'Seductions of Appeasement': Why the World Has Gone to Hell

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Appeasement defined the global conflicts of the 20th century. Time after time, America and other forces for freedom and democracy withheld their power in efforts to appease the most evil regimes in recent history. Over and over again, the policy of appeasement has ended in disaster. Now, conservative giant Victor Davis Hanson asks: why is appeasement so seductive and where will it take us in the 21st century?

In this collection of Hanson’s best columns from the last four years on the policy of appeasement today and in history, the path becomes clear. If America continues down the road of appeasement with radical Islamic groups and aggressive regimes in Russia and North Korea, the world will see a conflagration rivalling World War II.

A copy of the book can be purchased here.

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Dr. Victor Davis Hanson's new ebook, Seductions of Appeasement, should be required reading for every Republican presidential candidate running in 2016. The book, a series of essays published over the last few years by Dr. Hanson on his PJ Media blog, offers a searing indictment of American foreign policy in the age of Obama and takes a frightening look at the logical outcome of those policies.

Hanson is one of the most clear-headed academics working today and a crackerjack writer as well. Despite the downer subject matter, it is an immensely satisfying read, thanks largely to Hanson's ability to reduce complex ideas and concepts to their bare essence and present the results in a clarifying way. No, the world is not simple nor can explaining it be reduced to black and white -- as liberals are fond of accusing conservatives of doing. But Dr. Hanson makes what's happening understandable by connecting past with present, showing where we've gone off the rails and why the inexorable logic of events is following a predictable path due to wrongheaded, naive policies.

The book mostly covers Islamic extremism, Putin's Russia, and the incomprehensible policy prescriptions of the Obama administration to deal with them. In his prologue to the book, Hanson immediately reveals his major thesis:

We are witnessing another world order in the making. Russia, Iran, China, and ISIS are all carving out spheres of regional influence. Europe and Japan are unsure of their own security. NATO is ossified. The United States at home is distracted by all sorts of ginned-up racial, gender, and class tensions, as it seeks to shed it past postwar role and somehow achieve a respite by forfeiting its obligations as global protector of the West.

As these essays attempt to demonstrate, the common denominator is the Obama administration’s belief in a therapeutic view of human nature, and a strange half-educated notion that the United States since World War II was not responsible for the greatest era of affluence, freedom, and security in the history of civilization.

Finally, the Obama administration proves wearisome, as if it is replaying a tired script of a strong power whose anxieties prompt naiveté in lieu of deterrence, and render it paralyzed before weaker but aggressive enemies. We have learned nothing from the paralyzed Carter administration. Its outreach to communists in Central America, theocrats in Iran, and geriatric Soviets ended in a chaotic world from Kabul to Teheran to Managua. The European appeasement in the 1930s of an ascendant Third Reich is the locus classicus for any historical analogy with the present American recessional: a public weary from war, record debt and economic uncertainty, apologies and euphemisms for the aggressive behavior of violent regimes, an impotent world council of nations, indifference to the victims of fascist violence, cutbacks in military readiness, and invective and charges of war-mongering leveled toward any that question such appeasement. And we know how this ends: either in a costly 11th-hour recalibration to restore deterrence—or war as violent as it was avoidable.

Barack Obama is the Word Made Flesh for the radical left and their rancid worldview that includes the notion that America is to blame for most, if not all, the troubles in the world, and that if only America would relinquish its role as a superpower, the planet would heal itself and all will be right as rain.

It seems impossible that any rational American could believe that. But as Hanson shows, the Obama administration has lived that simple credo for more than 6 years.

But why? And how have they gone about making policy to reflect those beliefs?

Post-World War II America has seen both Democratic and Republican presidents follow a similar game plan in foreign policy. Each succeeding president carried on with broad themes inherited from the previous administration. Containment of the Soviets, benign neglect in Latin America, cooperation with Israel, and cordial relationships with Arab dictators was the norm. The establishment was largely internationalist and globalist in its thinking.

The overarching theme was that America was good, American power was necessary, and that we would ultimately triumph in the long, twilight struggle with Communism. The Democratic Party left was on board with all of that -- until the 1970s. At some point, liberalism lost its belief in the institutions of the west, even of democracy itself, and decided that the civilization that they had helped bring into being and nurtured for 500 years wasn't worth saving.

Barack Obama was a child of this revolution in liberal thought. To discover how much of the doctrines and ideology of his radical mother and anti-colonialist father he absorbed and took to heart is a job for a psychiatrist. But Obama entered adulthood with a warped view of America, American history, and America's role in the world. He would put it to use when he became president.

Thankfully, Hanson avoids any psychoanalysis of why Obama believes what he believes and shows with devastating clarity the reasons why he was able to "transform America":

From the essay "War is Interested in Obama":

Obama was able to recalibrate seven decades of bipartisan foreign policy for a variety of convenient reasons. An unexpected domestic oil and gas bonanza, brought on by new methods of fracking and horizontal drilling (that Obama largely opposed), suddenly made the Middle East less relevant to America. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the bombing of Libya, made Americans tired not just of the costs of war, but even more of the inability of these liberated countries to govern themselves, and of their general ingratitude shown their American liberators. Karzai, Maliki, and the nameless in Libya are not necessarily an attractive bunch. And $17 trillion in debt and a chronically sluggish economy — at a time of vast expansions in federal entitlements — translates to many Americans that a dollar spent overseas is a dollar lost to entitlements. And abroad, for the last thirty years, there has been a growing resentment of Americans toward our allies who seem to criticize the U.S. the more they are guaranteed American security.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to tell the world where anti-Americanism would inevitably lead. Speaking before the Australian parliament in 2006, Blair sounded a warning that went unheeded.

Mr Blair told the Australian House of Representatives: "I do not always agree with the US. Sometimes they can be difficult friends to have.

"But the strain of, frankly, anti-American feeling in parts of European and world politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in.

"The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved. We want them engaged."

Blair was clearly foreseeing the rise of someone like President Obama who would make disengagement an attractive alternative for voters. The constant drumbeat of anti-Americanism from overseas was not lost on most Americans who were ready to believe the nostrums of a golden-voiced prophet who made retreat sound appetizing to a large number of Americans.

To Dr. Hanson's credit, he blames the American people as well as the president for our situation today. From the essay "Obama's Ironic Foreign Policy":

We are an ahistorical, me-only generation. An Okinawa or Hue does not exist in our memories. War is supposed to proceed like apps on an iPhone. No one knows of the intelligence failures surrounding Pearl Harbor, the near criminally wrong protocols of the B-17 campaign between 1942-3, or the failure to provide our troops with adequate tanks and anti-tank weaponry in World War II.

Going to war is a matter not of avoiding mistakes, but of seeking to correct them as soon as possible. For a postmodern society that knows no history, mistakes must not occur. And when they do, someone else is always to be blamed.

Obama is a perfect president for a populace who is "war weary" and desperate for soothing talk about how we can avoid our historic responsibilities without endangering our security. In that context, it's simple for a politician like Obama to portray his opponents as bloodthirsty warmongers -- or worse.

The bottom line is that the president has no confidence in America, in the exercise of her power, or in the goodness and righteousness of western values. Multiculturalism -- which Dr. Hanson writes is the "twin of appeasement" -- is the culprit in this loss of faith and confidence in America and the west.

From the essay "Multicultural Suicide":

Once Americans and Europeans declare all cultures as equal, those hostile to the West should logically desist from their aggression, in gratitude to the good will and introspection of liberal Westerners. Apologizing for the Bush war on terror, promising to close down Guantanamo, deriding the war in Iraq, reminding the world of the president’s Islamic family roots — all that is supposed to persuade the Hasans, Tsarnaevs, and Kouachis in the West that we see no differences between their cultural pedigrees and the Western paradigm they have chosen to emigrate to and at least superficially embrace. Thus the violence should cease.

Hanson concludes the book with a hair-raising look at the near future: war in the Middle East, a hegemonic Iran with the bomb, Russia running wild in the Baltics, and Asia making alternative arrangements with China due to America abandoning its traditional Pacific allies. You want to think it's too speculative a future that Dr. Hanson is revealing, but the case he makes for this dystopia has been forcefully, passionately, and logically laid out in the previous essays.

One thing is sure: the next president will have a gigantic mess to deal with. And it's extremely uncertain if we can retrieve our position given almost two more years of retreat and drift, even if someone with a strong hand at the helm is elected.

This blog post is part of PJ Media's Appeasement Week, a series of blog posts celebrating the launch of Victor Davis Hanson's new e-book, The Seductions of Appeasement. Buy it now on the PJ Store, and get 50% until June 30! Click here to read.