The appeasement disease

By Walter Williams

President Bush’s foreign-policy critics at home and abroad share characteristics and visions that have previously led to worldwide chaos and untold loss of lives. These people believe that negotiation, appeasement and caving in to the demands of vicious totalitarian leaders can produce good-faith behavior. Their vision not only has a long record of failure but devastating consequences.

During the late 1930s, France and Britain hoped that allowing Adolf Hitler to annex Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia would satisfy his territorial ambitions. This was after a long string of German violations of the terms of the Versailles Treaty ending World War I. Appeasement didn’t work. It was seen as weakness, and it simply emboldened Hitler.

At the Yalta Conference, near the end of World War II, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt thought they could appease Josef Stalin by giving away Eastern Europe and making other concessions that ultimately marked the beginning of the nearly half-century Cold War and Soviet-China expansionism. War-weary Westerners hoped that brutal tyrants would act in good faith. Failing to stand up to Stalin resulted in unspeakable atrocities, enslavement and human suffering.

Quite interestingly, Western leftist appeasers exempted communist leaders from the harsh criticism directed toward Hitler, even though communist crimes made Hitler’s slaughter of 21 million appear almost amateurish. According to Professor R.J. Rummel’s research in “Death by Government,” from 1917 until its collapse, the Soviet Union murdered or caused the death of 61 million people, mostly its own citizens. Since 1949, communist China’s Mao Zedong regime was responsible for the death of 35 million of its own citizens.

History never exactly repeats itself, but the vision of earlier appeasers was part of the West’s vision of how to deal with Saddam Hussein. After devastating defeat in the first Gulf War, Iraq agreed to coalition peace terms. After documents were signed, every effort was made by the Iraqis to frustrate implementation of the terms, particularly U.N. weapons inspections.

Western appeasers, most notably Europeans, were quite willing to respond to Saddam Hussein’s violation of peace terms in a fashion similar to their earlier counterparts’ response to Hitler’s violation of the peace terms of the Versailles Treaty. Had Britain or France launched a military attack on Germany between 1934 and 1935, when Hitler started his arms buildup in violation of the Versailles Treaty and before he fully developed his military capability, he would have been defeated and at least 50 million lives would have been spared.

What deters terrorists? We try to thwart them or kill them. What deters nations that might harbor or assist terrorist? We show them the kind of destruction we’re prepared to rain down upon them. Whether we ultimately find nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in Iraq is one thing, but one clear message has been sent as a result of our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world now knows, what it didn’t know in the past, that we have the will to destroy a nation that supports terrorism. One measure of the benefit of that message is that Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi has decided to forgo his weapons program and Iran and North Korea might reconsider their agenda.

Some appeasers would like us to cut and run in the wake of terrorist threats just as Spain and the Philippines did. Others, especially our increasingly anti-Semitic European allies, would like us to be more “even-handed” in the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Even-handed might be translated as abandoning Israel. Such a move wouldn’t bring any better results than when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sold the Czechoslovakians down the river to Hitler.

There’s no evidence that today’s fanatical terrorists and their nation-state sympathizers have any taste for compromise and negotiation. They want Western submission, and they just might get that with presidential candidate John Kerry’s promise that if elected he will wage “more sensitive war on terror.”