Paul Greenberg

And so it begins. Call it The Long Stall -- and, no, that's not the name of a Raymond Chandler detective novel. It's the name of the oldest trick in any world-class aggressor's book. And its secret is simple: Keep promising the suckers peace and they'll follow you anywhere, even, soon enough, into a disastrous war.

But do it gradually, step by step, negotiation after negotiation, meeting after meeting -- at Geneva this week, maybe the United Nations (formerly the League of Nations) next. Munich has become synonymous with this swindle. But any site will do for the next meeting. Just keep the mark hoping. If he's really gullible, he'll think it was all his own idea. Just keep him talking -- anywhere -- while the aggressor keeps aggressing. And the bodies keep piling up.

Ah, yes, the long stall. Even the most articulate, the most respectable of statesmen have been known to fall for it. Especially the kind who put the Bubble Popularity at the top of their agenda. They'll debase themselves, and their countries, beyond an aggressor's wildest dreams if they're only played right.

Don't believe it? Well, would you believe a president of the United States has just handed over his constitutional authority -- and responsibility -- to wage war. No, not to Congress, not to NATO, not even to the United Nations, but to ... the president of Russia? Which is just what the Hon. Barack Obama has done by making a not-so-former KGB type like Vladimir Putin the judge of whether this country will go to war. Even if it's war only in the most limited, pinprick way, in order to express the civilized world's revulsion at the use of poison gas in Syria.

This may go on for some time. That's why it's called The Long Stall.

Wait a minute. All the president has done is send his secretary of state to confer with the Russian foreign minister about this unpleasantness in Syria. It's just one meeting, for goshsake. Why all this talk about Munich?

Because people forget that Munich wasn't just one conference. It was the culmination of a whole series of them. Appeasement isn't just one decision, it's a process. It only begins with one, seemingly harmless meeting. The Long Stall is a long haul, too. You don't get to Perdition all of a sudden, but step by step. Accommodation with Evil takes some getting used to. Especially in a world where it's not done even to recognize Evil, let alone refuse to negotiate with it.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.