June 07, 2006
"The March of Folly"
Yesterday marked the 62nd anniversary of the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler. On the shores of France, thousands of American and British troops were cut to pieces as the D-Day invasion commenced; but even more made it through. It would be nearly another year and thousands of more lives before the Allies crushed the Third Reich.
The consequences of the rise of Nazi Germany and the war to destroy it are staggering. The death toll estimates are nearly incomprehensible -- 21,000,000 civilians and 20,000,000 military personnel. The political aftermath was just as devastating. Eastern European nations were liberated of their Nazi overlords only to be enslaved again as Soviet puppets. The world was, in effect, divided in two; the Cold War was on and would rage for nearly 50 years.
And it was all the result of a single act of appeasement in 1938.
In that year, Hitler annexed Austria to Germany and made it known that his next target was the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia. In an effort to stem Germany's aggression, English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, hat in hand, met with the Fuhrer in Munich in September. That meeting produced a "non-aggression" pact in which Hitler was given control of the Sudetenland in exchange for assurances that he wouldn't invade any other countries. Upon returning to England, Chamberlain declared that the Munich Non-Aggression Pact represented "peace in our time."
Six months later, Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. Six months after that, he invaded Poland, prompting England to declare war on Germany. And by the time Hitler ventilated himself six years later, over 40,000,000 people had been killed.
Historians still debate whether the agreement to sacrifice the people of the Sudetenland to appease Hitler was demonstrative of Chamberlain's naivete or his cruelty.
But what's not debatable is that appeasement of tyrants is a hopeless and dangerous policy, and usually exacerbates the very behavior the appeaser is seeking to quell.
This is something President Bush has maintained throughout the War on Terror. He and other administration leaders have repeatedly said that negotiating or appeasing terrorists and their patrons is bad policy and that doing so merely encourages more attacks.
So it was something of shock to see this AP report yesterday:
A package of incentives presented Tuesday to Iran includes a provision for the United States to supply Tehran with some nuclear technology if it stops enriching uranium _ a major concession by Washington, diplomats said.
The offer was part of a series of rewards offered to Tehran by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, according to the diplomats, who were familiar with the proposals and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were disclosing confidential details of the offer.
This report, assuming it's true, is so stunning on so many levels that it's hard to decide where to begin to address it.
First, it's obviously a policy of appeasement and, just like Chamberlain's "pact" with Hitler, doomed to fail. Second, the Iranian theocracy has a long history of accepting diplomatic overtures from the United States only to sucker-punch us during the handshake. And third, this very policy was applied by the Clinton Administration to North Korea's pursuit of nukes; I griped about the results of that agreement in 2002:
And Clinton left little doubt which end of the political spectrum he prefers when, in what ranks as one of the strangest moments in presidential history, he publicly offered condolences for the 1994 death of North Korea's monstrously brutal Stalinist dictator, Kim Il-Sung. Clinton punctuated his condolences in a dangerous fashion: he moved to implement a mindnumbingly bad agreement negotiated in 1994 by That Simpleton Jimmy Carter several weeks before Kim arrived at the gates of Hell. As this New York Post editorial explains, the agreement provided that the U.S., South Korea and Japan "would build North Korea two modern 'light water' nuclear reactors" in exchange for Pyongyang halting its nuclear weapons program -- the idea being that a light water reactor would not yield weapons-grade plutonium.
Of course, North Korea agreed to the deal. And, of course, North Korea didn't abide by the deal. "It was a bad deal then and it's a worse deal now," the Post writes. "North Korea has not frozen its weapons programs. And it turns out that the modern reactors -- whose construction is due to start this week -- will produce weapons-grade plutonium anyway."
And here's the kicker: the United States continues to honor its side of the Carter-Kim agreement and is assisting North Korea, a charter member of the Axis of Evil, with the reactor construction! As the New York Post insists, President Bush should cancel this remnant of Bill Clinton's fetish for communists, and move to replace North Korea's deadly regime.
If it's true that the United States is going to give Iran, the world's top patron of terrorism, nuclear technology in exchange for a promise to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, it's a sure bet that Iran will 1) promptly break the agreement and 2) acquire nuclear weapons more quickly than they otherwise would have.
Appeasement didn't work with Hitler. It didn't work with North Korea. And it won't work with Iran's mad mullahs. In fact, a policy of appeasement always achieves the opposite of the appeaser's goals.
In her book The March of Folly, historian Barbara Tuchman examines instances of governments throughout history pursuing "policy contrary to self-interest" -- what she terms "folly."
Let's hope this AP report isn't accurate. But if it is, then President Bush has fallen in step with the long march of folly.
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