Appeasement in Our Time

In the comments on Belmont Club yesterday, Wretchard said:

     It is supremely ironic that the outcome of political correctness may ultimately be a consociational world; a world divided into mutually hostile ethnno-religious groups restrained only by mutual fear. The world as Lebanon and the Balkans. The logical outcome of Muslim “rage” at any real and imagined slight is that every Hindu, Sikh, Jew, Orthodox Christian and just plain old Christian has the right to take the same offense. Historically, political correctness hasn’t been ‘understanding’ but its reverse — the process of feeding little bits of unresisting ethno-religious groups to the most aggressive ones — though it has pretended to be otherwise. It is, in a word, the ultimate form of political cowardice, though it has gone by many names at the expense of Cambodians, Poles, the dark races of the world and most of all the Jews.
But at the limits, this kind of appeasement at the expense of others eventually generates its own backlash. That’s why the Balkans and Lebanon are what they area, a place where everyone has retreated to their final line. So if Newsweek was hoping for yet another abject and groveling apology for an incident that wasn’t even true they may get it this time; and maybe even next time. But one day they won’t get it at all. On that day they will have scuttled their own vision of a one world; scuttled it by their own hand and they will not have the wit to know that they themselves had done it.

The current political meaning of the word “appeasement” did not emerge until the period between the First and Second World Wars, when it was applied to the catastrophic behavior of the Allies towards the emerging Axis dictatorships. Prior to that time appeasement would have been a strategic decision from weakness against a stronger enemy: Give him what he wants to buy us time until we can escape or grow strong enough to defeat him.

Until 1939, Germany was manifestly not stronger than the Allies, and Italy never was. But all through that ghastly decade the Allies appeased the two strutting thugs: German rearmament, the reoccupation of the Rhineland, the invasion of Abyssinia, Anschluss, the atrocities in Spain, and then the climactic moment in 1938 when Chamberlain stood on the airport tarmac waving a piece of paper and declared “Peace in our time!” after selling the Czechs to the Nazis.

There are two factors that make modern appeasement distinctive:

1. The appeasing power faces a foe acting out of vigorous ideological and political zeal, while lacking that characteristic itself.
2. The appeasing power abases itself before a weaker opponent.

These conditions have characterized the behavior of the West not only towards the Fascist dictatorships, but also at times towards the Communist empire in the later stages of the Cold War, and now towards the Islamist thugs in their various guises.

An examination of each factor may prove instructive.

1. The appeasing power faces a foe acting out of vigorous ideological and political zeal, while lacking that characteristic itself.

In our confrontation with the Great Islamic Jihad this condition becomes apparent. Reverse the cultures and imagine what would happen if a group of jihadis in Mosul threw a copy of the Talmud into the sump. Would Hasidim across the globe take to the streets in sidelocks and yarmulke, overturning cars and burning buildings?

One has one’s doubts.

Or, if a herdsman in Waziristan fed an Urdu Bible to his goats, would Christians rise up as one in outrage from Brisbane to Baltimore?

I wouldn’t bet on it.

But Islam, ah… that’s different.

Islam demands from the West, and often receives, a special status not accorded any other religion in the world. A performance artist who defecates on a picture of Christ or covers a menorah with condoms can not only expect no condemnation, but is likely to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. But someone who so much as dog-ears a page of the Koran can expect the full wrath of the Ummah to descend on him, and will likely have to go underground and live under an assumed name. Just ask Salman Rushdie.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice implicitly accepted the special status of Islam when she said, “Disrespect for the Holy Koran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be tolerated by the United States.” Why? Since the United States tolerates disrespect for the Bible and the Talmud, why is the Koran different?

No wonder the Islamists think they’ve got us whupped.

2. The appeasing power abases itself before a weaker opponent.

This one is hard to figure out: what makes a stronger power kowtow to a weaker one? Is it out of a feeling of guilt, that we are somehow responsible for the degraded state of our foes? Or is it maybe a sense of “fair play”, that somehow we are obliged to level the playing field and create circumstances in which our enemies can confront us on approximately equal terms?

In any case, the result is to blindfold and shackle ourselves in preparation for a struggle against those who would kill us without compunction.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Why do appeasers appease? What are their goals?

In Chamberlain’s case, it was a desire that life return to normal, that things might continue as they had been. The gentlemen of England could continue their activities in Parliament and the City, enjoying the matches at Wimbledon and Lords, retiring to Hertfordshire for extended weekends of pheasant shooting, and not thinking overmuch about what was happening to people in the Sudetenland. And, as Wretchard has pointed out, not dwelling overmuch on what might happen to the Jews.

The case can be made that Chamberlain knew that the return to normalcy would not last long, that he was buying time to modernize Britain’s armaments and prepare for the inevitable conflict with the Third Reich. But in September of 1938, for public consumption, it was “peace in our time”. It is understandable that Hitler thought the Czechoslovakia of 1938 would be reprised in Poland in 1939.

If we are in the GWOT equivalent of September 1938, what will be our equivalent of September 1939?

And why are we appeasing Muslims now?

Presumably we want things to continue as they have been; we want to return to our jobs and our televisions and not think too much about Christians in Indonesia or women in Saudi Arabia. With a little more time, we can figure out a way to stave off the Jihad Apocalypse, and maybe avoid the moment when Islamic zealots acquire nuclear or biological weapons and use them.

With a little more time we can finesse the bomb away from the mullahs in Iran. We can keep the Musharraf regime in Pakistan intact. We can look the other way while thousands or millions of people are slaughtered in Darfur and the Congo and Uzbekistan and Syria and…

We can return to normal. If we have to give the Palestinians Gaza or the West Bank or the Right of Return, well, that’s a small price to pay, isn’t it? After all, peace in our time is worth a few million Jews.

20 thoughts on “Appeasement in Our Time

  1. I concur with the analysis that we have, in our desire to be courteous and tolerant, lifted Islam and the Koran up in a way we would have never afforded other religions. Threaten me with death and I will complement your culture. Huh?

    In Islam, a piece of paper or a billboard with verses of the Koran is considered holy. Thus Koranic verses projected on the body of a women is a sure death sentence.

    If Newsweek retracts their lies, the good and educated people of the Middle East will, by and large, consider this retraction to be because of pressure from the Bush administration, or better yet, a plot by the all powerful CIA.

    The fact is that a population hell bent on waging war (jihad) will believe Newsweek if it incites them to violence but not if it gives them cause for peace. Suffer the insufferable or else. At what point does one say to hell with the platitudes, it is not our holy war, but it is a holy war none the less.

    Reminds me of the menacing drunk who keeps repeating himself and defying any logical position. Sooner or later…

  2. Baron,

    And why are we appeasing Muslims now?

    In the context of your post, I take “we” to mean the liberal mainstream media and the left/liberal politicians and voters in the US. The answer then is because they (Muslims) are a Designated Victim Group. They are Oppressed by Designated Oppressor Groups like the US Military, US Government (at least during those damn Republican administrations), the Jews and, the biggest DOG group of all, white, male Christians. Remember, there is no room for the latter in the Multiculturalist Pantheon worshipped by the Left.

    While we wring our hands about offending the short-fused, thin-skinned Muslims, Lee Harris reminds us of the structural basis for the persistent tension between the Christians and Jews on the one hand, and the Muslims on the other.

    “The Koran, however, differed radically from other sacred books. They were inspired by God, but the Koran was the very word of God, and in the language that God clearly spoke when he was by himself, namely, Arabic. Islam would never have been such a challenge to the earlier faiths if it had claimed to have discovered a new god; but it didn’t. It claimed to be centered on the same god of the Jews and Christians — only the Koran represented this god correctly.

    Mohammed insisted that any conflict between the new revelation and the previous ones could only have arisen through the accidental or deliberate misinterpretation of God’s word by Jews and by Christians. Thus Islam was born flinging a challenge into the face of both Jews and Christians. It claimed to understand the Jewish and the Christian God better than the Jews and the Christians understood Him; and it was this extraordinary claim that explained the common medieval interpretation of Islam as a Christian heresy — which is why the often politically incorrect Dante put Mohammed in the pit of hell reserved for schismatics and heretics.”

    At least Dante Alighieri was no appeaser. He correctly identified Mohammed as a War Lord heretic, who had set out to hijack the God of the Jews and Christians and place him in the service of empire building. Would that our leftist and liberal breathren, both in and out of the MSM, had such wisdom.

  3. Excellent post.

    I have a couple of quibbles–I think that when Condoleezza Rice said the US wouldn’t tolerate disrespect for the Koran, she was referring to disrespect by an agent of the government acting in his official duties (i.e. a soldier/guard at Gitmo). I can’t imagine she was referring to private acts of citizens, who are probably quite welcome to stuff Korans down toilets all they want (or Bibles too, for that matter).

    Another quibble–I don’t think that the majority of present-day appeasers in the US are doing it for strategic reasons. I think they’re doing it to feel themselves to be good, nice, multiculturally respectful people, who are following your own previously listed PC Commandments to the letter.

  4. neo — I take your point about US gov’t policy vs. the Koran. But can you imagine the government even having a policy about the correct treatment of Bibles or Talmuds? It’s simply not necessary. The exaggerated kabuki dance we do around the sensibilities of Muslims is not only absurd; it’s damaging: it accords credibility to their claims that Islam is supreme and deserves the ultimate respect.

    As for the reason for appeasement, among the general public I think your assertion is correct. But why are our leaders appeasing? Why are the polite fictions about the Saudis maintained long past their sell date? I don’t think concern about oil adequately explains it.

  5. M. Simon — You are correct. By 1938 the Luftwaffe was the most technically advanced and formidable military force the world had seen. The British needed time. Unfortunately, they didn’t get quite as much as they needed…

  6. I think this is a fascinating time where in real (Blog) time we can witness meaningful debate in re concepts like Islamic appeasement of a group that isn’t worthy of appeasement.

    It took Rather 8-9 days; Newsweek caved in 3 days. The MSM bias/agenda is again confirmed

  7. Not only that, but Newsweek seems to have learned from the CBS debacle; it caved by apologizing and retracting, which, of course, CBS never did.

  8. neo said:

    “Another quibble–I don’t think that the majority of present-day appeasers in the US are doing it for strategic reasons. I think they’re doing it to feel themselves to be good, nice, multiculturally respectful people, who are following your own previously listed PC Commandments to the letter. “

    I can’t quite agree with you on your second point. I feel that all PC Commandments are strategic. Their purpose is to paint leftists as more caring and compassionate people. This makes it easier to drag the world to a political goal which, when implemented in the past, has proven to be ruthless and cold.

    And beyond that, anyone should be able to recognize that it is no service to humanity to tolerate the completely intolerant.

  9. Perhaps it is the tragic flaw of hope that causes leaders to attempt appeasement in the misguided belief that peace can be bought with treasure and no blood. But errors can only be measured against the cold bluish light of hindsight.

    Our current policy in the WOT is at heart neither 1938 or 1942, but both. If Chamberlain’s paper was torn asunder by Nazi tanks, perhaps Bush’s modified appeasement and Hail Mary pass for peace — through limited, minimal damage wars; domino-theory democracy; and quiet patience in the face of affronts and insults, foreign and domestic — may just give us ‘peace in our time.’

    It is a quiet almost-war that leaves the left half of the nation under the impression that it is not even being fought. Its stated goals are nebulous and vague, even though its actual implementation is rolling out as surely as Operation Torch established a beachhead in North Africa to prepare our way into Italy.

    Perhaps we would not be faced with our current situation that the WOT is outlasting in duration WWII, if in the smoldering ruins of September 12 we had declared Total War. But how many times multiplied would be the dead beyond those in Darfur?

    Time will have its vote, and its veto.

    Perhaps Bush’s name will be remembered alongside Wilson’s and Chamberlain’s. Or perhaps he will be remembered only as Bush, the new paradigm.

  10. The demands that Islam makes Baron on the infidels are called for in Islam.

    The process is dhimmitude. If you think that it will end with “respect for the Quran” then you will find yourself sadly mistaken.

    Look no further than Saudi Arabia to realize what life will be like for you in the future.

  11. LHM — No kidding. The road for us has only two possible ends: conversion or death. Even dhimmitude is only a temporary arrangement, a holding pattern until we can be converted or exterminated.

  12. This brand of Islam which, not only condones killing for flushing a Koran down a toilet, but, indeed, calibrates it, is the problem. I choose to call this brand of Islam; Islamofascism. However, if Muslims choose to call it the true Islam, then they have made their choice.

    There is no room in our world for such a murderous ideology. The rest of us are not required to put up with it. In fact, it is within our rights to do away with it altogether.

    Flushing the Koran down the toilet would be a childish offense, if it had been done. However, it is not truly something to get offended by.

    When I see Islamic idiots standing in the streets of Tehran burning the American flag, I don’t even bother to get offended. You know why? Because the flag is just a symbol. To think it is anything more is idolatry.

    Listen Mr. Islamofascist, you can go ahead and burn my countries flag, you can beat an effigy of George Bush with a stick, and you can urinate on my Bible. I don’t care. They are just objects.

    What I care about are the principles and people of our country. What I care about is the words and ideas of the Bible. Those, no one can take away.

    We need to refuse to even play this ridiculous game with the Islamofasicsts. We should not be apologizing, as if we had actually desecrated what Islam stands for.

    If Islam stands for anything, it ought to stand for people loving each other, and loving God. And the God of Islam ought to stand for the same thing.

    If He does not stand for people loving each other, then he is a god who ought to be cast out.

  13. This one is a hard to figure out: what makes a stronger power kowtow to a weaker one?

    That’s fairly simple, in our case- we are not willing to kill someone for being obnoxious.


  14. In the early 1920’a Winston Churchill convinced the Cabinet to establish the “Ten Year Rule” for defense budgeting. That is: There will be at least ten years available for rearmement before a another World War, other than colonial police the only defence requrement is to maintan a mininum cadre for expansion when the ten year noitce is given. (This was probally a necessary policy then to save any sort of war fighting capability.) The policy was recinded in 1936. 1938 is the first year that saw any defence increases. While I think it is overstated in the case of Mr. Chamberlin himself, it is quite possible that his advisors were thinking in terms of buying time.

  15. Hank — there’s no doubt that the British were trying to buy time in 1938. The reason they had to buy time in 1938 was that they’d been appeasing the Germans ever since they turned a blind eye to German rearmament in the late ’20s. By 1935 it was clear that the West would eventually have to face down Germany at some point. But they waited until the Germans had thoroughly modernized their military and had the most formidable fighting machine in the world.

    That is the weakness of the democracies — they tend to postpone and procrastinate until problems become bigger and more deadly.

    That’s what I’m afraid of in our approach to the Great Islamic Jihad — why are we appeasing? Is it impossible for our leaders to maintain their elective offices if they don’t appease? Is there something the public doesn’t know, some awful strategic reality, that requires us to appease? Or is it just the easiest route, to postpone the inevitable a little longer so that congressman can continue to play golf with lobbyists and load their spending bills down with pork for their constituents?

    While we appease, the jihadis are breeding and recruiting. The mullahs will get their nukes, and the problem will become more difficult. Ten years from now we may wish we had acted differently.

  16. We are appeasing because, in the end, it is hard to believe that the muslim threat is a real threat the way Germany was to England. There is a cold, unspoken calculus that lurks in the dark recesses of mind, that tallies up the number that would be the ‘acceptable’ dead. For this war, the threshold has not yet been crossed, because although Americans are threatened, the decision has been made that America is not threatened.

    Never to discount the honor due our solider, our 21st century engagements with these 12th century warriors are essentially turkey shoots even in the limited ways we fight them. As a people, we would not stomach the inequity of the massive carnage that would result from this war being fought the way it probably should be. It make take a nuke to change that perception.

    As a free people, when our capabilities allow us to incinerate entire nations at will, we recoil from the power. Perhaps it is weakness or lack of foresight, or perhaps it is the wise fear that our God-like powers should not be exersized on the whim of our all-too-human shells.

    I do not fear that I will forfeit my goodness by supporting the killing of beasts and savages.

    But I do fear how confidently I believe it.

  17. Quote: “We can return to normal”.

    There’s no return to “normal” awaiting us. Once the Loony Mullahs get their nukes, it will be a whole new ball game.

    It won’t be over with until there are millions of people dead.

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