September 15, 2001 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Appeasement. Chamberlain sat at a table with Hitler in 1938 signing a treaty and proclaiming "peace for our time". Shortly after, World War II began. Killing innocent people does not solve the problem, but sitting at a table with your enemy and proclaiming peace (when he just wants to kill more) does no good either.
posted by owillis (36 comments total)
Ahem.. it only does no good when you're positively afraid of your enemy, as Chamberlain was of Hitler. The Treaty of Versailles was violated many times, and while the Allies may have threatened action, never ONCE did they attempt to do anything about it. Remilitarizing the Rhineland was a piece of cake for Hitler, and he must have been laughing after reclaiming the Sudetenland. Discussion is a very useful tool, if the agreeing parties actually have the balls to check up on each other.
posted by spyke at 4:33 PM on September 15, 2001

I guess it seems to me like the situations are quite different. hitler wanted to take over europe. letting him do that piece by piece was giving him what he wanted.

osama bin laden's stated objective, from what I've been reading, is to draw the US into a war with all the islamic countries. because of the sheer force of numbers, he believes the islamic world will win that war.

should we give him what he wants? wouldn't that be a victory for him?

it seems to me that working internationally to extradite him and then bringing him to trial in an international court would not only cement the solidarity of the rest of the world against terrorism, but would also cause the least escalation of further terrorist activity.

never mind that it denies bin laden the satisfaction of getting precisely what he wants.
posted by rebeccablood at 4:39 PM on September 15, 2001

I think Chamberlain was mindful of the previous war in Europe, there was a strong movement for appeasement and diplomacy as a method to avoid a repeat of the Great War. Military thinking was based on fighting a repeat of the trench war of 1914-18.

Battles such as the Somme cast along shadow.
posted by jackspot at 4:51 PM on September 15, 2001

As Bush has said I feel this is a war against terrorism, not the Islamic world (yes, I hate agreeing with Chief Shrub). Right now the most visible practicioners happen to be in the middle east, but I think the goal should be to uproot terrorism worldwide.

This attack was perpetrated by someone who does not deserve the courtesy of international court (which seems useless to me, Milosevic doesn't exactly seem scared or remorseful - as if it mattered to the people he's killed).

We should work with others in the region who have or desire democracy, but to not act against the enemy with weapons is modern-day appeasement.
posted by owillis at 4:53 PM on September 15, 2001

Does anyone, for one second, think that Islamic extremists are the least bit concerned with our Justice system?

We've convicted terrorists. We've even put some to death.

And yet, it did not prevent what happened.

These people are willing to die for their cause since they believe that their death will give them greater glory in the afterlife. That makes for a scary and untenable opponent. One that, even with the Japanese Kamikaze's in mind, is heretofore unparalleled.

I don't think that we can definitively say that broad or narrow military action will fail. I don't think we can say that some sort of humanitarian aid and productive discussion will fail. But I feel quite certain that extradition and American-style justice will not thwart future attacks.
posted by fooljay at 4:58 PM on September 15, 2001

but I think the goal should be to uproot terrorism worldwide.

How will that be accomplished? By bombing the shit out of a bunch of farmers and street vendors? Seems like more of the same heavy-handed, short-sighted, bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy that got us here in the first place.
posted by Optamystic at 5:02 PM on September 15, 2001

How To Make War (by James F. Dunnigan), is an absolute classic, and its author has quite the track record. Way near the back, he provides a region-by-region breakdown of the likelyhood of future wars in the world. Here is what he had to say in the '93 edition (all parts concerning Afganistan have bee italicized, and all spelling/grammatical errors are my own):

"ASIA is an area where things can get out of hand. The biggest danger is on the border one hears little about: China and Russia's. Russia fears China retaking the Far Eastern territories that Russia seized in the 19th century. Russia has a long history of bad relations with its eastern neighbors. Even the prospect of nuclear war has not entirely diminished this uneasiness between Russians and Orientals. But just as the Russians have an imperialist past in the region, so does the other major power, China. Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and even India have reason to fear persistent Chinese ambitions. There is also Taiwan, the wayward province now held by the wealthy and powerful losers of the last Chinese civil war. China now hopes to recover Taiwan by negotiation and has played down a military attempt. The border with India, astride the world's tallest mountains, is relatively quiet. Vietnam is another matter, with troops on the border and low-level but persistent fighting. Vietnam is hardly the victim, having fought with Cambodia for centuries over who will control Indochina. China's borders have never been peaceful, and are not likely to be in the future. The central Asian tribes have been waging war with anyone within reach for thousands of years. Only in the last century has Russia finally subdued and conquered them, and now these Central Asian peoples are once more independent. Except for Russia and Japan, most of the armed forces in Asia are low tech. Warfare consists of a lot of infantry and some artillery flailing away at each other. Any war in Asia could easily become nuclear, because the two major powers, Russia and China, have lots of nuclear weapons."
posted by Ptrin at 5:13 PM on September 15, 2001

But I feel quite certain that extradition and American-style justice will not thwart future attacks.

1) no, but it may inspire fewer future attacks.

2) I am heartsick at the idea that my government, in my name, may go bomb civilians as "payback". this action would be, to me, exactly equivalent to 9.11.

exactly equivalent.

not only is that morally repugnant to me, it will dissuade no one, it will create more enemies, and it will put all of us in higher danger of more attacks.

3) no penalty will dissuade a man who is willing to strap dynamite on himself and run into a building. not bombing, not a trial, nothing.

4) however, if we will ourselves stop bombing civilians, fewer people will have a reason to hate us. if we extend humanitarian aid to those who need it most, more will have reason to see us as their allies rather than their destroyers. if we stop selling arms around the world, fewer people will see us as money-hungry, morally bankrupt monsters. etc.

in other words, it's important to stop creating the conditions that helped lead to this attack. nothing happens in a vacuum. we helped to create the world we live in.
posted by rebeccablood at 5:16 PM on September 15, 2001


the only thing which will dissuade a man who is willing to strap dynamite on himself is to kill him before he can run into the building. People want to kill you and me. They will kill YOU, the real living and breathing rebeccablood, if given the chance. They don't want to talk. They don't want to reason. Your very existence is a blasphemy to them. They don't care about your rights. They actively want to kill you. What do you want to do about it?
posted by prodigal at 5:28 PM on September 15, 2001

well-said, rebeccablood. both times.
posted by damn yankee at 5:30 PM on September 15, 2001

Who do we attack in "America's New War" as CNN has taken to calling it? It seems to me to be like fighting werewolves or vampires; you can't tell the difference between an innocent goatherd and a suicidal zealot until someone tries to kill you or your fellow citizen.

It would make more sense to focus efforts on trying to undermine whatever it is that fosters this genocidal fanaticism than to trying to battle an all but invisible enemy. This is not a question of appeasement but of practicality.

Yes, efforts should be expended in hunting down the responsible terrorists with every means necessary, but military action that targets or harms anyone besides these criminals will piss off a bunch more people (who could be potential allies) and escalate the conflict in the way rcb describes.
posted by cardboard at 5:32 PM on September 15, 2001

...the same heavy-handed, short-sighted, bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy that got us here in the first place[my emphasis]

I guess it's official. We're responsible for Tuesday's bombing; it's officially Our Fault.

Once again, America is the world's sole moral agent.
posted by argybarg at 5:33 PM on September 15, 2001

This crisis must be tackled in a way never before fathomed. Creativity is our only useful weapon. Whatever we do it must surprise the living crap out of every fellow Earthling. The enemy's contingency plans must be rendered useless.

I apologize for being vague and using so damn many "must"s. I have my ideas of how this all could be diffused. Indeed every monday morning quarterbacking pacifist does. But clearly, social innovation is the only path to insure that more of us than not survive and our futures prosper.

Of course, it all looks so good on paper. . .
posted by crasspastor at 5:34 PM on September 15, 2001

Damn, rebeccablood, you smart! :) I think the question we should ask, prodigal, is why YOU want to strap on dynamite and blow up rb. Or if you don't- why not? Why aren't you a terrorist... or are you, except that you'd rather be a terrorist-by-proxy? Is it okay that we can do the same things to someone else that was done to us, but because of our unstoppably massive strength we can afford to be public about it and define it as something other than terrorism?

owillis, it's kinda like crime in this country in general, or disproportionate crime rates among African- Americans. The proximate solution is punishment- I mean, all the sociological papers in the world can't excuse actually committing a crime of theft or violence, so jail time is necessary or at least some kind of punishment and hopefully rehabilitation. But it's not mutually exclusive to also consider the sociological and environmental factors behind crime as a general social force, to ask why such high crime rates would exist among people solely because of their skin color- we can still punish individual offenders while pondering the larger questions and long term solutions. It's not sufficient to simply punish offenders without removing root causes, yet also not sufficient to only remove those root causes without punishing those who've offended.

Likewise, a response to terrorism should be punishment of the guilty alone (and yes, I do believe the death penalty is appropriate) but also an examination and alteration of the root causes of terrorism, which may include 'fessing up to our nation's own culpability in arming, training, and motivating some of these terrorist cells suspected of this attack. Too much of one or the other is an unbalanced and poor response indeed.
posted by hincandenza at 5:37 PM on September 15, 2001

prodigal: there's nothing I can do about that guy. what I need to do now is to make sure that I don't help to create more and more of him.
posted by rebeccablood at 5:39 PM on September 15, 2001,,3-2001321452,00.html
posted by Postroad at 5:41 PM on September 15, 2001

Or to put it another way, why aren't we discussing ways to stem the potential threat of Canadian terrorism? Why aren't we constantly in fear that the great Northern menace will attack us? Whatever reason that even the suggestion of Canadian terrorism on the US sounds foolish, let's figure out how to make it so that eventually it sounds just as foolish when replacing "Canadian" with "Middle-Eastern"...

Unless, that is, some people honestly believe that there is a core ancient genetic prediliction for terrorism and murderous rage by swarthy peoples. Which sounds a lot like racism, but what would I know... ?
posted by hincandenza at 5:42 PM on September 15, 2001

It's a false analogy, owillis: Hitler was appeased because the fate of the Sudeten Germans was a bargaining chip between external parties, done without consulation, who based their decisions on the ignorance that comes from distance. I've already overused Chamberlain's famous quotation that this was a problem in "a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing." (And as the sources suggest, the Manchester Guardian the editorial voice of the British left, was in favour of standing up to Hitler.)

We are not in that position now: there are no swaggering expansionists, there are no far-away countries, there are no bargaining chips, and there are no final warnings. International intelligence agencies have been following dozens of people for months. It's time to chase down the fuckers. They're being funded, you cut them off at their banks; they're being armed, you get to the shipments, and you send them scurrying like the rats they are into whichever tin-pot shitholes will harbour them. And at the same time you dry up the source of new recruits. (After all, one of the most potent fuels for terror in Northern Ireland was simply that one in four people was unemployed, and the thugs running the paramilitaries had a steady supply of idle young partisans to draw from the estates.)

Fanaticism without the tools of delivery is impotent.
posted by holgate at 5:47 PM on September 15, 2001

in other words, it's important to stop creating the conditions that helped lead to this attack. nothing happens in a vacuum. we helped to create the world we live in.

This is a noble goal, but I see this happening: The first time we don't walk in lockstep with a UN resolution, or when X invades Y and we don't provide financial/military support - we will hear about how callous and cold America is. These will be the same people saying we act like a big bully right now.

We just can't win.

In my view, the only way out is to push for "Pax Americana". Throw our weight around, keep people in line, in search of peace. Pro-active, not reactive. No more giving lip service to an ineffectual UN, while people continue to be opressed. Stop just looking at the Middle East and Europe, and realize Africa needs help too. Stop chasing the communism "boogeyman" (Cuba, China), and seek true peace. Do what someone/country with "superpower" has an obligation to do: fight for justice.

"With great power comes great responsibility"

But that's not gonna happen either.

(I read too many comic books. Or maybe not enough.)
posted by owillis at 5:51 PM on September 15, 2001

The first time we don't walk in lockstep with a UN resolution

Some of us are still waiting for the first time we do...
posted by hincandenza at 6:05 PM on September 15, 2001

hicandenza: Unlike the US but like much of the rest of the world, middle eastern countries feel a great connection to their past history. The predilection for terrorism and violence is not genetic, but rather cultural, founded in a long history of violence and war. How, then, would you propose to alter the historically-dominant cultural norms of a society against their will?

Particularly given that A) the leaders of many middle eastern countries need and encourage their people to hate the US, in order to deflect criticism of the existing government; and B) freedom of speech and information is generally non-existent, and the government uses propaganda very effectively to that end.

We can't "fix" the way that they think or who they are. All we can do is make it hard for them to carry out attacks against the US. We must remove their support structure, seize their financial resources, take away their safe harbors and training bases. We must give them no place to hide and no support, and we must do so without creating more suicide bombers. Not an easy task. But easier than turning them into Canadians.
posted by gd779 at 6:06 PM on September 15, 2001

hincandenza, I don't really understand your line of questioning. Of course I don't want to harm rebecca. I want her to have all the freedoms which I want for myself. I just don't understand the criteria underwhich you will undertake some action to defend yourself. I categorically deny that we "asked for" the wtc bombing, which I'm afraid you are asserting. I do know that these people want to kill us. I don't really care why. There is no cause for their desire to kill me to which I will agree.

Are there grievances that exist hincandenza to which you would agree that they have the right to kill you? If so, then why haven't you saved them the trouble and killed yourself. I don't mean this question to be unnecessarily provacative.

I have no qualms about taking measures to prevent their killing me. If these people weren't interested in killing us, I would wish them no harm.

Rebecca, I agree we should try to prevent the development of future terrorists, but you sidestepped my question. Under what circumstances would you defend your right to exist.
posted by prodigal at 6:22 PM on September 15, 2001

1) I've read and heard statements like these used far too often these days:

By bombing the shit out of a bunch of farmers and street vendors? Seems like more of the same heavy-handed, short-sighted, bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy that got us here in the first place.


I'm heartsick at the idea that my government, in my name, may go bomb civilians as "payback". this action would be, to me, exactly equivalent to 9.11.

That would make me heartsick too rebecca, but what gives anyone stating such things the idea that we're going to go into some country with guns a'blazin' killing masses of civilians?

From everything I've heard and read recently, the U.S. government is doing it's homework. It is strengthening its relationship with old allies and trying to forge new ones (and in most cases succeeding) with countries such as Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. Those ties are not simply military (and may not be military at all). Our intelligence community is being linked to the extremely proficient ones in Israel, Pakistan, et al. You can bet that behind the scenes there is information flowing faster than a raging river about the whereabouts (perhaps up-to-the-second) of those responsible.

Remember the decapitating missle Israel just used against an alleged Palestinian terrorist??? We don't need to carpet bomb... But to get these people, America (and the world) has to be ready to go in and get them. That means ground troops or special forces. That means, in turn, potential for casualties. Perhaps this event has once again given the American public the intestinal fortitude required to do something other than lob missiles from a cruise ship and bomb from high altitudes.

Perhaps it was the "those who harbor terrorists" statement that got everyone worried? When I heard that, I inferred it to be synonymous with governments, officials, militaries, and not with geographical entities such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As I've said before, anyone in power over here who orders the carpet bombing of a country can be assured a quick World War. No one is so stupid, I think. No one... Furthermore, the world community is not expecting that and would not stand for it.

I see the "declaration of war" against terrorism to be a war against a borderless enemy. In the crudest language (because I want to call it this before someone else does), it is "morally marginalized assasination". Aren't all wars?? The difference being that in this "war", the targets are not bound by a certain geography or necessarily everyone with a certain skin tone. The "enemy" is blended with the innocents around them. Hence the need for super intelligence.

2) I agree with you, rebecca et al, that the U.S. needs to realize that its own actions have created much of the current environment. That's not to say that we caused the attack, it's just to say that we caused the resentment that led a bunch of extremists to act.

The problem is that that takes time. It takes time to educate the U.S. public. It takes time to educate the U.S. politicians. It takes time for a newly educated U.S. public to sweep out of office any politicians that were elected under the previous mindset and have refused to learn.

I do not think that time is not a luxury that these terrorists will afford us. Furthermore, like others have said, I don't think that they (they being the extremists who would plan and execute these acts) are particularly interested in our reformation.

That is not to say that the terrorists wouldn't alienate themselves from the more moderate Islam fundmentalists. In this way, we can change the perception of America and the future course of our relations with the rest of the world and the Middle Eastern nations in particular.

But again, that won't stop the terrorism in the near future.

3) no penalty will dissuade a man who is willing to strap dynamite on himself and run into a building. not bombing, not a trial, nothing

If I understand the thinking of the extremists, only the few who die in the act are glorified (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). If they took place in the planning of the attack, are sitting around tomorrow drinking lemonade in camp, and are suddenly attacked by the U.S. military and killed, there ain't no nirvana for them.
posted by fooljay at 6:58 PM on September 15, 2001

prodigal: Rebecca, I agree we should try to prevent the development of future terrorists, but you sidestepped my question. Under what circumstances would you defend your right to exist.

no, you asked what I wanted to do about it. I've told you.

I don't really understand your second question. do you mean, "under what circumstances would you kill another human being?" or "under what conditions would you go to war?"

in either case, I don't think either question applies to the present case. I don't believe a war is an effective way of dealing with this particular situation for all the reasons I've stated above, and we are dealing, unfortunately with particulars today.

fooljay: what gives anyone stating such things the idea that we're going to go into some country with guns a'blazin' killing masses of civilians?

US past actions: Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Sudan, and Afghanistan.
posted by rebeccablood at 7:11 PM on September 15, 2001

Have there been successful efforts to deter ethnic terrorism as a long term phenomenon in the past? How do these situations end, eventually? If we somehow destroy bin Laden and his organization (bearing in mind that the Afghanis are some of the most experienced guerilla fighters out there. The difficulty of the terrorism problem seems akin to the difficulty of guerilla warfare. ), how do we stop new ones from being created? Looking to the "root causes" of terrorism (resentment, hatred of US) to get rid of it, in this context, is not necessarily blaming the victim. If going after terrorists in certain ways inspires more terrorists to commit terrorism, or makes terrorist recruiters more effective, then perhaps these methods should be questioned.
posted by Charmian at 7:29 PM on September 15, 2001

holgate: It's a false analogy, owillis

(Writing from New York:) Actually, I'm surprised that you haven't registered the analogy, holgate. The crisis over the Sudenten Germans was only one in a series of moves on the part of Hitler -- rearmament of the Rhein, Anschluss, etc. -- where there were always plenty of good reasons for the Great Powers NOT to act. They didn't act and each time Hitler was emboldened to go for more. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, all these decisions from so long ago seem perfectly clear but that's just the mirage of history. At the time, they were highly controversial. Indeed, there were good reasons for Great Britain and France NOT to act when Hitler next turned his eyes to Poland. The thing is, there's always going to be a good reason not to act -- till we're murdered in our beds.

Most Americans aren't going to be satisfied with sanctions -- not with 5,000 dead.

P.S. If you're depending on the Guardian for your news coverage, you're bound to be disappointed. This article, for example, is a gross distortion of feeling in this city -- in fact, it's pure rubbish.
posted by leo at 8:25 PM on September 15, 2001

US past actions: Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Sudan, and Afghanistan

Rebecca, please save me the typing and tell me that you see a difference between this situation and those...
posted by fooljay at 9:28 PM on September 15, 2001

There are no right answers here. We have no choice but to respond. However, sit still or attack the whole world will lose. No one ever wins when a human being loses their life. America has been lucky to live in a haze as long as we have. Today, our land joins the rest of the world in the damage we and they have inflicted on each other since the begining of time.
posted by kellismind at 9:29 PM on September 15, 2001

This notion that we ever negotiated honorably is pretty naive. Chamberlain was too cynical and too distracted by Bolshevism to notice that Hitler was eating his lunch in preparation for WWII.

In Our Time from Monthly Review Press shows that he colluded with Hitler to protect empire and colonies, a more accurate description of his actions than appeasing German rapacity. He fell prey to our favorite fallacy, that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

We're reaping the Cold War whirlwind again. We had to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, and we didn't care who we recruited to do our dirty work. We created and trained Osama bin Laden in our race to the bottom there.

It's so easy to forget that Afghanistan is the scene of what they used to call the Great Game, one nobody wins. I'm sure at least some of you have seen The Man Who Would Be King, a pretty good story of same.

We've spent our money making enemies and poster children of the Palestinians, not to mention the Kosovars, the Chinese whose embassy we bombed, and who knows who all else. And now we've abrogated six major international treaties in six months.

We're a rogue state now. What do we expect, roses?
posted by gwyon at 9:45 PM on September 15, 2001

fooljay: Rebecca, please...tell me that you see a difference between this situation and those..

yes: in those situations there had been no attack on american soil. why should I expect a more considered response this time?
posted by rebeccablood at 10:06 PM on September 15, 2001

Well, that was probably the least of what I was referring to, since that would actually have a tendancy to increase the changes that we'd go in guns a'blazin' shooting up even civilians.

As far as why you should expect a more considered response, I'd guess it's because I'm sure that you know that I can't stand not responding.

Unfortunately, it's 3:57am... tomorrow.
posted by fooljay at 3:58 AM on September 16, 2001

rebecca: So in your book, US involvement in Bosnia consisted of heedless, Rambo-style slaughter of masses of civilians?
posted by argybarg at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2001

This whole our past foreign policy caused/contributed to this attack idea is a distraction. No doubt many here and abroad disagree with our past policies and have deep resentments. Nevertheless, for present purposes, it is superfluous. These extreme jihadists are opposed to our very existence. We are and ALWAYS will be an EVIL to them. They view the US the same way Falwell et al. apparently view homosexuals, i.e. an evil with which there can be no accomodation. Blaming US foreign policy for creating bin-Laden makes as much sense as blaming US policy for Falwell's homophobia. True, if US foreign policy went deep "into the closet," i.e. total withdrawal from the world stage, they might direct their anger elsewhere-but that ain't gonna happen. Even if our foreign policy became ultra-angelic, we are never going to gain favor with jihadists or see their enmity abate. This does not mean no railing against our foreign policy- indeed I encourage it-just realize we will never be able to "make friends" with the jihadists. A correct foreign policy CAN AND WILL win us many friends in these countries and thus deprive the jihadists of a seething sea of resentment from which to recruit-definitely-but vis-a-vis the present terrorists-there is no accomodation possible.
posted by quercus at 12:57 PM on September 16, 2001

leo: Re The Guardian - you're totally right, it often distorts things towards its own leftist agenda. A condescending sneer is part of its house style.
posted by Summer at 2:24 PM on September 16, 2001

prodigal: there's nothing I can do about that guy. what I need to do now is to make sure that I don't help to create more and more of him.

Okay, Rebecca, here's a concept: I want you to join the Republican Party. I want it bad enough that until you do, I'm going to kill people. I'm going to recruit others to kill for me, for my cause (which I will convince them is also their cause). You'll never know where, when or how many. Maybe members of your family. Maybe even you. Unless you join the Republican Party. All you have to go is submit to my desires and wants, give up your free will on this matter, and I'll be satisfied and stop. Probably. Though I'm so filled with hatred towards you and all "your kind" in general that I may just decide you're a wimp and come up with a new demand afterwards.

THAT is what we're dealing with here. Submit to bin Laden and the wishes of his Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, and they'll go away. So they say. Do what we want, and we won't kill you. That's the only way you won't create more of us.

Is that really the sort of world we want to live in? Where all our decisions about our interactions with the rest of the world, our entire foreign policy, is "Please don't kill us and we'll do whatever you say?" Without any regard to the most basic elements of good vs. evil, much less plain old American interests and the interests of the democratic world?
posted by aaron at 3:40 PM on September 16, 2001

Rebecca, I haven't answered you yet because I'm actually reconsidering part of my views... I still believe that those situations were very different than what we have now, but for different reasons.

I also am starting to think that despite what I said above, the fact that it was done on our soil and to the lengths that it was carried is making the situation far different because the world community and the people are on board like never before. That makes a special forces/ground attack more likely, which means potentially less collateral (civilian) damage than cruise missle attacks...

Again, still noodling. I thank you for your input and its interesting from a purely intellectual level to watch my opinions change as my emotions change and as I hash them out on Mefi.

Thank you Matt and fellow Mefiers...
posted by fooljay at 8:05 PM on September 16, 2001

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