Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Triumph of Rhetoric over Education

I watched the following clip in amazement:

I have a theory that often ideas get their facts worn off as people use them and overuse them. People simply grab on to convenient pop culture moments and pop off. Munich has become the Right Wing's convenient handle for alleging that the left will talk the country into further danger, rather than act to head off danger.

But like others have pointed out, it wasn't talk that was the problem with the European's actions at Munich, it was believing that by giving away territory and claims to Hitler, they'd satiate his hunger for power. That didnt' work, obviously. There's something more to this, though. The Republicans neglect what lead to Munich. They neglect the aftermath of World War I.

The Allies defeated the Germans and decided to get tough with them, to create this no-tolerance kind of policy. They imposed such draconian consequences on them that it caused a backlash among the German people, lending popular within Germany and even international support to the rise of Hitler's regime.

The horrors of the previous war were not ones people were keen on repeating. For the Europeans, who sent millions of poor souls to die in the trenches, the desire to repeat that horror was low indeed. Faced with Germany's resurgence, with deep-seated repugnance towards new wars, their hawkish attitudes were hollow at best. They had some choices. They could have stood up to them and said "This Far, No Further". They could have simply refused. Instead, they appeased, and got little for it in terms of peace.

My point is two-fold here: Talking isn't appeasement. Giving problematic regimes incentives for good behavior isn't appeasement. If we have control over the situation, if we're not simply desperately offering something to keep them from attacking us, it's not appeasement. If, for example, we offer them something positive, and they fail to do what they're supposed to do, we can take whatever we were giving back. Appeasement would be Iran threatening to roll into Israel unless we give them a territorial claim somewhere around them. Then and only then would we be truly trying to appease them. Remember where you've heard the world elsewhere: you appease a God through sacrifice, a conqueror through obedience and capitulation. The Dragon asks for virgins, and you give them that so it doesn't burn down your village.

Republicans want to pose Iran as a threat, but they're not mobilizing for war. Hell, they dismantled their nuclear weapons program five years ago. The threat we face is purely speculative, and as hard as it would be at this point, we could handily muster up the forces to defeat them. We're not nervously waiting for an army parked at our border to roll over it in their tanks.

We're doing just fine, thank you. If anybody is leading us down the path to Munich, it's those who are so hawkish, so intent on exhausting this country through unnecessary wars that we will have to capitulate on our interests to maintain our own defenses at some point.

It is useful at the end of the day to recognize that we're not infinite in our power, and that our best strategy is to be effective in choosing where we use the sticks, and judicious in where we give the carrots, to understand that the credibility of both lies in our selective use of both.

In other words, if you really want to avoid appeasement, don't get so full of bluff and bluster, so quick to pick fights and get caught up in endless quagmires, that you come to a point where somebody is stronger than you and knows it, and can wring this kind of capitulation out of you. Keep yourself strong and your powder dry.