This is the 2nd of a two-part mini-series on the Madrid bombings and the Spanish electorate's decision to cave in to terrorism and elect a new government whose Prime Minister not only criticized the Aznar government's diplomatic support of the US-UK led war against Saddamite Iraq, but has openly pledged to withdraw Spain's 1300 peacekeeping force from Iraq as soon as its' feasible. True, he's already waffling now that the election is over. He has said that he will withdraw them unless the UN returns to Iraq this summer, assuming sovereignty has been handed over to some transitional Iranian political authority --- which is likely to happen --- but the damage has been done: out of fear and picque, appeasement has gripped the Spanish electorate, and it appears to have rewarded a huge terrorist attack launched by Al-Qaeda extremists on the Madrid citizenry.
Yes, done --- the damage. Whatever the Spanish government decides to do utlimately about its peacekeepers in Iraq, Al Qaeda's heads --- and for that matter probably home-grown European terrorists --- will have already absorbed the lesson: it's possible to cow and bully an entire European country into a political somersault that rewards vicious terrorism. "What won yesterday was the pitiful option of surrendering to an adversary … a thousand times worse than Nazism," wrote columnist Gabriel Albiac in El Mundo newspaper. "This is what was elected yesterday: renouncing the fight; accepting death. Al Qaeda won."
Will Spain itself be spared further terrorist attacks? Not likely, and for reasons set out in the first article in this series. If you haven't read it, you should at least run your eye over its argument.
More generally, that initial article asked whether any countries that seek to appease rancorous, hate-filled Islamo-fascist terrorists --- whose conspiratorial minds crackle with a sense of self-pitying victimization and cosmic grievances against fantasized enemies, secretive and diabolical and allegedly responsible for all the ills and failures of Arab and other Islamic countries --- will ever succeed. The general answer was clearly no. The conditions, historical and theoretical, that enabled European states operating a classical balance-of-power form of diplomacy and limited warfare --- which included at times appeasement --- were specific to Europe life between roughly the mid-17th century and the mid-19th, save for the 25 year period of total warfare between Napoleonic France and the rest of the European powers. For that matter, even in that long two century period, those conditions didn't pertain to European adversaries in the New World or Africa.
[A sidebar observation: not that the African slave trade was confined to Europeans or later North Americans. If no middle-men African tribal societies had served as eager and greedy slave-traders, no Atlantic slave-trade would ever have flourished. Until the latter half of the 19th century and medical advances, Europeans couldn't penetrate the interior of Africa; diseases there would have rapidly wiped them out. Come to that, the Arab and later Ottoman slave trade preceded the European trade by almost a thousand years, and then continued long after the British and later the US declared war on slavery and the slave trade in Africa. Only advanced western powers were responsible for slavery's destruction --- most of it anyway. It still flourishes in certain Arab countries.]
Appeasement in the Modern Era: A Disaster
Since then, roughly the middle of the 19th century, appeasement as a diplomatic tactic has generally been a failed and dangerous policy --- above all for democratic countries. Quite simply, the conditions that had prevailed in the European balance of power system between 1650 and 1850 or so no longer prevailed. Virulent nationalism as a mass movement repeatedly shook the European state system from the 1850s on and spread rapidly around the world. Worse, after WWI, all the major security threats to the democracies have been radically ideologized and emanate from heavily militarized, totalitarian regimes, led by mass-murdering paranoids right down to Saddamite Iraq and Taliban Afghanistan . . . plus, nowadays, the threats of rippling global terrorism that mark the manically kill-crazy Al-Qaeda sort.
If anything, any appeasement by democratic countries of such enemies has always backfired. In the 1930s, it was worse; it proved disastrous.
US Appeasement of Islamo-Fascist Extremists 1979 - September 11th, 2001
The failure of American policy to respond to Islamist terrorism and extremism after the Shiite revolution in Iran in 1979 has been costly too --- as our citizenry learned on September 11th, 2001: Carter failed to deal effectively with the clerical-fascist regime's seizure of our embassy hostages; Reagan sent Marines to Beirut for an unclear purpose, then withdrew them pell-mell when Hezbollah terrorists killed hundreds in a suicide-bombing; George Bush let Saddam Hussein's regime intact after the first Gulf War, armed with helicopter gun ships that the armistice team allowed it --- he immediately slew thousands of Kurds with them. Clinton's policies were equally bad, maybe worse. He emulated a Reagan turnabout and withdrew our Rangers pell-mell from Somalia after the ill-fated Mogadishu incident in 1993. When Saddam Hussein's agents tried to assassinate former President Bush in Kuwait in 1993, he did nothing either. As if that weren't bad enough, he repeatedly failed later on to deal effectively with Al Qaeda despite new terrorist attacks on our embassies in Africa and on a naval ship in Yemen.
Reflecting on this long sad story of ineffectual American responses to militant Islamist terrorism, James Woolsey --- our outspoken former CIA head in the Clinton era --- said last year that
I would submit that if at the end of the 20th century you were sitting in the counsels of Mr. Khamenei in Tehran or of Saddam Hussein or of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and you were making a judgment about the Americans, your judgment would probably have been that this rich, spoiled feckless country would not fight. This is the same judgment the Japanese made about us at the beginning of the 1940s because of a parallel history of our behavior in the 1920s and 1930s.
We did the same thing in the 1990s. For some reason, this wonderful country, once it wins a big war, like World War I or the Cold War, feels that it is its God-given right to go on a national beach party. And that's more or less what we did in the 1920s, and it's more or less what we did in the 1990s; and we, in a sense, have paid the price. t's fine to have a good time. It's fine to have the stock market go up, but while you're doing it, you should not be cutting the Army from 12 to 10 divisions
That initial article in this series was divided into three parts. The current article continues that organizational tactic, starting with the fourth part.
Part 4: WHAT CAN WE CONCLUDE ABOUT APPEASEMENT? IT WON'T WORK
AGAINST MILITANT OR FANATICAL ENEMIES
No, It Will Likely Backfire
In particular, armed conflict that pits mass-murdering totalitarian states against us, or fanatical terrorist groups like Al Qaeda as new enemies --- both of which adversaries challenge us with fervor in core moral and political ways and hate democracy and free-market capitalism for crackling ideological or inflamed religious reasons --- are especially difficult, if not impossible, to solve by negotiations of any sort, let alone by use of appeasement. If anything, appeasement is almost always calculated in such circumstances to backfire . . . dangerously so.
To explain briefly: terrorists like manic Al Qaeda jihadists --- or dictators like Hitler or Stalin or the Japanese militarists in the interwar and WWII era, or Saddam Hussein or the Taliban in recent times --- will tend to see appeasement as a sign of weakness, reinforcing their high-coiled belief, full of contempt, that their adversaries are cowardly and weak-willed and can be further coerced into further concessions . . . including, please note, standing by idly as the snarled, hyped-up jihadists or earlier in the 20th century Fascists or Communists attacked smaller states or even now and then big allies. Many democratic countries did this, or tried. If the Spanish vote today is a guide, they're still trying.
Something Else Too
And it gets worse. Democratic governments, among all countries, are especially prone to be seen by their terrorist or ideological enemies in this contemptuous light: we're said to lack a martial spirit and firm commitment to defend our ideals --- inclined, instead, toward a quiet life and material comfort and to hold onto these comforts as long as we can. On top of that, democratic leaders going back to Chamberlain and the French appeasers of the 1930s --- who believe that their adversaries are like democratic partisan opponents at home, inclined toward compromise --- almost invariably find that their gestures of good-will and concessions will very likely add to the contempt of militarists, terrorists, or totalitarian enemies.
Essentially, terrorists of the global sort like Al Qaeda and totalitarian rulers right down through the ages like Saddam Hussein or the Taliban in Afghanistan understand only one thing: life is a ruthless struggle, politics is no different, only force counts, and he who dominates is the most cunning and most brutal . . . able to triumph over enemies at home or abroad. Besides, don't these enemies deserve to be tortured, killed, or exterminated?
The Long-Term Result of Appeasement?
When, finally, democratic governments and peoples do rally, they turn out to be formidable military opponents, with a fierce determination, if need be, to destroy their ideological enemies in warfare. Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the little fascist allies of them were shattered and left destroyed by 1945; ditto the Japanese militarists who turned Pacific Asia into a charnel house. Later, true to the underlying logic of containment policy --- formulated in 1947 by George Kennan, who looked forward to a constant resistant to Soviet and Communist expansion as a way to force their irrational contradictions within their mass-murdering society to destroy them from inside --- the Soviet empire collapsed too, then Communist Russia itself disappeared a year later in 1991, replaced by an electoral democratic system whose democratic and constitutional future is still hard to pin down with any certainty. The collapse of the Taliban --- who together with other Islamic forces and CIA help had stymied the Soviet military for 10 years in Afghanistan --- occurred within two months of the US attack on its women-massacring system. Saddam Hussein's monstrous system collapsed even quicker.
Unfortunately, the recent historical record in compensating for appeasement isn't always this encouraging.