The Legacy of Appeasement
By Jack Kinsella
“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana, A Life of Reason, Book One: Reason & Common Sense, 1916
Waffling, wavering, withdrawal, or appeasement — all in response to terrorism…the sentiment has any number of names and only one inevitable conclusion.
It emboldens the enemy and gives him precious time to regroup, reequip and resume the conflict — on his own terms.
The most classic case of appeasement from history is British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s ‘peace in our time’ speech in 1938.
Prime Minister Chamberlain and French president Edouard Daladier travelled to Munich, Germany to conclude a peace agreement with Adolph Hitler.
In March 1938, MI6 agent Hugh Christie told the British government that Adolf Hitler could be ousted by the military if Britain joined forces with Czechoslovakia against Germany.
Christie warned that the “crucial question is, “How soon will the next step against Czechoslovakia be tried?’ … The probability is that the delay will not exceed two or three months at most, unless France and England provide the deterrent, for which cooler heads in Germany are praying.”
Instead, the heads of the governments of Germany, Britain, France and Italy met in Munich in September, 1938. At that meeting, they signed the Munich Agreement.
Rather than joining forces with the Czechs, the British and French agreed to carve up and give away the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia, in exchange for a promise from Hitler not to demand any more of Europe.
Czechoslovakia’s head of state was not invited to the meeting in which his country was negotiated away by the British and French.
Chamberlain came home to London, waving a piece of paper signed by Adolph Hitler, promising peace in exchange for the Sudetenland, and predicted that the Munich Agreement would guarantee ‘peace in our time’.
In March, 1939, Hitler seized the rest of Czechoslovakia, after having annexed Austria the month before.
(The union between Austria and Germany was expressly forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended World War I.)
Chamberlain’s policy cost Czechoslovakia its freedom, handed Austria over to the Nazis without a shot being fired, and enlarged the Nazi empire and the German pool of army conscripts.
By November, Hitler was strong enough to invade Poland, despite his promises to the contrary, beginning the Second World War. The Munich Agreement had so empowered and enlarged Nazi Germany that it took five years to dislodge them from Europe.
At 6:20 a.m. on October 23, 1983, a large Mercedes truck approached the Beirut airport, passing well within sight of Israeli sentries in their nearby base, going through a Lebanese army checkpoint, and turning left into the parking lot.
A U.S. Marine guard reported with alarm that the truck was gathering speed, but before he could do anything, the truck roared toward the entrance of the four-story reinforced concrete Aviation Safety Building.
The building was being used as headquarters for the Eighth Marine Battalion.
The truck crashed through a wrought-iron gate, hitting the sand-bagged guard post, smashed through another barrier, rammed a wall of sandbags into the lobby, and exploded with such a terrific force that the building was instantly reduced to rubble.
The attack killed 241 Marines, most of whom died while sleeping in their cots. It was the highest single-day death toll for American forces since the beginning of the Tet Offensive that took 246 American lives across Vietnam in one day on January 13, 1968.
Within days, the Israelis passed along to the CIA the names of 13 people who they said were connected to the bombing deaths of the U.S. Marines and French paratroopers, a list including Syrian intelligence, Iranians in Damascus, and Shi’ite leaders in Beirut.
Instead of retaliating, the Reagan administration pulled all US forces out of Lebanon.
Osama bin Laden underscored the symbolic importance of the 1983 violence when he told ABC News in 1998 that U.S. soldiers were “paper tigers.”
“The Marines fled after two explosions,” he recalled.
“There is no question it was a major cause of 9/11,” said former Navy Secretary John Lehman, a member of the Sept. 11 investigative commission quoted recently in Knight Ridder Newspapers. “We told the world that terrorism succeeds.”
In 1993, following the Battle of Mogadishu (made famous by the movie, ‘Black Hawk Down’) Bill Clinton abandoned the Somalia objectives and withdrew all US forces from Somalia.
In 1996, bin-Laden issued a fatwa against the United States. In it, he cited Somalia as evidence of US weakness that he said proved his mujahadeen would win.
“But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousand American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you.”
In his fatwa, entitled, “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” bin-Laden also noted that;
“Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the “heart” of every Muslim and a remedy to the “chests” of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut, Aden and Mogadishu.”
America’s history of appeasement of terrorism is bi-partisan. It began under Ronald Reagan, and became the unofficial policy of the Clinton administration for the eight years that led up to September 11, 2001.
If the Europeans didn’t learn the price of appeasement on their own Continent in 1938, one would expect that maybe they learned something about it from America’s record.
But the recent agreement they signed with the mad mullahs in Tehran proves Santayana’s maxim that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
The agreement with Iran’s mullahs is even less reassuring than Chamberlain’s Munich Pact. At least Hitler PROMISED, and pretended he intended to keep his promise.
The Iranians promised, in so many words, that they would break the agreement to suspend nuclear enrichment, even before they signed it, but the EU went ahead anyway.
EU negotiators included, at Iranian insistence, the following line: “The E3/EU recognizes that this suspension is a voluntary confidence building measure and not a legal obligation.” Iran is the keystone of the terrorist edifice and we are doomed to confront it sooner or later, nuclear or not. The question is not ‘if’, but ‘when’.
And the answer is even older than the question.
“After many days thou shalt be visited: in THE LATTER YEARS thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.” (Ezekiel 38:8)
“Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.” (Mark 13:30)
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on December 11, 2004.