March 15, 2009 | Faster, Please!

The Appeasers

Winston Churchill: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

They like to call themselves “realists,” but their proper name is “appeasers.”  They follow in the hollow footsteps of Neville Chamberlain, who signed an agreement with Hitler, believing it signalled “peace in our time.”  But it only encouraged the Fuhrer to believe that there was no will in the West to resist the onslaught of Nazi terror, and thus hastened the onset of the Second World War.  As Churchill darkly told Chamberlain upon his return to London, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

A group of today’s appeasers sent a letter to President-elect Obama just before the Inauguration (so that it was apparently drafted during the Gaza fighting), calling on him to negotiate with Hamas.  Others, such as the British Government, are undertaking negotiations with Hezbollah.  Vice President Joe Biden wants talks with the Taliban.  The pro-Israel Washington Institute wants to tone down the language we use, recommending we stop using phrases like “war on terror,” “global insurgency,” even “the Muslim world.” The president himself wants talks with Iran, as do numerous columnists, such as the New York Times’s Roger Cohen.  Secretary of State Clinton has dispatched diplomats to Damascus to talk to Bashar Assad.

The rationale for this surge in talks was provided in a recent issue of Newsweek, whose cover was in Islamic green, with a title in both Arabic and English:  “Radical Islam is a Fact.  Get Used to It.”  The lead essay was produced by Fareed Zakaria, and called for a more “sophisticated approach” to the Islamic world.  Zakaria argued that many of the radical Islamist groups are not part of a unified global movement against the West, that they had “local” grievances, and that these grievances could be dealt with one by one, presumably leading the groups to make peace with us.

The top “local grievance” is invariably the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Thus, General Scowcroft, one of the artisans of the failed policies of the George H.W. Bush Administration (the one that confessed failure to grasp “the vision thing”), and one of the signatories of the letter to Obama, blandly remarked “I see no reason not to talk to Hamas.”

“The main gist,” he intoned,  “is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process.  Don’t move it to the end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the US needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down.”

The full list of signatories:

–former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft;

–former Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Nancy Kassebaum Baker;

–former House International Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton;

–former World Bank president James Wolfensohn;

–former United Nations ambassador Thomas Pickering;

–former US trade representative Carla Hills;

–former White House special counsel,Theodore Sorensen;

–US/Middle East Project President Henry Siegman;

–current Obama economic adviser Paul Volcker.

All are old enough to remember that similar claims were made about Communism during the Cold War.  When President Reagan proclaimed that the Soviet Empire was destined to fail, brought the full array of American power to bear on the world Communist movement, and called upon the West to begin planning for the post-Soviet world, he was denounced as an unsophisticated and dangerous hawk.  Didn’t he understand, his critics asked, that there was an enormous variety of “Communist” movements and parties, and that many of them were quite independent of the Kremlin?  From Katherine Graham of the Washington Post to the usual editorialists on the left, Reagan was urged to take it easy on the likes of the Italian, Spanish and French Communist Parties, the so-called “Eurocommunists.”  The very same Professor Brzezinski who today calls for talks with Hamas, then argued that “Eurocommunism” was a mortal threat to the Soviet Union, and said that the success of the Eurocommunists would wreck international Communism.

It was not so.  In the years that followed, despite their local grievances and despite distinct differences in tone, the Eurocommunists remained loyal Communists.  And when the Soviet Empire fell, they fell along with it.   So it will be with Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban.  Just as the Eurocommunists could not survive without the constant aid, guidance, and funding from the Kremlin, so the various terrorist groups cannot long survive without Iran and the dark side of the Pakistani Government and the Saudi Royal Family.

Instead of bringing American power to bear on the terror masters in Tehran, Damascus, Islamabad and Riyadh, the appeasers warn that anything we do will only make things worse, just as the Cold War appeasers said that Reagan would make things worse with the Soviet Union.  Martin Kramer noted that this case had been made quite emphatically by Ambassador Chas Freeman, the recently fallen nominee to head up the National Intelligence Council.

Freeman opposed adding Hamas and Hezbollah to the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, despite Hezbollah’s attacks on Americans in the 1980s (and, Martin should have added, the 1990s, as at Khobar Towers), and Hamas’ suicide bombings of innocent Israelis.  “By openly stating and taking action to make them—to declare that we are their enemy, we invite them to extend their operations in the United States or against Americans abroad.”

In others words, appeasers like Freeman and the others advocate pre-emptive capitulation and appeasement in the hopes that the groups will only target innocents living in the Middle East.  One could not ask for a better example of Churchill’s definition of an appeaser.  This idea is both morally bankrupt and strategically dangerous because it fails to recognize the long-term, worldwide ambition of these groups.

Zakaria writes as if radical Islam will destroy itself, if only we are patient and sophisticated.

    In the end, time is on our side. Bin Ladenism has already lost ground in almost every Muslim country. Radical Islam will follow the same path. Wherever it is tried—in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in parts of Nigeria and Pakistan—people weary of its charms very quickly. The truth is that all Islamists, violent or not, lack answers to the problems of the modern world. They do not have a world view that can satisfy the aspirations of modern men and women. We do.

It is true that “bin Ladenism” has lost appeal, but that is primarily because it lost the war in Iraq, and has taken severe beatings in Lebanon and Gaza.  Nothing is more devastating to a messianic movement–and radical islam is precisely that–than defeat on the battlefield.  The jihadis claim that victory comes from God, thus the clear import of their defeat is that God is not on their side.  That is why their defeat in Iraq was so momentous, and why we must aim to defeat the jihadi regimes, above all those in Damascus and Tehran.

Zakaria is quite wrong to say that the radical jihadis “lack answers to the problems of the modern world.”  They do have answers, very appealing answers, not only to the problems of the modern world but to the most profound questions of human existence.  They are ancient answers, barbaric answers, but they have considerable appeal to many Muslims, especially if we stand back and permit them to extend their sway.  It is quite true, as Zakaria says, that most people would prefer to live in a more civilized manner, but the reason that the jihadis failed in Iraq and Afghanistan is because they were beaten by the greatest instrument of freedom in the modern world–the American military–not because the locals tired of living in a sharia state.  The overwhelming majority of Iranians detest their lives in the Islamic Republic, but the mullahs continue to rule because the West has lacked the will to defeat them and make it possible for the Iranian people to live in freedom.

The current appeasers have less excuse than the British Prime Minister, who thought he could forestall and perhaps even avoid a war with the Third Reich.  If they were really realists, the appeasers of today would recognize that we are already at war, and that, just as in the epic struggle against Nazism and Fascism, the only proper mission for the West is victory.  Instead, they seek dishonor, and the effect of their dishonorable campaign is to encourage our enemies, weaken our will, condemn the victims of radical Islam to death, torture, and misery, and hasten the day when we will be forced to fight on a much larger scale, perhaps even in our own land.

Churchill put it best the day he became Prime Minister:

    You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs – Victory in spite of all terrors – Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

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