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I try not to involve myself in international politics. I don’t understand the issues well enough to comment intelligently, and I would rather keep my mouth closed and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt.
But I’ve noticed that things happening on an international level can often be examined from the way people behave individually. Human nature is human nature, whether it involves a person, a culture, a society, or a nation.
So let’s talk about the characteristic of appeasement, shall we?
Appeasement is defined as yielding or conceding “to the belligerent demands of (a nation, group, person, etc.) in a conciliatory effort, sometimes at the expense of justice or other principles.” Appeasement basically says, “If you don’t hurt me, I’ll do something nice for you.”
I know of a divorced gentleman whose 11-year-old son is acting out. Badly. The boy is rude, defiant and rebellious. His father, understandably overwhelmed with guilt at the divorce and unable to live with his son full time, mostly ignores the bad behavior because he wants the time with his son to be peaceful. On the rare times the child does something appropriate (like saying thank you), the father overwhelms the boy with overzealous praise and then buys him a widget. So it’s no surprise that the boy is becoming sly and crafty and manipulates his father as easily as a yo-yo on a string. Yes, appeasement as a parenting strategy is a failure.
What about appeasement as a foreign policy? Consider Æthelred the Unready, king of England during 978-1016 A.D. He was a weak ruler who was unable to muster either the interest or the courage to fight off the marauding “Danes” (Vikings) who were pillaging his shores. Instead he appeased them by paying enormous amounts from his treasury to stop the pillaging. How did this strategy work? Well, it taught the Vikings that they could take treasure from the king until they wanted more, after which they merely had to “act out” (perform some brutal raids on coastal villages) to get the king to fork over more cash. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
More recently, Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy with Nazi Germany has been blamed for allowing Hitler to grow strong enough to conduct the atrocious acts that defined World War II.
Even more recently, outdoor Christmas decorations have been banned in parts of Berlin because “someone” might get offended. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
When has appeasement ever worked in the long run? Oh sure, it’s often a quick easy fix for short-term difficulties; but anyone knows that it’s a rotten strategy for long-term stability or character development. The problem is, appeasement continually shifts boundaries. An appeased child will test and push until the boundaries shift again. And again. And again. This teaches the child that he can manipulate, act out, or otherwise behave in an immature fashion until he is bribed to behave.
And the parent can become terrorized by the demands of the child, held hostage by guilt or political correctness or other emasculating emotion that renders him helpless in the face of increased misbehavior or lawlessness. The parent finds himself making endless excuses for why the child is acting out, even while concocting more elaborate ways to appease.
Children aren’t dumb. They know a weak parent when they see one. Weakness is not admired by children – they’re wired to exploit it, whether it’s a bully picking on a weaker kid or a child manipulating his father’s guilt. Children will take advantage of every chink in the parental armor unless they are stopped.
Kids instinctively understand one very primitive rule: Might Makes Right. Parents are Mighty; therefore they’re Right. For children – who do not have the maturity or morality to behave as adults – this is a good rule. It applies until the children are mature enough to understand why boundaries are in place, and then begin to apply boundaries to their own behavior.
But children who grow up without boundaries never learn the critical skill of self-control. Sadly, our culture is currently flooded with out-of-control children who, of course, grow into out-of-control adults who raise another generation of out-of-control children.
The child of this divorced gentleman is already becoming a “victim” in his own mind. If he can classify himself as an eternal victim, then someone will always give him what he wants. The boy is lashing out with understandable pain from the divorce, but he is not receiving the firm guidance and strong discipline he needs to set him firmly on the path toward mature, responsible adulthood. Instead he will languish in the eternal limbo of emotional adolescence and perpetual victimhood. Whatever happens in his life will always be someone else’s fault. He will grow up believing himself to be above punishment for his misbehavior since, as he will take pains to point out for the next few decades, he didn’t ask for the divorce to tear up his life. In short, he will build his character and his attitude on emotional blackmail.
Is this how children should be raised? Is this how groups, races, cultures or nations should be handled?
The ultimate results of appeasement are far worse than if strong action were taken in the first place. The appease-ee begins to think of the appeasement bribes as a “right,” while the appeaser grows weary at the payoff’s failure to end the bad behavior. Resentment builds. People can only be pushed so far. At some point there will be a seemingly minor straw that breaks the camel’s back, and people will explode with a violence that seems far out of proportion to the offensive “straw.” The result? Anger and estrangement, conflict and heartache, clashes and battles – and a lot of innocent people get hurt.
Appeasement is the doomed tactic of a failed strategy. Usually the only way to correct it is through some catastrophic conflict, when the appeaser is finally fed up with the misbehaving child’s increased defiance, demands and attitude.
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on how well appeasement works on either a domestic or international scale. As a general principle, there are some nations and cultures who understand just one thing: Might Makes Right. To these cultures and nations, appeasement is seen as the weakness that it is.
Appeasement doesn’t work. It doesn’t work individually, it doesn’t work nationally, and it doesn’t work internationally. It will only be perceived as weakness.
Is that how we really want to be seen?