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Monday, March 15, 2004

# 2 of 2 Articles. The Madrid Bombings: Will Appeasement of Islamo-Fascist Terrorism Work?

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.


INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS

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


What Follows

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.


As WWII showed --- and maybe on a different level 9/11's massacres --- the military showdowns that follow appeasement or complacency in the democratic countries are not always quick and carefully limited in their carnage: they can be bloody, ruthlessly long, and lead to tens of million of deaths. A timely stand against the totalitarians --- including Islamo-fascist these days --- would likely have spared such extravagantly destructive military confrontations. As Churchill noted in his memoirs after WWII, it was "the unnecessary war." A credible, courageous stand by the democratic countries --- especially the British, the French, and the USA --- would have either led to a quick military defeat of Hitler and Mussolini and avoided Soviet penetration into the heart of Europe, or alternatively led to internal coups within Italy or Germany themselves.

The reference to Churchill just now, come to that, leads us to some . . .

 



 

Part 5: CHURCHILLIAN REMARKS ON APPEASEMENT

The Background

Winston Churchill --- who became the great war leader of the British 8 months after WWII began in September 1939 --- was, before that, a lonely, largely despised backbencher in the Conservative Party arguing against the policies of appeasement that were being practiced assiduously, crammed with illusions, by the British and French governments toward Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. Again and again, including his use of secret intelligence of fast-paced German rearmament that some British agents gave him at their peril (it was illegal), he assaulted the illusions of the Baldwin Conservative-Liberal and Chamberlain Conservative-Liberal governments after 1933, the year Hitler came to power. The British appeasers and the Conservative party heads regarded him as a reckless maverick, a war-monger. Only when the war erupted over Poland in September 1939 was he brought into the Chamberlain government as the head of the British navy. In May, as the lowland countries were attacked and defeated by the Nazis and France was soon to fall, did the Conservative party rebel and kick out Chamberlain and make Churchill their leader.

Here are 3 good quotes of his to keep in mind:

(i) Churchill on appeasers:

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.



(ii.) Here's Churchill on neutrals in the House of Commons in 1940, when Britain stood alone against the totalitarians, with France teetering on defeat --- the Nazi, mass-exterminating totalitarians, their fascist allies, and their Soviet Communist ally at the time too. It's something the Spanish electorate might reflect on, not that the left-wing dominated media and intelligentsia there, or elsewhere, will be inclined to even refer to Churchill or the long dismal record of appeasement in the 20th century:

At present their [the neturals'] plight is lamentable; and it will become much worse. They bow humbly and in fear to German threats of violence, comforting themselves meanwhile with the thought that the Allies will win, that Britain and France will strictly observe all the laws and conventions, and that breaches of these laws are only to be expected from the German side.

Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear-I fear greatly-the storm will not pass. It will rage and it will roar, ever more loudly, ever more widely. It will spread to the South; it will spread to the North. There is no chance of a speedy end except through united action; and if at any time Britain and France, wearying of the struggle, were to make a shameful peace, nothing would remain for the smaller States of Europe, with their shipping and their possessions, but to be divided between the opposite, though similar, barbarisms of Nazidom and Bolshevism.


(iii.) Churchill on the Munich Accord of 1938:

Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.

 

What Churchill Proposed To Do When Britain Stood Alone

In the House of Commons, May 13th, 1940, as the German blitzkrieg rolls over Norway, Belgium, Holland, and into the north of France, Churchill gave his first public speech as the new Prime Minister:



We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.

You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal.

But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."


 

Would It Be An Easy Victory?

Churchill had no illusions:

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

More specifically, he added soon after the French were collapsing and the British forces were pulled out from Dunkirk,

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.


 

The US and Isolationism in the 1930s

You'll note the reference at the end to the New World, the USA. For four years up to then, FDR had tried as president to shake the American people out of complacency and isolation. He proposed one rearmament program after another and the need for the democratic countries to stand up to the fascists, Nazis, and other totalitarians. Public opinion wouldn't budge. Congress would, in consequence, only approve spending on new naval programs, including fortunately several aircraft carriers that survived Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and led to the destruction of the Japanese threat to Australia and the western US several months later at Midway in the Pacific.

American isolationism was futile, not to mention immoral and dishonorable. It encouraged the Japanese militarists in their conviction that Americans were a decadent, pleasure-loving people who wanted only a quiet, comfy life and material improvement. They lacked the bushido ethos; they couldn't match Japanese valor, determination, and military prowess. They were mistaken, of course --- as was Hitler in Europe. The mistake was disastrous all the same, for us and others. The resulting war in the Pacific --- and in North Africa and Europe --- was all the more devastating and prolonged when it shattered American neutrality and brought us into the world-wide war.





 

Part 6: GIVEN THIS, WILL DIPLOMACY THEN WORK IN THE WAR ON TERRORISM?

Obviously, certain kinds of diplomacy can work: persuasion and dangled rewards especially with neutrals, or with reluctant allies, and even with adversaries now and then --- provided the adversaries also understand what the punishments will be for not changing their behavior in clearly monitored ways: witness, as an example, the ability of the US and the UK to force Khadaffi's Libya to own up to its WMD. Consider, too --- as an example of how to persuade a reluctant ally to show more fortitude in dealing with terrorism --- the success in convincing Musharraf in Pakistan to bear down on both nuclear proliferation and the Islamo-fascist networks there, not to forget the need for negotiating at long last with India over a range of grave diplomatic problems. More generally, thanks to our new democratic initiatives still being worked on in the State Department --- but already foreshadowed in explicit statements by President Bush since last November --- consider, as another example, the decision to break with a long-standing Western pattern of cozying up to repressive double-dealing Arab regimes.

Right now, the future of this sea-change in US policy --- denounced by the 21 surviving Arab dictators (a handful of whom, like the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan or the king of Morocco or the Sheiks in the small Gulf States, recognize the need to liberalize and reform their polities); denounced, come to that, by some of the predictably anxious EU governments in more sotto voce terms so far --- is still up in the air. What happens in Iraq the next year or two will be decisive in determining its outcome. Hard to believe that partisan politics in the US, by contrast, will have much effect one way or another --- John Kerry, should he be the next president, not known in the US Senate for supporting the appeasement policy of the Bush-Sr and Clinton administration (with some fortitude of an ineffectual sort in 1998, the decapitation attack).