Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Appeasement Worked

One of the favorite rallying points of the supporters of Bush's optional war is the false claim that "appeasement never works." It sounds good, because appeasement sounds weak, and it's kind of fun to act like you are wise to the ways of the world. Unfortunately, smart people know that you're simply wrong when you make that absurd claim.

Does anyone remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? By any reasonable definition of appeasement, appeasement played the heroic role of saving me and the rest of my world.

Does anyone remember when bombs were going off all over Ireland and England? If appeasement hadn't stepped in, we might still be picking up pieces of Catholic and Protestant school children.

Going back a few more years, appeasement has prevented the US and Canada from shedding buckets of blood during several tense periods.

In fact, if you define appeasement broadly, just about every peace treaty and every stable border is due to the policy that never works.

Speaking of not working, I wonder what the supporters of the war were doing instead of working on their history lessons.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I guess we need to define "appeasement".

Most people, myself included, would define appeasement as total capitulation...giving the opposing side everything they asked for without getting anything in return in the hope that they would go away happy and not ask for anything else.

That is what Neville Chamberlin gave to Adolph Hitler.

That sort of appeasement does not work and never will. Sorry, Dan.

The Cuban Missle Crisis was not a case of appeasement or capitulation. It was public posturing for domestic consumption ("Get your missles out of Cuba or we will nuke your Godless, Communist asses back into the stone-age."), vs. international diplomatic reality ("Get your missles out of Cuba and we will get our missles out of Turkey...deal? Sweet!").

That's the way the game is played.

It's when the people in power are too naive to understand the difference between posturing and diplomacy that our children start coming back in body bags.

Working towards peace, is not appeasement.

Finding areas of agreement where both sides can compromise, is not appeasement.

Mitigating conflict and saving lives on both sides of a disagreement is not appeasement.

Seeking to end hostilties permanently and work towards a mutually agreeable framework for getting along with each other is not appeasement.

It's called civilization.

11/14/2006 8:33 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

XO - most people should look at the definition of the word, which is "The policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace." Don't let the right wingers redefine our language.

11/14/2006 8:47 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

I remember the Cuban missle crisis. I was a kid but knew enough to be scared shitless.

Ya know what, I really try not to think about it, but it isn't beyond the realm of my imagination tht the mideast could start glowing sooner than later. Either Israel is going to start it or Iran is going to start it and I don't think there's one person in our government of any party who can stop it and the UN IS WORTHLESS..they sure as hell can't stop it. So who will - Germany, France?? haha Russia - are you kidding me??

So, what does the U.S. do?

11/14/2006 9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan - OK. Busted. I was using the cultural definition of appeasement (as defined after WWII and Chamberlin...long before our current Republican Right) as opposed to the literal, dictionary definition.

Travel - I too, remember the Cuban Missle Crisis. I too, was scared. I remember that it took me about twenty minutes to walk from my house to my grade school. I remember that it took about twenty minutes for a Soviet ICBM to travel from the U.S.S.R. to Anywhere, U.S.A. I was in Third Grade, walking to school in Coffeyville, KS, wondering if I would I would be incinerated by a Communist Nuke on my way to school.

But it never dawned on us that we would ever consider giving up any of our hard-won freedoms to protect us from that risk.

Even at that age, we understood that you never, ever give up freedom for safety. Or else you lose both.

11/14/2006 9:30 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Even Chamberlain got stuff in return for his "appeasement". He just made the mistake of appeasing someone who didn't live up to his promises. The "appeasement never works" line is nonsense, but maybe "don't trust Hitler to live up to his word" makes sense. But I don't think Bush wants to start calling people out on lying . . .

11/15/2006 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...


Get real.

The "cultural definition" is the only one that matters. These terms have emotional connotations far beyond their precise dictionary definitions. XO has the definition, the one that matters, exactly right.

You know that, of course.

No, it's you who is attempting to redefine the term to make it palatable here.

In the face of a determinedly hostile and aggressive power, appeasement never works. Most powers are not solely bent on being hostile and aggressive, as Hitler's Germany was; even the USSR in it's worst periods had it's own benefit at heart, and that benefit could be appealed to to make deals. Can deals be cut to mutual benefit? Certainly. And it's often done. And should be. That is covered by another term; it's called negotiation.

And you know that too. But you don't want to concede that.

Between this post, and the idiocy about the Confederacy and terrorism a while back, it's clear that you don't have a firm grasp on history and the lessons to be learned from it.

11/15/2006 8:58 AM  
Blogger emawkc said...

Dan, not sure where you got your definition of appeasment (since there was no reference cited) but according to this, **one** of the definitions of appeasment is: to yield or concede to the belligerent demands of (a nation, group, person, etc.) in a conciliatory effort, sometimes at the expense of justice or other principles.

This pretty much supports XO's earlier point, one that I agree with (got your back, XO).

11/15/2006 9:10 AM  
Anonymous T.Reason said...

I hear the word “appeasement” and I think of those harried mothers in stores who cannot control their children, so they try to get them to behave by giving in to their demands.

“If I buy this for you, will you be quiet and let me get out of this store without making a scene?”

That might be a quick fix for shutting the brat up, but it doesn’t solve the real problem. You cite Cuba and England/Ireland. Last time I looked, those problems weren’t actually fixed – they’ve just been put in a pot on the back burner where they’ll bubble over in time and create another mess.

11/15/2006 10:23 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


Appeasement does not mean total capitulation. It doesn't. Not in a "cultural definition", not in any dictionary definition, or anywhere else.

And even if it did (and it doesn't!), the rightwing talking point is absolutely as stupid as I said it is. Nobody on the left is arguing for total capitulation - so why bring it up?

And Anonymous Me - you're wrong again! It must be embarassing to be you - hence the anonymity! How was the Soviet Union any less dangerous than Hitler? How are enemies Bush is breeding in the Middle East any more dangerous than the Soviet Union? Do you think that the people we are battling are not self-interested? What are you imagining?

Emaw - your definition says nothing about total capitulation. And it certainly doesn't erase the fact that capitulation has worked often in this world. As in the examples I cite.

T Reason - do you have children? It's called picking your battles. Yes, as a parent, you occasionally do allow the kid to get the lollipop, and it's not the end of the world. And the Cuban missile crisis is over - you really need to catch up on current events. And, if you are a halfway moral person, you'll agree that the current status of Irish/English relations is far better than the days of picking up pieces of children. If you think that is "appeasement" (which it most definitely was), I wonder what your alternative is - must every clash of cultures result in a fight to the death?

11/15/2006 7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan My Man - You're definition of appeasement sounds more like what I would call negotiation and compromise. I'm all in favor of negotiation and compromise. I give you something, you give me something, we both walk away winners.

But "Yes, as a parent, you occasionally do allow the kid to get the lollipop, and it's not the end of the world."

Wrong. When they throw a fit, kick and scream, yell at you and tell you they hate you, the only proper response is "I don't care. Not working." You never "appease" them by giving into that sort of behavior. They soon learn that it doesn't work and they abandon it.

I have 13 year old proof that I'm right.

11/15/2006 8:09 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

XO - Congrats- you've learned the meaning of the word appeasement. Who says visiting here wouldn't do you some good. Thanks for paying attention.

I have 40 years of parenting under my belt - a 19 year old and a 21 year old, but thanks for offering the advice. I would never have buckled in the situation you describe. But I may have occasionally bought a lollipop before it ever got close to that stage. Good luck in the next few years - I hope you know when to appease and when to draw the hard line. If you draw the hard line every time, you'll lose it all. If you appease every time, you'll lose, too. Parenting is complex - kind of like international relations. Only a complete moron would think that thoughtful appeasement never works.

11/15/2006 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan - I still think appeasement means total capitulation (Something I disagree with).

I still argue that that is different than negotiation and compromise (Something that I am totally in favor of...even with your worst enemy.).

11/15/2006 11:28 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

We can talk about the definition of appeasement all day long, but I haven't heard who we are supposed to appease or how we're going to appease them. In the case of Iraq, do you mean we should appease the radical islamofacist clerics who are really the running the show? How do we do that? Praise Allah? Or, is it Iran or Syria we're supposed to appease? How are we supposed to do that? Let them continue to develop nuclear weapons? Or, do you mean something like we agree to get totally out of the mideast and quit supporting Israel? I'm really curious.

11/16/2006 8:28 AM  
Anonymous T.Reason said...

Trav, somehow I don’t think it’ll matter one bit who we “appease,” and it won’t matter if we leave the Middle East or abandon Israel. What we’ll do is talk, sit on our hands, and wait for the problem to go away – something we’ve been doing since the seventies. Unfortunately, the problem isn’t going to go away…but Israel just might.

I do like your questions and would appreciate some answers, too.

11/16/2006 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...


XO is right - again. (good God, it's wierd to say that). And you're wrong, again.

You have redefined the term to mean "negotiation" and then argued that negotiation is a good thing. Duh. Well bully for you. THAT is certainly a brave stance!!

I'll stand by my post. In the face of a determinedly hostile and aggressive power, appeasement never works. I think history has proven me right; you clearly don't understand history.

Negotiation does not rely on trust. It relies on self-interest, by appealing to the self interest of both sides. It's not at all clear that the islamofascists have a self-interest that can be negotiated with - these are the people who strap on bombs to blow up women and children, after all.

Iran has, I hope, a self-interest to appeal to, and I have no opposition to negotiation rather than combat to deal with Iran. If you want to re-label negotiation as appeasment, those are your issues, not mine.

You're starting to become unhinged, Dan. Learn some history.

And I'm "anonymous" because those are the choices left to me. I don't have the interest or inflated sense of self-importance to have my own blog. Your software made the choices for me, so don't pull that old canard. You wanna meet for pistols at dawn, I'm fine with that (just kidding, Dan. I'd outshoot you anyway - I practice. Regularly.)

11/16/2006 9:20 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

XO - maybe I'm wrong, but I look at the dictionary definitions of appeasement, and they say I'm correct. The right wing is playing its Orwellian word games in trying to rewrite the language, and through it, rewrite history. If anyone here can explain to me how the Irish issues were settled with anything other than appeasement, please do so. If anyone can explain how the Cuban Missile Crisis was solved through anything other than appeasement, again, please do so. The truth of the matter is that they were both appeasement, and they both worked.

Now, Travelingal, you want me to solve the crisis in the Middle East. Thank you for the vote of confidence, but I never claimed to have a solution for all the problems in the Middle East. TReason - same thing. I do know that we aren't going to get to the right place by rewriting history or abusing the language, though.

Anonymous Me - I don't know how old you are, but people my age remember the Soviet Union as exactly the sort of power you describe. I remember "We will bury you" at the UN. I remember thousands of missiles aimed at our cities. And they were certainly "a determinedly hostile and aggressive power", particularly during the Cuban Missile Crisis days. And yet we managed to appease each other, and stand down our hostility without unleashing a nuclear holocaust.

You're simply wrong about history and about the language. That doesn't mean that I know the solution to world peace or even that a given provocation does not call for a military response. I'm certainly not saying that appeasement always works. I'm simply pointing out the absolutely correct fact that those who claim that "appeasement never works" have a misunderstanding of the language, or of history, or of both.

You're welcome to remain anonymous, Anonymous Me. No need for pistols, but don't be so cocky. Practice, I am sure, helps, but courage comes in a lot handier in a duel, from what I've read.

11/16/2006 10:05 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/16/2006 10:07 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/16/2006 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...


I'm quite old enough, thank you. And while the USSR was entirely the "evil empire" that Reagan named it, it was also capable of being negotiated with, by appealing to its self interest. We had thousands of missiles arrayed against them too, remember? That conflict had two sides, and while I firmly and resolutely know that we were on the right side of it, I also know that NEGOTIATION (and the fear of escalation) avoided bloodshed. That's a good thing.

While the USSR was a hostile and aggressive power, they also had self-interest at heart. Hitler didn't; he was interested in aggression, at any cost. Chamberlain gave real concessions, and got . . . promises. That's not negotiation, that's appeasment.

When we negotiated with the USSR, we gave concessions; we got real, verifiable concessions in return. Failure to get real, verifiable concessions, not just promises, is appeasment, and it will fail. Everytime. In the case of US/USSR, both acted because it was in their self-interest to do so. I'm not sure Al Queda has a self-interest that can be negotiated with (and they've already crossed the negotiation line, with 9/11). I hope that Iran does.

Ultimately, this is a meaningless argument; we're probably going around in circles, agreeing with each other, arguing over the meaning of a single word. You want to redefine it to mean "negotiation." There is a difference, however. Genuine appeasement is rare (Chamberlain is the sole example that comes to mind as I sit here), because we most of us understand human nature, just as XO does with his child. We understand it doesn't work. It rewards threatening behavior, and imposes no costs on the other side.

And I'll let you practice first; just promise not to shoot me. I'll even provide the pistols. You might even enjoy it!! :-)

11/16/2006 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

Come to think of it, Dan, if you want to be the spokesman for the new Democratic congressional majority on the platform that:

1) We're the party of appeasement and 2) appeasement works!!

Who am I to stand in your way? Go for it. Good luck - you'll need it.

11/16/2006 1:12 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Maybe you should teach them how to make beer ;-)

Anonymous -
Step 1 - click other
step 2 - type name in blank for name

11/16/2006 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allright. I finally went out to thefreedictionary.com (because I'm too lazy to walk 8', bend over and pick up my Oxford. Maybe that's why I'm carrying around an extra 30 lbs).

a. An act of appeasing.

Well, there ya go. What more do you want?

b. The condition of being appeased.

It just doesn't get any clearer than that, does it? Guess at thefreedictionary.com you get what you pay for, huh?

And finally:

2. The policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace.

OK. I can see how, by this definition, appeasement could be considered a component of negotiation and compromise.

But Dan, you old comment whore, you know full well that the cultural connotation of the word "appeasement" is inextricably tied to Chamberlain, Hitler and futility.

It is a politically charged word that is the equivalent of calling someone a big pussy (sorry Dan's mom). And that was true LOOONG before the current generation of conservatives started bandying it about and associating it with their favorite, "cut and run".

I think you are deliberately using politically and emotionally charged language in a blatant attempt to create a bogus controversy, generate dialogue and score a lot of comments in the process.

You KNOW how much I frown on that sort of thing!

I always strive to keep MY BLOG (http://hipsubwg.blogspot.com/) above that sort of thing.

11/16/2006 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another note, you said "If anyone here can explain to me how the Irish issues were settled with anything other than appeasement, please do so."

If you look at the timeline of events, I think that 9/11 ended "The Troubles".

I think the IRA looked at what the Islamic terrorists did in NY and said "My God. Is that what we are? Is that us? That's not what we want to be."

I don't have any real evidence to support that (or anything else I've ever said), but I'll bet ya it's true!

11/16/2006 7:02 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

XO - Your accusations of me being a comment whore are hurtful. My motivation with this blog is always purely to advance the truth and deeper understanding. I think my post entitled "Second Amendment - 18th Century Wisdom in the 21st Century" proves my purity.

More substantively, Hah! I told you so! The meaning of the word is exactly as I said, and not what the right-wingers are trying to re-write. Appeasement means giving stuff up in the hopes of keeping the peace. That's what we did in the Cuban Missile Crisis (and what the Russians did). That's what both sides did in Ireland. It has worked, and the idiots who say it has never worked are lying - and I don't intend to let them get away with it.

Finally, the Irish resolution had little, IMO, to do with 9-11. People who put bombs in schoolyards are not likely to think that an attack on a major economic target is out of bounds.

11/17/2006 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan - I don't know about the IRA thing. I mean, you're right...you wouldn't think the two would be connected.

I just know that very shortly after 9/11, the IRA just surprisingly said "OK. That's it. We're done. Getting out of the terrorist business and going legit now."

I don't recall the British government making any remarkable concessions...sorry, "appeasements", at the time.

11/17/2006 9:53 AM  
Blogger emawkc said...

Dan, you are suggesting that there is only a single, narrow definition (the one you choose) for the word. By limiting the definition of the word, you are skewing its meaning. Appeasement is not equal to negotiation. That's why they are two different words.

Remeber what Obi-Wan Kenobi said: "Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes."

11/17/2006 10:18 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I feel like Mugatu in Zoolander - "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"

I am not insisting on a single definition - I am simply asking for a definition not pulled out of somebody's ass as a "cultural definition." By any definition other than one you or XO makes up, appeasement has worked in Ireland and in the Cuban missile crisis, to name just two obvious examples.

I am not and never have said that appeasement is the same as negotiation. Negotiation is a broader term encompassing a wide range of accomplishing agreement - appeasement is the policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace.

Your statement "By limiting the definition of the word, you are skewing its meaning" is truly high comedy. What IS a definition, other than a limiting of its meaning? Words are what you say they mean, I suppose. Should "orange" be understood to mean all fruit, or all colors, or surrender? If you really believe that, I orange in my attempts to understand your use of the English language.

11/17/2006 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

But one does not appease evil -- or else it could be argued that Lincoln's "optional war" could have been prevented or ended by simply recognizing the Confderacy's right to break away to preserve slavery.

And to think of the lives it would have saved!

11/17/2006 5:01 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

RWR - We were more than ready to appease evil before and during the civil war, and I'll give you a friendly caution about referring to the confederates that way around here. And, besides, that has nothing to do with the right-wing lie that appeasement never works. Why change the subject?

11/17/2006 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

RWR's got a point, Dan.

Admit it; you've put yourself out on a limb on this one, and it's steadily being sawed off.

Again, if you want to be the spokesman for the Democratic party arguing that appeasement is solid policy and we're the party of appeasement, have it it. Good luck. You'll need it.

11/17/2006 5:26 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous Me - What point does RWR have that a hat won't cover? That we didn't have to fight the civil war? Okay, that's correct. But what does that have to do with my correct point that appeasement has worked in the past? Did I ever claim that appeasement always works? Or that it is always a wise policy? Of course not!

And that's the flaw in your silly challenge. I've never claimed that appeasement is always the correct policy, or that the Democratic party should engage in "appeasement" in any given situation. Have I? Admit that you're making that up.

Call it being on a limb, if you must, but it seems to me that I caught a bunch of mindless, talking-point-repeaters in a lie, and I've proven it.

11/17/2006 5:36 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Typical lawyer speak, Dan. Always, never, blah blah blah

I guess we need to dissect every adverb, adjective, noun before commenting on this blog.

The point being made here is that people are not willing to cave in to outrageous demands. We are not willing to swear allegiance to Allah. We are not willing to allow hostile countries to have nuclear weapons (note "weapons") that threaten the western world. Please read that sentence carefully.

Now, before I get hammered by XO and others, what I have just said does not preclude negotiating with all arab countries and we should not forget that all arab countries do not promote islamofascism. In fact, some arab countries, such as Egypt, actually believe that we are abandoning them throughout this whole mideast ordeal. IMHO, we do have allies in the mideast and we need to support them who in turn will support us. And, let's not be naive, that means money and goods.

We are beating up semantics in this discussion. There is not one among us who would appease terrorism. I don't have the answers. Dan doesn't have the answers. That's what we expect our leaders to do.

11/18/2006 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

And Dan, I would argue that decades of appeasement regarding slavery made the Civil War inevitable and more bloody.

And note -- I am not calling the Confederacy evil per se. I am calling the barbaric practice of slavery evil. Similarly, I would not argue that Islam is evil, but I would argue that jihadi terrorism is.

I suppose that if I wanted to i could play little ideological games with you and make all sorts of partisan claims, but i won't. It would be beneath the serious tone that most of the commenters (if not you) have tried to take on this matter. If I were going to do that, I would note the fact that the party demanding appeasement of the slaveholders, appeasement of Communism and appeasement of the jihadis are one and the same, and make the argument "treason for peace" has been the historic policy of that party. THAT would be a cheap shot -- akin to your constant references to "right-wing lies" about the reality that peace-at-any-price appeasement never works in the long run and is a fundamentally flawed policy.

11/18/2006 9:02 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Travelingal - Just trying to respect the language. They're the ones who said "appeasement" "never" works. That's why I had to show them how wrong they were.

RWR - I'm glad you wouldn't say any of that stuff, because then I would have to show how wrong it all is.

11/19/2006 5:34 PM  
Blogger emawkc said...

Thanks for proving my point with your "orange" example. One word, multi-faceted meaning.

Your whole argument is based on trying to reduce a complex geo-political concept into a simplistic, incomplete Webster's dictionary definition. Most people abandon the "Webster's dictionary defines XXXX as..." argument in the eighth grade.

Has appeasement worked in the passed? Maybe, maybe not. Probably one would need to examine the meaning of the word "work" along with the word "appeasement." You might also want to look up the meaning of the word "connotation" while you're at it.

Regardless, you should recognize that you are using the very tactic of which you accuse the "right-wingers."

What was the definition of hypocrisy?

11/19/2006 9:11 PM  
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