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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 [1]

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?

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3 Comments To "Whiffing On Appeasement"

#1 Comment By Adam01 On May 16, 2008 @ 9:47 am

“but what does it say about the folly of an ideology that frames foreign affairs in terms of resolve vs. appeasement”

Moral clarity. You forgot the moral clarity. That’s important also.

#2 Comment By John On May 16, 2008 @ 10:29 am

Who could have read or heard the lines given above and thought, “Oh, that’s some appeasement right there”?

Well, I can find you [2] who would have thought that.

What a world.

#3 Comment By Josiwe On May 16, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

It’s a combination of factors. First, the Republican party has (deliberately or not) become the party of fear and violence. After long enough spewing that prattle, many of them have come to believe their own talking points.

So, rather than regarding Hezbolah as a minor irritant to the United States, they are part of the “existential threat” to America. In order to legitimize diplomacy, one must concede that the individuals who make up Hezbolah are not, primarily, concerned with the destruction of America (as if they could) but with personal power and aggrandizement. Hezbolah uses the West as a bogeyman to scare up support, but if it was more profitable in terms of wealth and power they would agitate against Russia (see Afghanistan, ~1978).

Acknowledging that A) terrorists cannot destroy our country and B) don’t really care, deep down, if they do, totally undermines every argument the party has made in the past 6 years. They simply cannot admit it, even to themselves. They cannot see themselves in such a devastating light. And so the drum beat goes on, and these folks buy into the delusion that they are saving the world from the Defeatocrats.

Finally, I would add that the Republicans have had a long flirtation with macho authoritarianism, and allowing that the intellectual pursuit of diplomacy might be an effective tool runs counter to the grain of their “brand” – cowboys and soldiers will fix the world with grit and bombs. All of this adds up to a fundamental belief that “talking to terrorists” must equal appeasement because “they hate our freedoms” and terrorism is “an existential threat” to the nation.