Placating the Enemy
The voices of appeasement are familiar to historians, for we have heard them loudly, especially within the twentieth century. Intellectuals have done more than their share to convince others that standing up to aggression is a practical and moral mistake. Be nice, thoughtful, and considerate, the argument goes, and the murderers, thugs, and bullies will respond in kind; war is about misunderstanding--and a failure to ban all guns. In this framework of reality, the Romans were responsible for their own downfall for failing to be reasonable and kindly toward the Huns. Four centuries of Muslim jihad preceded the crusades, but it was the crusaders who were to blame for poor relations with Islam. If we had been more considerate of Hitler, the argument often continues, he would have been reasonable and gentle toward us. No doubt FDR was the father of Japanese kamikaze attacks, for he had made the Japanese military even angrier by resisting their military actions. If only we had only placated Stalin; Truman was responsible for the Cold War because he stood up to the kindly leader, making the Soviet Union more aggressive.
As I said in an earlier piece (“Appeasement 101”), the major failure here involves a misunderstanding of human nature. It is not a problem for most people; it is apparently a response in large part of those raised in permissive, affluent, and secular households who simply cannot understand the violence and rebellion that lurks in all our hearts.
Syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg addressed this issue squarely not long ago when discussing the Democratic Party’s endorsement of the concept that Bush has fostered terrorism. “Are we to believe,” he asked, “that once-moderate and relatively secular Morocco is slipping toward extremism because we toppled Baathist Saddam Hussein? Do we believe that the mobs that burned Danish embassies in response to cartoons wouldn’t have done so if only President Bush had gone for the l8th, 19th or 20th U.N. resolution on Iraq?” Are we to believe, he continued, that “Millions of young men yearning for meaning and craving outlets for their rage would have become computer programmers and dental hygienists if only Hussein’s statue still toward over central Baghdad? Would Pope Benedict XVI’s comments spark nothing but thoughtful and high-minded debate from the Arab street if only Al Gore or John Kerry were president?”
Will Muslim terrorists be nice if only we are nice to them? I’m beginning to read this from well-meaning Christian clerics, echoing the same penchant for waving white flags that we saw in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Goldberg concluded, “If you live your life calculating that it’s a mistake to do anything that might prompt murderers and savages to act like murderers and savages, you’ve basically decided to live under their thumb and surrender your civilization in the process.” Surrender and die.
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