President Ronald Reagan’s administration operated in light of Barry Goldwater’s mantra, “peace through strength.” The belief was simple: a strong military and the willingness to use it will prevent wars rather than incite them. After all, human nature dictates that people rarely, if ever, pick a fight with someone who will successfully retaliate. This is why bullies and thugs are always looking for someone whom they can easily overcome.
Yet President Barack Obama has turned Goldwater’s premise on its head. Instead of promoting strength as a way of ensuring peace, Obama is promoting weakness through his “hand of friendship” to every rogue nation and struggling tyrant who will shake it. Regardless of what Obama’s ultimate goals with such spinelessness might be, it begs the question: can there be “peace through weakness”?
Recent history indicates that there is no such thing as peace through weakness, a lesson illustrated today by North Korea’s fearless missile launches and nuclear tests. Both President Bill Clinton and his successor, George W. Bush, refused to do anything militarily to stop North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons program and now it seems that news about Kim Jong Il’s nuclear tests has gone from surreal, to surprising, to something we’re resigned to living with.
What’s sad is that Iran is watching. While North Korea is mocking our denunciations of their missile tests and members of our State Department are making nice with every head of state that provides dinner and photo-ops for an Obama official, Ahmadinejad is wondering if we’d actually respond to an Iranian-sponsored attack on Israel. And why shouldn’t they wonder? They are, after all, witnesses to the fact that “Obama wishes to shape new universal discourse, which seeks to replace the confrontation with the radical Muslim world … [with] reconciliation.”
Every leftist world leader worth their salt in political discourse knows that the use of “reconciliation” is Obama-speak for “the U.S. is finally willing to take her share of the blame for the crimes of other countries.”
So if that’s the lesson of recent history, what does a broader look tell us? According to Reagan, “a broader reading of history shows that appeasement, no matter how it is labeled, never fulfills the hopes of the appeasers.” And he’s right. No other lesson need be supplied to prove Reagan’s point than that of Neville Chamberlain and his infamous “peace in our time” speech. While Hitler was on the march in 1938, rolling through Europe with reckless abandon, Chamberlain was proud to say they shook hands after negotiating the Munich Agreement, which ceded part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in exchange for his promise to stop his military conquest in September of that year.
To this day I am embarrassed for any members of Chamberlain’s extended family who may have to watch the video of him waving that treaty in his hand like Jed Clampett waved his hat after seeing the “bubbling crude.” For just months after Chamberlain held up that treaty and declared that he’d secured “peace in our time,” Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia, then Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and finally France.
Perhaps the worst part about the way appeasers like Chamberlain (and FDR) handled Hitler is that they ignored Hitler’s clear intentions. Over a decade before he rolled into Poland, Hitler used his book Mein Kampf to express his hatred of Jews and his belief in the right of the superior race to rule. Iran’s Ahmadinejad is doing no less when he talks about blowing Israel off the map, yet Obama remains satisfied with holding “talks.”
Even though George W. Bush failed to handle North Korea correctly, he sees the danger behind Obama’s dependence on such talks: “Diplomacy only works if there’s leverage — ‘Let’s go talk to people’ … sounds wonderful … but you better have leverage in order to make diplomacy work.” (The “leverage” of which Bush speaks is military might.)
Therefore, whether we look at recent history or reach back decades upon decades, it is clear there can be no peace through weakness, for peace is the product of strength and the willingness to use that strength when threatened. Or, to put it as Reagan did while governor of California in 1972: “Every lesson of history tells us that appeasement does not lead to peace … [but] invites an aggressor to test the will of a nation unprepared to meet that test.”
Today, as Iran and a world of would-be despots looks on, I wonder if Obama’s weakness toward North Korea and his indifference concerning Israel’s safety have emboldened them enough to think that we might actually be “unprepared to meet [their] test”?