It looks like appeasement is going to be a big discussion this fall in the presidential elections. We saw President Bush start off the conversation yesterday in Israel. It's clear that the republicans have a strategy with regard to Obama and it is to make the case that he's a classic liberal, weak on foreign policy, and a friend of our enemies.
The word appeasement is loaded with meaning and it harkens back to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's strategy of trying to make peace with Hitler which culminated in the Munich Agreement of 1938 where part of Czechoslovakia was handed over to Nazi Germany in a failed attempt to buy peace with Germany. Of course that strategy failed and it took an all out assault on Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy (and Imperial Japan) to rid the world of that evil last century.
I hope we can have a real debate about appeasement that is not colored by the wounds of the last century. It is certainly true that those who don't pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it. But it is also true that there is more than one way to fight a war against those who would like to see our country and our way of life destroyed.
We can, as our current administration has done, take the fight right to the terrorist threat, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and possibly Iran. We can try to use our military might to, as GWB says, "fight them on their soil so we don't have to fight them on our soil." I think our success with this strategy is questionable. It seems to me that we have probably energized our enemies more than anything else with our war in Iraq and our words and body language.
In the meantime, there is something really important going on all over the world. I've touched upon it recently in my post about Geographic Balancing, where I wrote:
The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the middle east, are quickly attaining economic purchasing power parity with the United States and Western Europe.
The twin forces of technology and freedom are making this world a more balanced place. There is so much we can do to fuel these positive changes. A hungry mob is an angry mob. But a rising standard of living is the greatest peace pipe of them all.
Of course we need to have a strong military and I believe that the USA has that today and will continue to have that for some time to come. We must be able to defend our borders and are interests around the world. The first Iraq war was a sensible war. The second was not.
But the single most important thing we can do in the war against terrorism is to show the young, alienated youth of the muslim world that there is a better way. That they can make their homes, communities, and countries better by engaging in the modern world and taking advantage of the great equalizer that technology and freedom represents.
And that is what Obama is saying when he talks about engaging the world and our enemies in a dialog. Think back to the school yard in middle school. There was the tough talking kid who would throw a punch at you if you looked at him the wrong way. And there was the cool kid who had his head on straight and got everyone going in the right direction. I want our country to be the latter and we've been the former for the past eight years.
As Teddy Roosevelt said, "speak softly and carry a big stick". That's my kind of appeasement.