- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the key thing to remember: Appeasement is a position of negotiating with a strong state from a position of weakness. The classic example, of course, is England thinking it could keep Germany calm in the 1930s by feeding Adolf Hitler bits and pieces of Europe — the Rhineland, Austria, western Czechoslovakia.
Remember here that appeasement was the “smart” move because the British thought that if they went to war with Germany, no one else would pitch in (they were basically right) and that for most of the 1930s, they simply weren’t strong enough to take on Germany alone (they were basically wrong, because Germany became stronger with each bite). But, as George Orwell put it, the problem was that they were not willing to pay the price either of peace or war, and so they got both.
By contrast, when the United States deals with Cuba or Iran nowadays, it is negotiating from a position of overwhelming strength. Case in point: Centcom has plans to dismantle Iranian conventional military power in about 10 days, and that’s probably pessimistic. Former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain never dreamed of holding such a hand.
As for China? Even now, we are not appeasing Beijing. Rather, we are trying to help it find its place in the world. That is not a bad thing. And if we fail, I feel confident China will, as usual, overstep and stomp on the toes of its Asian neighbors.
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