For today’s QuickNews just click here!
Warning! Intense Rant!
One might laugh if it were not so sad. The President of the United States, stands in front of the Israeli Parliament and argues that diplomacy equals appeasement.
Of course, he did not say it quite that way. As I understand it he substituted the word “negotiation” for diplomacy. Then he put “terrorists and radicals” on the other side of the table from the purported “negotiators” (read Obama). Then he said this would result in appeasement. Well, sorry. This is even worse than just coming out and saying diplomacy is appeasement. First, it misrepresents what Obama has been talking about. He wants to use diplomacy. Second, it lumps all people and circumstances together into a fictional group of ”terrorists and radicals”. This is degrading, to put it mildly. So I will be polite to President Bush and just attack the real effect of what he was saying — that he opposes using diplomacy because it would amount to appeasement.
I have read a variety of comments criticizing President Bush for playing domestic politics abroad, and sending the “wrong message”. I have not read commentary on how sad this is.
Appeasement did happen in Europe, and it was a calamity. It was a calamity because it meant capitulation and betrayal. In this sense it ended the hope of what diplomacy could have achieved.
Churchill made some memorable comments about appeasement. The first
An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last.
Chamberlain was given a choice between war and dishonor. He chose dishonor and he will have war … later.
A point of order - Churchill did not oppose diplomacy. He opposed capitulation and betrayal in the face of evil. Indeed, he negotiated an alliance with Stalin (radical and terrorist?) because Churchill thought Hitler was the more immediate evil. No doubt that President Bush missed this “subtle” point.
So, just what was President Bush trying to do? I would guess that President Bush chose to focus on the historical record of appeasement because of its link to infamy (capitulation and betrayal). It was calculated to stir up an emotional reaction against people (in particular Barrack Obama) who would like to use diplomacy. But where is the infamy in suggesting that we use diplomacy???? I just don’t get it.
Instead, I feel a great sadness because we (in the US) have ourselves danced dangerously close to the “cliffs of infamy”. It was we who invaded Iraq on false pretenses. It is we who continue to detain people in Guantanamo without legal recourse. It is we who endorse torture as a method of interrogation. Ah well.
Sadness is I think the appropriate reaction. Our history is being cheapened by people who play with words, history, and lives. Infamous, non? Let us remember this so that we might learn from it. It is, after all, our history too.
The image? From BBC catalogue of images of the Bush visit and reprinted here for the purpose of stirring up anger at this fool of a man.
FOLLOW - For those who are interested in the history of “appeasement” before the Second World War, just do a Google search of the word. There is a wealth of information, and looking at this brings back the appalling circumstances of those days.
2d FOLLOW - We tend to forget that before the Second War, Hitler had strong support from many people and institutions. This included German industrialists. These people, in turn, had links to many financial institutons, including American investment banks. President Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, was connected to several of these banks. Prescott Bush was not an appeaser or a Nazi, but he did make money from his German clients, apparently after the war started, and perhaps even after the US entered the war. The Guardian reports on the minutia. There are rather weird stories as well that Prescott Bush may have been connected to a plot against FDR back in 1933. BBC ran a story on this.
So what? It says absolutely nothing about the President. It says much about the ethical ambiguities surrounding the pre-war period when appeasement did not have the same stigma that it carries now. Would current President Bush have been a stalwart Churchill man had he lived back then? Hmmm. No idea. Would I? I will never know. But consider one guy who was — Bill Fiske. Wealthy and glamorous son of a US investment banker, and two time Olympic gold medal winner in the four man bobsled, he died fighting in the Battle of Britain before the US entered the war. Quite a hero in my book. The above links to his Wikipedia entry. But a Google search of his name, brings out more about him. Here is a second example with a nice photo. I see that the last link may not work so well, here is another. RIP Bill!
3rd FOLLOW - Finally, let us all once agin remember how brutal and horrible the war was. How many suffered. How many died. We cannot add up the misery. God, we do not want to repeat the follies that led to it. But in my view, making fatuous comparisons to this grim past does not help us now.
4rth FOLLOW - I thought I might cool off a bit, but my mind was jarred yet again on the topic of the Second War, Israel, terrorism and such. Ruth Gruber wrote an interesting piece on the formation of Israel in NYT today. I was reminded that it was the European war and the holocaust of the Jews in Europe that led to Truman’s decision to back the establishment of the Jewish state in the Middle East. Interesting that Marshall was opposed. Anyway, right or wrong, it was imposed on the region. We may like to forget the imposition, but there it is.
5TH FOLLOW - May 21st - Perhaps President Bush had Israel in mind when he criticized those who would negotiate with “radicals and terrorists”. Today it comes out that Israel has been holding secret negotiations with Syria for some time to develop a comprehensive peace deal. Interesting.
5th FOLLOW - Well, is this is embarassing or what? If anyone has any doubt about whether the historical reference to “appeasement” was appropriate, check out this video of a Chris Mathews interview of a conservative blow hard who tries to defend the president. Chris hits this nail on the head. The New Yorker article also gives a nice profile of Chris.