want to be an anti-elitist, go ahead, but it won’t cut any ice here.  I’ve known smart, hard-working people with and without formal education – not everyone walks the same path.  But it takes both kinds to make a society that works.

    And you still haven’t answered my question about Cuba.

  9. james old guy
    May 21, 2008 at 12:54 | #9

    Guyk, your wasting your time, Obama is the answer to all the worlds problems. The second coming of Jimmy Carter and we all know how well that turned out.

  10. May 21, 2008 at 13:05 | #10

    I’d say I’m done with Guyk and James. Neither present any new arguments or show any sign of wanting a real debate or discussion. If either want to step down from the hill and stop proselytizing their ideologies and have a real discussion or sharing of ideas I’ll listen. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time and energy.

  11. May 21, 2008 at 20:00 | #11

    As long as Obama’s not the 2nd coming of W, we’re in good shape.

  12. james old guy
    May 22, 2008 at 10:33 | #12

    “Universities are engines of economic innovation in this or any country – we owe a lot of our prosperity to our higher education system which is the envy of the world and brings in bright, productive people from other countries who want to stay here and make America stronger.”

    I have to agree with George on this. So why is it that both political parties keep insisting that the education system is broken? If our lower education system is so broke how do we manage to produce a quality higher education system. Personally I think its an easy target,no one is every satisfied with education and never will be. Its an easy talking point when you want to avoid other issues. So if your candidate of choice keeps harping on education then he or she is avoiding answering issues they don’t want to take a stand on.

  13. May 22, 2008 at 10:56 | #13

    If our lower education system is so broke how do we manage to produce a quality higher education system.

    This is two different issues here, lower ed is different and also funded differently than higher ed. In other words, one can suck and the other can be on top of their game.

    I think when most politicians talk of education they mention the lower education system. Which in many ways needs repair. Yes it still functions and gets the job done, but lags behind many other education systems around the world and could use some help. All of the Indian students (that are married with kids) in my Graduate School program plan to move to India when they graduate, get their kids educated in India till High School age, then come back to the US for Higher Education for their kids.

    This to me is pretty telling in terms of where our education system stands.

    I know a couple teachers (a couple friends and Fiance) in the lower education system and they constantly talk about lack of funding and resources. Me personally, I think there are multiple problems and not just one solution. But some little steps can help.

    If I hear a politician talk about education and they do not bring up the multiple issues with the system and offer some solutions than I assume, as James does, that the politician is avoiding real issues. But if the candidate can actually talk about the problems and offer reasonable solutions then I will listen.

  14. May 22, 2008 at 11:04 | #14

    I think that no matter how badly our lower education system is broken, it will still produce some well-educated people for two reasons.  First, it isn’t broken everywhere; many schools do a good job, just not enough of them and certainly not in poor areas which is a big problem.  Second, certain people will wind up educated no matter what you do to them; they’re just highly motivated for varying reasons some of which are well understood and some of which amount to “because that’s how they are”.  Then our university system has a pretty good filter for finding those individuals and recruiting them.

  15. May 22, 2008 at 21:36 | #15

    As a result of this post, I have read a few blogs that talked about appeasement. I thought this one was pretty concise.


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