Charles Kopp - Contributor
Kopp is a graduate of the New School for Social Research.
He is a composer and musician, and an ardent lover of poetry.
He has been a teacher and a systems analyst. In Lafayette,
California, he now designs websites and works on creative
projects. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org [go
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In Our Time
Would John Kerry be America's Neville
[Charles Kopp] 2/19/04
The words of Sir Neville
Chamberlain are unforgettable: “Peace
in our Time!” This seemingly victorious proclamation, viewed
with such irony a few years later, defines “appeasement.”
To suggest that the
story is relevant now is to invite emphatic protests -- after
all, no one openly speaks in favor of “appeasement.” Reviewing
events in the run up to World War Two, however, reveals more
than a few parallels. In significant ways, the foreign policy
proposed by the Democratic party is a policy of appeasement.
In September of 1938,
Chamberlain signed a treaty with Hitler and believed he had
thereby avoided a dangerous and costly conflict
with Germany. He returned home to a hero’s welcome. But
this English diplomacy came at a price: The nation of Czechoslovakia
was made to give up a portion of itself, the Sudetenland, without
a fight. Nor was this the first expansion of German borders.
Hitler had occupied the French Rhineland in March of 1936. Germany
was able to annex Austria and the rest of Czechoslovakia without
eliciting any response, and it only emboldened the Nazis.
During these years
of appeasement, Germans concluded correctly that their World
War I adversaries had lost their strength of
will. And these were not the first instances of a German violation
of the Treaty of Versailles. Even before the Nazi period, the
Treaty’s constraints on German militarization were being
quietly ignored as early as 1922. In 1935 Hitler openly repudiated
the Treaty and conscripted a 300,000 man army.
To view Sir Neville’s
error in a light revealing its full gravity, consider that
in 1938 Germany had been visibly moving
toward another war for many long years, and the intellectual
and military views of the Nazis were proudly and regularly stated.
This was a nation which believed it was entitled to eminence,
a superior race on its way to a greater destiny.
So how could Chamberlain have been so deluded as to think he
had achieved peace with Hitler? Only through a very simple human
yearning -- to avoid a European war when the previous one still
lived in the memory and feelings of all his generation. To have
known the horror of WW I, to hope for human progress, to believe
in the League of Nations, all these things made it very easy
to see what he wanted to see.
What was the cost of this deluded vision? Think only with what
ease Hitler could have been defeated, in 1935. Bear in mind that
some 45 million people died during WW II; Chamberlain died in
November of 1940, and did not have to witness the full consequences
of his actions.
The truth is that when Chamberlain first became Prime Minister
in May of 1937, there was going to be a war, whether he wanted
it or not. It can only have been a reckless idealism to see it
otherwise. There was going to be a war because of things Germans
believed about themselves and their history. There was going
to be a war because in Hitler there was a leader who embodied
these misbegotten beliefs, resonating with the great pulse of
a people seeking their rightful dominant position in the world.
Today we face a different enemy in many important respects.
Militant Islamic terrorism lacks the strength of a German engineering
and manufacturing base with which to arm a great army. On the
other hand, it does not have a single nation and capital city
in which it can be besieged. Reportedly, Al Queda and its cousins
live in a shadow empire in as many as 60 nations.
But despite a wide variety of differences, there are important
similarities. The philosophy and intentions of this enemy are
being written, preached and broadcast openly and proudly. They
believe in their own natural superiority, and even in their inalienable
right to rule this planet. And their actions taken in many places
make their intentions completely clear to all of us. And unlike
1935, there may be very compact weapons that could take more
life than all of World War Two.
What is the Democratic
party’s proposed response? It has
yet to set forth any proposal other than opposition to President
Bush’s administration. It has not presented the exact parallel
to Chamberlain -- actually giving real estate and human beings
to terrorists, or to Iraq, in exchange for promises of future
Senator Kerry came nearest to this, voting against our military
action to protect Kuwait when Iraqi military divisions were in
Kuwait terrorizing the people there at the very moment the Senator
was casting his vote. When Kerry is asked about this vote, he
has said in effect that as a veteran he understands these things.
Clearly it is a vote that cannot be explained, a question that
cannot be answered except by a personal attack on the questioner.
It seems that Kerry could give up Kuwait as easily as Chamberlain
could give up Czechoslovakia.
Generally, it is fair
to say that most Democrats feel America’s
response to terrorism should be very “multilateral,” i.e.
not opposed by any important nation, and preferably endorsed
by the United Nations. Democrats do not say what specific actions
they would have to convince the French or Germans, for example,
of the wisdom of military action against terrorists, wherever
they might be found.
In light of the recently
released list of Saddam Hussein’s
beneficiaries, it seems that some of the opposition we’ve
encountered was bought and paid for, rather than being the high
moral consideration it pretended to be at the time. How exactly
were we to avoid a veto from China, who turns out to have been
involved advancing the cause of proliferation in Libya?
Beyond being “multilateral,” it is evident that
many Democrats believe the proper response is to alter our foreign
policy, to make it more to the liking of the Muslim nations.
No one is specific here either, but evidently our friendship
with Israel is to be changed in some unnamed manner. The only
other specific often mentioned requires America to become more "cooperative," more "engaged," and
willing to listen to allies and others in a deeper, more earnest
manner. We will take the opinions of others more into account.
This will supposedly reduce the motivation for people become
terrorists, and remaining terrorists will find less support in
Taken together, the
very multilateral path, the turning away from Israel and other
foreign policy traditions, the relinquishment
of the war on terrorism to entities who do not necessarily oppose
terrorism -- how different are all these policies, really, from
appeasement? It certainly passes time with the illusion of constructive
agreement, while the enemy’s efforts proceed and strengthen.
But suppose, just
as the Germans took the world’s inaction
to be a lack of will, efforts to conciliate with terrorists and
their surrounding cultures are instead interpreted by them as
a sign of the moral weakness they already expect to see, in us?
Suppose they decide to pursue their methods and goals more aggressively?
Will those who support this ‘Peace Now’ approach
accept responsibility for future deeds, in this event? Suppose
the world’s terrorists are hoping, even now, that soon
a Democratic administration will be in power, following a much
less aggressive course of action against terrorism?
well of course. He certainly was not the first to sue for peace
with an enemy who was quietly laughing at him
the entire time. And he won’t be the last.
2004 Charles Kopp