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.
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?