World War II began 74 years ago Sunday when German troops invaded Poland. The invasion conclusively discredited the concept of “appeasement” as a foreign policy for, well, the next 74 years. But if the U.S. Congress opposes authorization of the military mission to Syria that President Obama has now handed off to it, and if Obama uses that as an excuse to back further away from enforcement of his “red line,” the “A” word will likely come to dominate the international debate once again.
And Barack Obama, who in his first term was known as the vanquisher of Osama bin Laden, could come out of his second looking more like Neville Chamberlain.
I don’t want to overstate things. Bashar al-Assad, a tinpot dictator who is fighting only for his own survival, is no Hitler. He’s not set to overrun an entire continent. And the “lessons of Munich” and the dangers of appeasement are generally overdrawn. But, after all, it was Secretary of State John Kerry who lumped Assad with the Fuehrer on the talk shows Sunday, saying that he “now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein [who] have used these weapons in time of war.” (Technically, Hitler’s only use of gas was not on the battlefield but to kill millions in extermination camps.)
These are also the clear implications of the president’s own words.
Not to mention it was the clear implication of the words that departing speechwriter Jon Favreau crafted for Obama’s second inauguration address this past January. As Joel Pollack wrote back then at Big Peace:
It was either an embarrassing slip, or a frightening revelation of the president’s true worldview. Either way, the words “peace in our time,” made infamous by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as he promised an illusory peace with Adolf Hitler in 1938, should never have been in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address. Yet they were, and went virtually unnoticed until caught by conservatives on social media.
The phrase appeared in a passage on foreign policy, in which the president pledged to defend the nation while resolving differences peacefully [emphasis added]:
And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice–not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
That’s Favreau on the left, appropriately enough:
The environment that he and Mr. Obama were steeped in before assuming power was remarkably similar to the intellectual culture that enabled Chamberlain’s appeasement in 1938. No one should be surprised that it’s producing similar results today.