National Review on August 18, 2015, published an article on the problems of appeasement by Victor Davis Hanson. From Thucydides to 21st-century America it is not a winner. The common bond among the various elements of the failed Obama foreign policy — from reset with Putin to concessions to the Iranians — is a misreading of human nature. The so-called Enlightened mind claims that the more rationally and deferentially one treats someone pathological, the more likely it is that he will respond and reform — or at least behave. The medieval mind, within us all, claims the opposite is more likely to be true. Excerpts below:
…the negotiations preceding World War II …[is proof of]…the autocratic accentuation of the human tendency to interpret concession and empathy not as magnanimity to be reciprocated, but rather as weakness to be exploited or as a confession of culpability worthy of contempt.
The more Britain’s Chamberlain and France’s Daladier in 1938 genuinely sought to reassure Hitler of their benign intentions, the more the Nazi hierarchy saw them as little more than “worms” — squirming to appease the stronger spirit. Both were seen as unsure of who they were and what they stood for, ready to forfeit the memory of the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of their own on the false altar of a supposedly mean and unfair Versailles Treaty.
Hitler perversely admired Stalin after the latter liquidated a million German prisoners, and hated FDR, whose armies treated German POWs with relative humanity.
Then we come to Iran. Does Supreme Leader Khamenei tone down his anti-American rhetoric — unwise though such rhetoric may seem in the midst of heated debates over the wisdom of President Obama’s negotiations — when the United States offers concessions on continued enrichment and centrifuges, or backs off from snap-back sanctions and anywhere/anytime inspections? If the U.S. Congress should defeat the treaty, reinstate even tougher sanctions, organize another global boycott, and warn the Iranians that they will be held accountable for their terrorist operatives, would Iranian theocrats keep chanting “Death to America” in their legislative chambers and press ahead with enrichment as they wink and nod to their allies about nuclear proliferation?
The trait is not quite ingratitude so much as it is gratuitous derision. It all reminds me of 1980, when the ingratiating Jimmy Carter (remember the aborted appeasement mission of Ramsey Clark, and Andy Young’s blessing of Khomeini as a probable “saint”?) was slandered as satanic by the Iranian hostage-takers, while President-elect Ronald Reagan was met with silence and released hostages.
The Castro brothers just upped their rhetoric, as Fidel demanded millions of dollars in embargo reparations as part of President Obama’s “normalization” of relations with Cuba — apparently to remind the world that the Cubans have no intention of paying back the billions of dollars they confiscated 55 years ago in American capital and property, much less of easing up on human-rights activists. Why would the Castros do that at this point, when no American president in a half-century has been more deferential to their Stalinist government? Is their defiance cheap public grandstanding for the benefit of Cuban hardliners, or a more natural reaction known to benefactors and beneficiaries alike as something like the following: “If he gave a wretch like me something for nothing, then he either did not deserve what he had or he should have given me even more”?
If a President Rubio announced a ratcheting up of sanctions, a public campaign on behalf of democratic dissidents in Cuban jails, and increased radio and television broadcasts to the enslaved island, would Castro think any less of him than he does of President Obama? Would he now be demanding of Rubio millions in reparations?
Why did Putin react to Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s obsequious reset with invasions of his smaller neighbors? …Why did ISIS swallow Iraq immediately following our departure, when we had been told ad nauseam in the 2008 campaign that our foreign presence there was an irritant and a radicalizing force among the peoples of the Middle East?
The answer is something more than just the obvious: that naïve appeasement is more dangerous than wise deterrence, or that the sober advice to keep quiet and carry a large stick trumps sounding off while wielding a toothpick.
Repeatedly the Obama administration has been shocked to see that the recipients of its consideration, from Putin to Khamenei, interpret such deference as weakness or maybe even smug arrogance. At times I think Vladimir Putin would prefer to be checked by NATO in Ukraine than psychoanalyzed by an appeasing Obama as an adolescent class cut-up engaged in “macho schtick.”
Obama’s misreading of human nature has proverbially sown the wind, and the whirlwind is upon us.