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.
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Back in the early Paleolithic Age (2002 or so) of what we then called the blogosphere, I ran into some articles written by someone called Victor Davis Hanson. I didn’t recognize the name but it sounded a little pretentious, one of the three-word affairs like Edwin Arlington Robinson.
But, man, those articles. They were extraordinary. The author was apparently a classics scholar and able to place the affairs of the day in a vast historical context in a manner I had never read before, sort of Thucydides meets Charles Krauthammer. I couldn’t get enough of his work and, judging by the number of laudatory comments online, neither could a lot of other people.
When we were starting what was then Pajamas Media, I had the idea (it wasn’t brilliant — it was obvious) that we wanted Victor, above anyone, on our digital pages. We were lucky enough to get him and week-to-week got to follow him as he responded to the ongoing and escalating war against radical Islam plus all the domestic folly that ensued.
But it was war itself that was Victor’s special field of interest — he is a military historian — and that is where his work excels. I remember a few years ago going up to Stanford to help record one of his lectures for our Freedom Academy and being startled by something he said — that war, not peace, was the natural way of humanity. I felt like a dummy for not having realized this simple truth before. But that’s what you get from Victor, the unvarnished truth laid out for you. You have to face reality before you can improve it.
Which is my way of getting around to reviewing Seductions of Appeasement — a collection of Victor’s essays for this site with a new introduction by the author. It is being published as a Freedom Academy e-book on Tuesday, June 16. I recommend the book highly if you have not read the essays before (or all of them), but even more highly if you have. A second reading places Hanson’s writing in the historical context of the last few years and they are yet more impressive in retrospect. How could he have understood all this so well in real time? It can’t just be the historian thing. (Maybe we should all bone up on the classics.)
The introduction concludes with this paragraph, vintage Victor for its pithy analysis of the terrible situation our country faces today:
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.
Seductions of Appeasement, indeed. Get the e-book, read it and try not to weep. Exalt in the great writing instead. And do something. What a book to be published only weeks before the putative signing of the Iran deal. Behind every word of Victor Davis Hanson’s is a call to action.
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.