Thursday, December 07, 2006

James v Neville

After reading the ISG report last night I couldn't help but think of the road to Munich in 1938. Apparently I was not alone in that thinking about how similar it seemed to the man of the hour Neville Chamberlain and his approach to dealing with the Czechoslovakian issue and what that led to. The idea of being able to sit down with our sworn enemies and expect them to cooperate in the stability of the region is on its face ludicrous. I was in the process of writing a fairly lengthy post about that aspect of the ISG report and then saw that somebody had already done it and done it better than I ever could. Jeff Jacoby, writing at has much to say and says it well.

Should the United States turn to Iran and Syria for help in reducing the violence bloodying Iraq? James Baker's Iraq Study Group, out this week with its well-leaked recommendations, thinks direct talks with Tehran and Damascus would be a fine idea. I think so too -- right after those governments switch sides in the global jihad.

As things stand now, however, negotiating with Iran and Syria over the future of Iraq is about as promising a strategy for preventing more bloodshed as negotiating with Adolf Hitler over the future of Czechoslovakia was in 1938. There were eminent "realists" then too, many of whom were gung-ho for cutting a deal with the Fuehrer. As Neville Chamberlain set off on the diplomatic mission that would culminate in Munich, William Shirer recorded in *The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,* Britain's poet laureate, John Masefield, composed a paean in his honor. When the negotiations were done and Czechoslovakia had been dismembered, the prime minister was hailed as a national hero. FDR saluted him in a two-word telegram: "Good man." The Nobel Committee received not one, not two, but 10 nominations proposing Chamberlain for the 1939 peace prize.

But 1939 would see neither peace nor prize. Chamberlain and his admirers had been certain that Munich would bring "peace in our time." Instead it helped pave the way for war.

How many times does the lesson have to be relearned? There is no appeasing the unappeasable. When democracies engage with fanatical tyrants, the world becomes not less dangerous but more so.

That wasn't the fashionable view in 1938, however, and it isn't popular today. According to a new World Public Opinion poll, 75 percent of Americans agree that to stabilize Iraq, the United States should enter into talks with Iran and Syria. "I believe in talking to your enemies," James Baker declares. "I don't think you restrict your conversations to your friends." ...

A Churchill quote comes to mind when I read something like this. " An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it eats him last"

...No regimes on earth have more to gain from an American defeat in Iraq than the theocracy in Iran and the Assad dictatorship in Syria. They have every incentive to aggravate the Iraqi turmoil that already has so many Americans clamoring for withdrawal. "There is no evidence to support the assumption that Iran and Syria want a stable Iraq," writes Middle East Quarterly editor Michael Rubin, whose experience in the region runs deep. "Rather, all their actions show a desire to stymie the United States and destabilize their neighbor. More dangerous still . . . is the naive assumption that making concessions to terrorism or forcing others to do so brings peace rather than war."

The war against radical Islam, of which Iraq is but one front, cannot be won so long as regimes like those in Tehran and Damascus remain in power. They are as much our enemies today as the Nazi Reich was our enemy in an earlier era. Imploring Assad and Ahmadinejad for help in Iraq can only intensify the whiff of American retreat that is already in the air. The word for that isn't realism. It's surrender. "