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Sunday, March 14, 2004

#1 of 2 Articles: Will Appeasement of Islamo-Fascist Terrorism Work? The Spanish Case

After a brief interlude with no articles published here --- the buggy prof taking off a few days to roam around Santa Barbara and its matchless beauty, natural and man-made --- here's a buggy commentary on the horrors of the Madrid bombings last week, the Spanish reactions, and the likely terrorist-perps: Al-Qaeda fanatics, full of frenzy to strike out at helpless civilians. Since the bombings, the Spanish population has voted; it has exercised its right to punish the Aznar conservatives, heavily favored before the bombings, and bring to power the socialists whose head has promised to do what Al Qaeda apparently wanted it to: to acknowledge that Aznar's government and the Spaniards, including apparently little children and babies, should be killed or punished, and to promise that it will withdraw Spanish peace-keepers from Iraq this summer.

A trio of question prompt themselves here: 1) Will such appeasement work its magical promise and buy Spain freedom from future Islamist-fascist terrorism? 2) More generally, what are the historical and theoretical conditions that might justify appeasement, and 3) do those conditions apply to Al-Qaeda fanatics and other militant Islamist radicals?


Part 1: WILL APPEASEMENT WORK ITS PROMISE FOR THE SPANISH OR OTHERS?

Start With An Astute Journalist's Views

Mark Steyn, a Canadian journalist living in New Hampshire --- a libertarian, who spent years in the EU, then found Canada was beginning to look like it after almost 4 decades of uninterrupted Liberal Party rule dominated by French-Canadian Prime Ministers (Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien, the latter just retired) --- is one of the most trenchant, knowledgeable observers of the international scene, whose writings are all the more impressive and readable because of an uncommonly lively style . . . complete with some humorous jibes.



He publishes in several US, Australian, Canadian, and British newspapers and weeklies. In an Australian newspaper, he deals with the Madrid massacre-bombings and the predicable left-wing cant in the EU --- a sign, regrettably, of lost moral-fiber, few of EU left-wing politicians, intellectuals, and media types willing to fight for their ideals and instead seeing themselves victims of a bullying and arrogant USA -- that if Aznar hadn't backed Bush and Blair over Iraq, Spain would have been spared the attack. As Steyn notes, it's nonsense. Not only has bin Laden or whoever still commands Al-Qaeda never set out a concrete list of demands, let alone negotiable ones, he adds (with a couple of buggy examples tossed in) that the appeasing countries in the war against Saddamite Iraq last year haven't in any case been spared terrorist attacks. In particular,

  • Turkey stayed out of the war on terrorism, yet it suffered two bombings recently by Al-Qaeda or other Islamist fanatics.
  • France, which stayed out of the war --- the lead critic of it --- was recently singled out by bin Laden (or whoever mouths his alleged tapes) as a target for its new ban on headscarves and other religious symbols. The French have also been grappling the last two months with terrorist threats, explicitly made, plus planted bombs, on their railway system. And since the French have 300 special forces working with American, British, and Australian forces chasing bin Laden or his associates around the Afghan-Pakistani border, the Al Qaeda heads aren't likely to think French opposition to the war on Saddamite Iraq should buy them shelter from Islamo-fascist terrorism.
  • Morocco didn't support the war, but it was attacked earlier by Islamist fanatics; as of course was Saudi Arabia twice this last year. Morocco's ruling king, note, has a close tie to Spain's pro-democratic king.
  • Steyn's own country, whose government didn't back the war last year --- Canada --- was also singled out as a potential target.
  • Muslim Indonesia (200 million) was targeted in late 2002 by fanatical home-grown Islamists, who bombed Bali, killing 200 Australian and other vacationers there.
  • Democratic India has suffered several terrorist attacks carried out by Muslim fanatics, including a large-scale shooting of Indian parliamentarians. India's government, like Indonesia's, was not part of the Coalition of the Willing.


  • More generally, most of the EU countries have been confronted with home-grown terrorism and assassination attempts for years now that have nothing to do with Islamist terrorism: in Corsica, in Spain, in Northern Ireland (where the terrorism is winding down, the terrorists essentially defeated), and back in the 1970s and 1980s in Germany and Italy. In the mid-1990s, several murderous attacks by Algerian terrorists rattled the French for years. Two years ago, an Italian law professor was assassinated for working on a new labor law --- political correctness in murderous activity. About the same time, the most prominent politician was killed in Holland (Pim Fortuyn). More recently still, several attempts at assassinating the most prominent heads of the EU took place.


 

And Spain Itself: Will Appeasing Terrorism Work There?

Not likely. Steyn goes on to note that one of the lengthy self-pitying Islamist grievances against the West --- crackling with a sense of paranoid-splattered victimization, and spelled out by bin Laden or his sound-alike recently --- was that the Spanish Catholics had driven out the Arabs over 500 years ago. As a British journalist just noted here:

A group close to bin Laden's al-Qa'eda network, the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri, sent a message to a London-based Arabic newspaper explaining the reasons for attacking Spain. "This is part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader and America's ally in its war against Islam," the statement said.

 

Part 2: CAN ISLAMIST TERRORIST PARANOID GRIEVANCES AND RANCOR EVER BE APPEASED EFFECTIVELY?

Not likely, just the opposite. Cosmic conspiratorial grievances of the Islamist sort --- full of a hate-charged form of self-pitying victimization, whether in the social movements that flourish in the Arab world or in terrorist offshoots --- are motivated by a raging fury for revenge against fantasized enemies. It takes a head-in-the-sands attitude to believe that appeasement will work in dealing with them. It won't. All the troubles of the Arab countries, just to stay with them --- state despotism and failure, rife corruption and nepotism, economic and technological backwardness among demographic explosions, high unemployment, huge gaps between the rich and poor, and the worst illiteracy in the world --- are blamed on diabolical foreign-devils: in particular, globalizing forces incarnated in world Jewry, Israel, the US, and the West, plus Hindu India.

Note something quickly: since most Muslims, not just Islamist extremists, have been taught to regard Islam as a divine providence, God's gift to the members of the faith, large numbers of them in the Arab world and elsewhere are themselves vulnerable tto crackpot conspiratorial theories, however extravagantly fantastic, as a way of explaining their steady and almost uninterrupted decline in power, wealth, and prestige for hundreds of years now. In the Arab world, it's worse. With the highest levels of illiteracy around the globe --- and state-controlled media used by the dictators for their own demagogic self-serving purposes --- conspiratorial paranoia, as several recent buggy articles have tried to show, is widespread and continuing to make headway. Sixty per cent of Arabs surveyed by the Gallup Poll months after 9/11's massacres even denied Muslims had been involved. For an updated view, see the third of a three-part buggy series on conspiratorial racism and paranoia afoot in way too many parts of Islam, especially in the 21 Arab dictatorships.



  The Moral?

Whatever West European electorates may do in the future --- and national politicians catering to their decisions for dealing with terrorism --- almost all the EU member-countries will continue to face repeated terrorist attacks in the future, whether home-grown or from Islamist fanatics. Slow economic growth or outright stagnation, plus constant pressures to cut back on welfare services and social spending, will likely continue to polarize European domestic politics, in the process adding to social conflicts and outright strife and leading almost inevitably to new violence and terrorism.. That is the history of most of Europe for two centuries now. The interlude between the late 1940s and the late 1990s --- a cold war era when West Europe was protected by US military power, in NATO and elsewhere, and its economies grew steadily amid a stabilizing welfare-state and stable democratic development everywhere --- now looks exactly like that: something of a pleasant but unusual period in European life.

Add in surging violent crime all over the EU --- much worse on an average than in the US, whose population in UN surveys of crime-victims shows the most confidence in the police and going out into public spaces --- has recently coincided and been causally connected with surging Islamic immigrant communities, increasingly alienated and swept up in fundamentalist tendencies. Remember, bin Laden or his mouthpiece have already singled out appeasing France and its government and people for future terrorism because they dared pass a law banning headscarves in their school system.

Will appeasing Germany be spared? Not likely, says a British specialist on terrorism this last weekend, after the Madrid bombings:

He said Germans should not feel exempt from terrorism because their government opposed the war in Iraq; the Germans do station troops in Afghanistan, for instance. "If Al Qaeda had the opportunity to blow up a train in Berlin," he asked, "why would they hesitate



 

Part 3: WHEN WILL APPEASEMENT WORK AS A DIPLOMATIC TACTIC?

Appeasers, of course, always hope that they can find ways to fend off security threats with concessions and showing that they're full of understanding when it comes to the hostile adversary's grievances and the logic behind its awesome threats.
Occasionally, in the past --- when dealing with moderate statesmen of the sort who dominated European statecraft in the era of the 18th and early 19th century ---- appeasement might work; in particular, it might defuse diplomatic disputes and lead to some settlement that avoids war. The conditions underpinning its effectiveness are, though, historically and theoretically limited. Consider them carefully, and why they worked for about a century and a half in the European state system:



1. There were no jarring, wild-eyed conflicts of a fervent religious sort of the kind that led Catholics and Protestants to kill one off another in vicious cycles between the 1520s and 1648, the year of the Westphalian Treaty that ended the fanatical blood-letting by putting the question of religion solely in control of the sovereign government (literally, the sovereign kind at the time). And of course, none of the religious fanaticism that led to the Crusades and, earlier, Arab conquest of parts of Europe and Christian North Africa and the Christian Middle East, which tore apart the Middle East for a couple of centuries in the 12-13th centuries. On the crusades, see the Columbia Encyclopedia for a brief, to-the-point analysis.

Needless to say, Islamists ignore these earlier conquests of Christian Europe as a causal link, or the conquest of Christian Russia by Tatars (Mongol-Turks) who converted to Islam later, or the Ottoman conquest of Christian Europe in the Balkans, right up to the gates of Vienna in the late 17th century, until driven back . . . never mind the Arab conquest of Persia in the 7th century or the Mogul conquest of India in the 16th century. And of course, it goes without saying, that nothing is said about 1600 years of Arab-Ottoman slave trade in both Christian Europe and tropical Africa.

2. There were no jarring, high-coiled murderous ideologies that pitted Communism, Radical Socialism, Fascism, and Nazism against liberal democracies that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Statecraft was generally a matter of calculated rationality on the part of the king and a few advisers and, no less important, was mainly limited in the 18th and early 19th centuries --- interrupted by 25 years of almost unbroken war between revolutionary and then Napoleonic France and the monarchical great powers (including Britain) between 1790 and 1815 --- to either territorial expansion in Europe or colonial expansion abroad, including in both places a struggle for dominance.

3. Nationalism wasn't a problem in trading off territory as part of an appeasement policy in dealing with a major security risk. When modern mass nationalism began to disrupt classical Cabinet diplomacy --- prefigured in the era of the French revolution, and redrawing the map of one European country after another from the 1860s on --- it underpinned popular sovereignty and transformed the homeland into a sacred territory. No piece of land could now be traded; any threat to it was a serious threat to national integrity.

And so? And so it's really only in this two hundred year period between the middle of the 17th century through the middle of the 19th century --- again, with the big exception of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic era --- that international relations among the European states revolved around the balance of power, involving mainly calculated decisions of a limited territorial sort. None of the European great powers until the French revolution challenged the legitimacy and domestic order of one another.



4. Note something else. None of these conditions favorable to classical diplomacy (including appeasement) prevailed in Europe before 1649 --- in the Middle Ages, most wars were between emerging royal despots and the local barons, plus Church-State conflicts, followed by the Renaissance --- any more than they applied in the New World or Africa when Spaniards, Portuguese, Britons, French, and Dutch fought, conquered, destroyed, or enslaved large numbers of people in the period between 1500 1865 or so. Only briefly, after 1815, did the balance of power jostling return for about four decades or so, interrupted abruptly and forever, it seems, by national revolutions and ideological explosions.

Only then did classical diplomacy of the sort that entailed appeasement make much sense.

 

THIS COMPLETES THE 1ST OF A TWO-PART MINI-SERIES ON THE MADRID BOMBINGS AND THE QUESTION WHETHER APPEASING AL-QAEDA TERRORISTS WILL WORK OR BACKFIRE . . . IN SPAIN OR ELSEWHERE.



Replies: 1 Comment

Dear Prof. Gordon,

My name is Joe Ramos and I am in your Political Science 121 class. I play golf for UCSB and we are currently finishing up our season. I have missed the last three days of lectures due to two golf tournaments. I just got back from a tournament in Arizona and was reviewing some dates and realized there is a midterm tomorrow. I have no idea what the midterm is on because I have not been able to get notes from my friend in the class. I was hoping you would consider letting me take the midterm on Friday or next Monday or Tuesday to give me a chance to get the notes and study the material. If you need documentation my coach would be more than willing to write you a letter confirming my participation and dates of the tournaments. Please e-mail me or call...

Thank you,

Joe Ramos

joeyramos17@hotmail.com 805-680-6849

Posted by Joseph Ramos @ 04/14/2004 10:21 PM PST