Paul Greenberg

Munich was only the final stage in Neville Chamberlain's and the West's cringing debasement. It wasn't even the first time Mr. Chamberlain had conferred directly with Herr Hitler. It was a long, long stall as one delaying tactic was followed by another. Until all the West had to do was make one more concession and war would be avoided. Munich was going to be the German dictator's last territorial demand in Europe -- till Poland, anyway.

And now Comrade Putin -- excuse me, President Putin -- is going to guarantee that Syria's Bashar Assad will give up those chemical weapons he never had, and all will live happily ever after. That delusion is another standard element of the Long Stall. It can still be highly effective. It's how the North Koreans got their Bomb -- and how the mullahs in Iran are getting theirs. Even while our president has managed to shift the world's focus to poor, vivisected Syria, if only for a transitory time.

Some things never seem to change. As that great statesman P.T. Barnum is supposed to have said, there's one born every minute. Sometimes they even make it to the White House.

But some never buy the Long Stall, even if it means being frozen out of "respectable" opinion and labeled a dangerous warmonger. Like a backbencher in Parliament named Winston Churchill who spent years, decades, warning his countrymen not to fall for the Long Stall, till he became half a bore and a whole prophet. The old bulldog wouldn't be called on to rescue his country until its Finest Hour, and his. It was almost too late at that.

Only after every Last Concession had led only to one more demand, and the Western alliance had been divided and disheartened, until there was no choice but to fight at last, that the true face of the enemy was revealed. As not just an enemy of the West but of civilization itself. How we could use such a bulldog today, but for the moment John McCain has been effectively sidelined. And our president has seized the opportunity to cooperate in the Long Stall. And the destruction of our own values. How long before he, too, can proclaim Peace in Our Time?

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.