Last week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that those who don't take the radical Islamist terrorist threat as seriously as the Bush administration does suffer from a "moral and intellectual confusion." He compared them to the British appeasers of Hitler before WWII.
I did a left-wing radio call-in show after the speech in which the callers accused Rumsfeld of calling them pro-Nazi for opposing President Bush on the war. Of course Rumsfeld was suggesting no such thing. But it is worth reviewing the history and meaning of appeasement -- both for those who hurl the charge and for those who are charged.
The use of the term appeasement to describe a nation's foreign policy first emerged in the 1930s in England to describe the Ramsey McDonald/Stanley Baldwin/Neville Chamberlain British governments' policy of avoiding military conflict with Hitler's Germany by yielding to his territorial demands.
But it is important to note that prior to then, the term was typically used as a positive description of individual action, such as in the phrase "appeasements of Divine displeasures," (Ralph Cudworth, the Cambridge Platonist, 1678.)
Just so, the British governments of the 1930s thought they were acting both ethically and in the best interest of their people. While there were a few pro-Nazis and anti-Semites in Britain (mostly in the upper classes), Chamberlain and most of his government were neither.
They did think Germany had been unfairly dealt with in the Versailles Treaty after WWI. And they did think it reasonable, natural and more or less inevitable that the 80 million German-speaking people of Europe would be re-united under one nation. Thus they appeased Hitler's demand for the Rhineland, anschluss (union) with Austria and the invasion of the Sudetenland (German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia.
And if that were all Hitler had wanted, Chamberlain would have gone down in history as the 20th century's greatest statesman and peacemaker. (And Winston Churchill would have been remembered -- if he was remembered at all by the general public -- as an antique, Edwardian warmonger and troublemaker.)
But appeasement -- in and of itself -- is neither inherently unwise nor immoral. It depends on the facts of each case. While the term had not been used before the 1930s, the policy has been a mainstay of both weak and powerful governments throughout history.
In 1862, during our civil war, in the Trent Affair, after a Union ship violated British maritime rights, the British threatened war if Lincoln didn't capitulate on the matter. His cabinet wanted war, but Lincoln "appeased" the British on the theory of "one war at a time." Bravo Abe the appeaser.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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