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Whiffing On Appeasement

Barack Obama issued a statement in response. He called on “all those who have influence with Hezbollah” to “press them to stand down.” Then he declared, “It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.”

That sentence has the whiff of what President Bush described yesterday as appeasement. Is Obama naïve enough to think that an extremist ideological organization like Hezbollah can be mollified with a less corrupt patronage system and some electoral reform? Does he really believe that Hezbollah is a normal social welfare agency seeking more government services for its followers? Does Obama believe that even the most intractable enemies can be pacified with diplomacy? What “Lebanese consensus” can Hezbollah possibly be a part of? ~David Brooks

Brooks goes on to explain that he spoke to Obama, who dispelled Brooks’ concerns, but the problem here seems to me to be that Brooks had these concerns in the first place.  Who could have read or heard the lines given above and thought, “Oh, that’s some appeasement right there”?  Where did Obama say that any of the reforms he was describing were aimed at including Hizbullah?  You have to assume that anyone who is interested in combating the power and influence of Hizbullah through something other than a dead-end air war (which Obama also supported two years ago, much to his antiwar supporters’ lasting chagrin) wants to “mollify” Hizbullah, rather than subvert them, because the only alternative to the unavailable option of crushing Hizbullah militarily is apparently to cut a deal with them.  Isn’t Brooks’ initial reaction precisely the reflexive disdain for procedural reform and diplomatic engagement as tools that Obama routinely criticises, and which this administration shows with embarrassing frequency?  Isn’t this precisely the identification of any and all diplomacy with “appeasement” that Obama has been railing against this week?  Brooks was smart enough to think better of using the “appeaser” label, but what does it say about the folly of an ideology that frames foreign affairs in terms of resolve vs. appeasement that Brooks even had to ask Obama those questions?

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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