Jewish World Review Sept. 22, 2009 / 4 Tishrei 5770
Seems Like Old Times
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | For those who like their fashions retro, these are the good old days all over again. Especially if you liked the look of the 1930s. Fashion doesn't apply just to clothes but to ideas, including those about foreign policy. And now appeasement is in again.
Naturally, it's called something else now, for appeasement acquired a bad reputation in the Thirties. These days it's being marketed under a new brand name, realism. And it can be worn with accessories like isolationism to complete the ensemble. Together, they produce a whole, not-so-new attitude toward threats from abroad. Mainly, let's ignore them.
As in: Why be beastly to the Russians by setting up a missile defense system on what
The current regime in
Banish such entirely too realistic thoughts from your mind. Surely neither
If we're nice to them, they'll be nice to us. That seems to be the pivot-point of this president's new foreign policy. It certainly worked with
It's worked so well that
The moral of this retro fashion show: Our new president, a decent man, makes the same mistake decent men the world over make when they deal with the indecent: They assume their own openness and generosity will be met in kind, when such displays may only convince the indecent we're pushovers, and encourage their depredations rather than deter them. Through the clouded lens of history turned into stereotype, we tend to forget what a decent sort of chap
This present discussion isn't just about a missile system. Any more than the Cold War was just about throw-weight, geopolitics, overseas bases and Wars of National Liberation. In essence it was a contest of wills, of the spirit, an inner conflict about whether the West still had enough faith in its values to defend them and itself. Or whether we would go on trying to appease those who wish us no good.
If you have your doubts about the Kim Jong-Ils and Mahmoud Ahmadinejads of the world, why, that's just antiquated Bush Era or even Reagan Era thinking. What this country needs is a foreign policy that's even older. One that goes back to the 1930s.
Once again we're being told that the West will be stronger if we act weaker, world peace will be more secure if we mollify those who threaten us, and our allies will be just as loyal and trusting if we slip out of the commitments we've made to them. Never mind that the 1930s led inevitably to the 1940s and the greatest war in history. (Retro fashions, however appealing, do have their dangers.)
This is where the basic American fantasy comes into play that we can retreat from the world. Who needs a missile defense system based in
Don't worry about the Poles and Czechs; they'll understand if we back out of this deal. They're used to being betrayed. With them, it's almost a tradition. They'll be quite happy with this new arrangement, or pretend to be. Complaining about it would only advertise their vulnerability. Once again they're becoming expendable. Just like old times.
Once again the West will have a leader who knows how to negotiate, extend an open hand, visit foreign capitals to make conciliatory speeches, and return with Peace In Our Time. Seems like old times, having you to walk with, seems like old times, having you to talk with.
There's just one possible hang-up. In 1938, the Czechs went along quietly as the guarantees they'd been given proved worthless. They should have known the West would abandon them as soon as push came to invasion. And maybe they did know, but what realistic choice did they have but to join the ranks of Captive Nations?
But this time the little country most endangered is not in
The Israelis may not be prepared to go gently into that terrifying night. They may not just sit there and wait to be vaporized. Again. After all, they're a nervous people, and have reason to be. And this time they have an army, navy and air force, and maybe a trick or two up their sleeve. Like nuclear weapons of their own, though they try not to noise it about.
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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