Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rummy Says War Critics are Appeasers

As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. Critics of Administration defense budgets during the Cold War as well as more recently, our aiding and/or abetting the assassination of elected officials (see this CIA document), our supporting military coups after the fact (The Greek Colonels), and now our waging war in Iraq have been verbally beat around the heads and shoulders by politicians with the sensibilities of playground bullies who call them "soft on Communism," "UnAmerican," and "Appeasers of Communists (or other) Bad Guys," etc. Its what those who are doing the wrong thing do to deflect the public's eyes from genuine defense needs or what foreign policies and wars are and are not actually in the nation's best interests.

Now, Rumsfeld, who knows better, is saying, according to the Seattle Times,
"Can we truly afford to believe that, somehow or some way, vicious extremists could be appeased?"
And also"
The struggle we are in is too important — the consequences too severe — to have the luxury of returning to the 'blame America first' mentality," Rumsfeld told the American Legion. "Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America — not the enemy — is the real source of the world's troubles?"
Rumsfeld must be standing on his head while facing a wall during news conferences because he seems to be seeing everything upside down and backwards.

Let's get one thing straight. Democrats have proved over the years that they are ready and willing to fight real and imagined enemies of the US or its friends. Wilson took us into World War I. FDR took us into World War II. Truman led us, more precisely, the UN, into Korea. JFK did not cave in to the USSR when it made its effort to put missiles in Cuba and he escalated the war in Vietnam, a very, very bad idea. Johnson escalated it further thereby compounding our problems there. Both Democrats were clearly not "soft on Communism." Ineffective though it may have been, Carter okayed a mission to rescue our hostages in Iran. Clinton got us involved in Kosovo and Somalia, for good or ill. So, the idea that Democrats are somehow less interested in protecting the US and its friends than Republicans, a thesis, which, sadly, the Republican spinmeisters have managed to instill in the minds of many Americans, is, put in the simplest of terms, total bullshit. It might be more truthful to say that Democrats are warmongerers.

It should have been clear to the Administration that there was neither a need to invade Iraq (it was a secular Muslim country that was not bothering anyone thanks to the no-fly zones we, the Brits, and the French established and the constant pressure from the UN to get rid of its WMD), nor was an invasion of Iraq likely to prove beneficial in the end. It was clear to me and others I communicated with that imposing a working democracy on this highly ethnically divided country would never be successful. It was clear to me and others that Muslims generally and Arabs in particular don't much like Americans meddling in their affairs. I personalize these remarks to drive home the point that one didn't have to be a Middle-East expert to know these things.

The verb "appease," being transitive, requires an object. The object that Rumsfeld provides is "vicious extremists." Who the hell are these vicious extremists and why is it that they exist? Well, one class of vicious extremists consists of the insurgents, which seems to consist of domestic Sunnis desperate to keep the Shiites from coming to power as well as, possibly, Arabs from other countries who want to fight Americans. I have a news flash for Rumsfeld:
These vicious extremists were either not in Iraq when we invaded (the Arabs who came to Iraq to fight Americans) or were in one way or another aligned with Saddam's government. The latter became vicious extremists as a result of the fact that we overthrew Saddam (and did not prepare a response to this contingency before invading).
So, the fact is that America was the source of the trouble it faces in Iraq. I have another news flash for Rumsfeld:
Before the war, there was no Sadr militia. The Shiites were very quiet and were well-protected by the no fly zone. But now they have a formidable militia which probably consists of "vicious extremists and we are fighting them."
So, again, America was the source of the trouble it faces in Iraq.

In short, the Bush Administration made this mess. It is time for them to be real patriots and start telling the truth to the American people. That is what genuine patriots do. The truth is that Rumsfeld doesn't have a clue as to how he can extricate the US from Iraq without leaving behind either a nightmarish Shite controlled Fundamentalist Islamic state or a civil war or both.

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Blogger Mister Pregunto said...

LG, you take a good stand against Rummy's reference to (the implied evils of) "appeasement". It is certainly true that, historically, Democrats have not been shy of taking up the sword, whatever the stereotypical view them might hold. It is an even stronger response to point out that the question of appeasement is quite beside the point since the reasons given by his administration for attacking Iraq were invalid from the start.

But what concerns me about terms like "appeasement" and "appeaser" is that they carry with them presuppositions about the nature of national strategy that few people challenge because they have become ingrained in the public consciousness as conventional wisdom. These words, as they are used nowadays, carry with them the presupposition that a policy that offers concessions, makes accomodation, or simply avoids aggression, is tantamount to either "moral cowardice" or "strategic incompetence".

This appears to have started as a result of the failure of Neville Chamberlain's policy towards the Nazis. He attempted to pacify Hitler by making concessions, and thought he had achieved peace. Afterwards, when it became evident that Hitler would not play fair, Chamberlain became the goat and was forever labelled an "appeaser". Since that time, he has been widely viewed as a disgrace and a failure for his policy, and has even been considered as a coward or an incompetent, by historians and common men alike.

(BTW, From my readings of history, I suspect this is an unnecessarily unkind view of Chamberlain, though I am no expert. For a hint of what I am talking about, I would suggest checking out Azar Gat's "A History of Military Thought", Book III, Part II, "4. Policy: Defence of the West (II): Containment in the 1930's". It's not specifically about Chamberlain, but it does seem to clarify some important facts.)

Chamberlain's woes aside, it seems that since WWII it has become an fixture of modern political wisdom to suppose that policies of (what some might refer to as) appeasement are never justifiable when dealing with aggressors. While it may be generally advisable, as a rule of thumb, to stand up to aggressors, it is unsound strategic logic--whether we are discussing foreign policy, military strategy, business strategy or personal strategy--that would completely exclude the type of policies that get labelled as "appeasement" (e.g.: accomodation, negotiation, concession-making, turning-a-blind eye, etc.) from their bag of tricks. For one thing, to do so would render diplomacy virtually impossible. For another, such logic would force nations to go to war more often than they need to. It is the very role of strategy to (among other things) find the appropriate balance between appeasement strategies and military action.

As for Rummy's comments about appeasement, I might just as soon ask, "So what? What is your point?". If he wishes to use it as a criticism, the onus should be on him to show:
a) that an appeasement strategy is actually being employed (or proposed), AND
b) that it was inappropriate.

Instead, he seems to be making an unsupported (implicit) claim that an appeasement strategy is being proposed AND (implicitly) that "appeasement" strategies are, ipso-facto, automatically inappropriate.

11:32 PM

Blogger Mister Pregunto said...

Note: just in case there is the slightest chance of confusion, my saying "So what? What is your point?" is aimed at Rummy, not you, LG.

11:35 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

You remind me, Mr. Pregunto, of a very false, but nearly universally held view, that if you don't stop aggressors they will simply keep aggressing. There are are a number of examples of limited military actions that did not get repulsed but ended nevertheless. China sliced off a strip of India and then stopped. The Axiom would have it that the whole of India would be Chinese by now. At about the same time, they also took Tibet. They held to a view that the borders of China had to be "rectified," to use an old Orwell word.

The US invaded Grenda but no other Islands. We invaded Panama but didn't go into Costa Rica. The List goes on.

7:38 AM


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