The Tack Toward Appeasement

"Arguing in My Spare Time," No. 4.28

by Arnold Kling

September 15, 2001

I was deeply troubled to read this morning of a last-ditch effort to revive a policy of appeasement toward terrorists. I refer to the pressure on Israel to meet with Arafat.

It is obvious what happened. Our diplomats approached some Arab countries about becoming Yankees (as I call it), and the Arab countries came back with conditions. Instead of responding as I recommended, our diplomats evidently promised to revive the "peace process" as a way to buy their favor.

I do not think that the desire for appeasement comes from the American people. The people understand what the attacks imply. I was struck by this the other night, when my Synagogue held a service in memory of the attacks. The congregation is extremely liberal, and in knee-jerk fashion, they had arranged for half a dozen people from the "helping professions" to be available after the service to "talk through" and "begin the healing process" from "the tragedy."

When the time came, however, the representatives of the therapeutic culture were left standing awkwardly by themselves. Everyone brushed past them to get into the corridors to discuss bombing.

There are only two major categories of Americans that have not yet adjusted to the new reality. One category is reporters and newscasters, who simply cannot bring themselves to demonstrate an ounce of respect for a conservative Republican President. However, they offer no policy alternative--merely the offensively smug affirmation of their own alleged intellectual and moral superiority to George Bush.

The other category is the diplomats. Diplomats have to be restrained at a time like this, because otherwise they will attempt to engage in diplomacy, no matter how futile, foolish, or damaging to our cause.

In Five Days in London, historian John Lukacs told of the great effort that was required of Winston Churchill to overcome an initiative by one of his ministers, Lord Halifax. Halifax, an appeaser, wanted permission to undertake an approach to Mussolini to broker a peace with Hitler.

The "Italian option," as it was called, was a chimera. Mussolini had no more leverage over Hitler than Arafat has over Bin Laden. Nonetheless, Halifax pressed it seriously, and at one point nearly threatened to resign from the War Cabinet if he did not get his way.

The Egyptians and the Saudis should support the campaign against terrorism because we tell them to, not because we promise to bring a quick resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that makes the Palestinians happy. The Peres-Arafat meeting is as irrelevant and counterproductive today as the Halifax initiative was in May of 1940.

The tack toward appeasement undermines the Who wants to be a Yankee? strategy. I pray that we will soon read of a change in direction.