The case against appeasement

02.28.03

In an editorial in Wednesday’s La Presse, Pierre Lapperrière makes the case against appeasement by highlighting the cost of appeasing Hitler in the pre-WWII era:

Les É.-U. jugent qu’il ne respecte pas certaines ententes et qu’il est dangereux pour la sécurité internationale qu’un tel président soit au pouvoir. Le président Hussein récolte toutes les sympaties, et des millions de manifestants, surtout dans les pays démocratiques et libéraux, manifestent contre la politique américaine. On observe aujourd’hui une forte division, une faiblesse au sein des démocraties occidentales. J’ai comme l’impression que l’opinion publique n’évolue pas avec l’histoire.

[ . . . ]

Hitler utilisa ce doute qui siègeait au sein même des démocraties pour se débarasser, subtilement, point par point, des clauses du traité. Chaque fois qu’il enfreignait le traité, l’occident se consolait en se disant que l’Allemagne ne voullait que corriger certaines des injustices les plus criades commises — Versailles et appliquer “le droit des peuples à disposer d’eux-mêmes”. À chaque écoupé, Hitler se répandait en discours pacifistes, proposait de nouveaux accords pour rassurer les états inquiets de sa gourmandise. L’occident ne voulait pas de guerre.

[ . . . ]

Churchill ne voulait pas tuer des enfants allemands pour assouvir une soif de sang ou assurer la supériorité anglaise en Europe, il voulait arrêter un virus déjà installé; c’est-à-dire couper un pied avant que la gangrène gagne le corps. Et pendant que les médecins occidentaux ne reconnaissaient pas l’infection ou refusaient de porter la responsabilité d’une amputation, le cancer se renforça et l’opération fut beaucoup plus sérieuse.

Lapperrière is right; the world has learned nothing from history and from its mistakes. And it’s about to make the same ones all over again. I can only hope that someone has the courage to step in before the cost is as high as it was sixty years ago.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jonny 03.01.03 at 6:17 PM

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

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2 Adem 03.02.03 at 3:04 AM

I believe this example is a false analogy. Hitler and Hussein
are two different cases. There was evidence that Hitler
had ambitions to conquer parts of Europe, but no serious evidence
has been given that Hussein has expansionist aims. For anyone familiar with Hitler’s diplomacy
beyond a superficial level, there were specific reasons the other European powers allowed Hitler some leaway, not the least of which was they could not predict the destruction WWII caused, which is why the so-called appeasers are condemned. Britain and France were not ready
for war in 1938, although all the evidence suggests that they would have stopped Hitler after his bloodless victory in Czechia. Hitler
knew that if he invaded Poland, the west would declare war on him, which is one reason he signed the pact with Stalin. Those who condemn the appeasers underestimate their intelligence, tact and especially the circumstances of the period. Furthermore, if he is nervous now,
he obviously knows the consequences of a US invasion. It stands to reason that he also
knows that if he attacks anyone, especially with nuclear weapons, he
does not stand chance against the US, nor against a western coalition, which would certainly
form if Saddam created enough of a stir. Ultimately there
is no evidence that Hussein is a threat to the US. He is probably better compared
with Pinochet, Pol Pot or other of the numerious regional dictators
who are interested in controlling their countries merely for the feel of power
and wealth. Hussein is, in fact, just that. There are more accurate analogies than
Hitler, but unfortunately, Hitler and Saddam are the only two dictators most people in North America
have ever heard of. If Hussein should be removed, it is not because of an obscure conference in September
1938. Yes one ought to learn from history, but unfortunately it can also be weilded by anyone for political gain.

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3 John Anderson 03.02.03 at 5:44 PM

Adem, “no serious evidence
has been given that Hussein has expansionist aims” huh? Iran? Kuwait? And while he has only occasionally fired upon Suadi Arabia, Jordan, etc. he has occasionally threatened them.

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4 James 03.02.03 at 10:20 PM

I’ll chime in too. It’s perfectly valid to argue that the Hussein-Hitler comparisons are spurious.

But to say that Hussein just isn’t ambitious enough is certainly not one of those valid arguments. His concrete actions have, over and over again, demonstrated otherwise; he certainly rivals Qaddafi in his dream of one day ruling some Arab Empire — uh, League. They include the way he rose in the Baathist ranks, the way he consolidated Baathist power, the way he consolidated his own power, and his ceaseless march to war against tactical opponents at every moment of his reign as dictator over the Iraqi citizenry.

So argue that the Baathist entity just isn’t that threatening. Or that it doesn’t really have the means to build deadly weapons — for example, that the gap between when the weapons inspectors got thrown out, and when the U.N. finally managed to do something about it, was too short for much to happen. Or that Iraq going nuclear won’t really have an arms-race effect on the region (whatever may be happening on Iran), or that widespread WMDs in the Arab Middle East won’t really destabilize the region and lead to war, or that such weaponry can easily be intercepted and neutralized anyway. Or something; then we can talk about it.

But, of all the points you want to raise, the idea that the motive isn’t there is not the most compelling. The opposite, in fact.

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5 Adem 03.05.03 at 3:03 AM

What exactly has Hussein done that is unambiguously indicative of non-defensive expansionist policy especially within the last ten years, without even getting into the April Glaspie affair? Is there any direct evidence that he currently has plans for anything? It is quite possible that the reasons Saddam gave for invading Kuwait were pretexts, but there were serious disputes with them. As well as possible tacit approval, I am here referring to Glaspie as well as, among others, the comments by Secretary of State John Kelly and Lee Hamilton. There is ample evidence of the preexisting tensions between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Where is the evidence that Hussein is merely expansionist? How does one explain away the pre-existing conflict regarding OPEC and Hussein’s stated justifications and intentions? Again, I have not yet seen any direct evidence of Hussein’s expansionist intentions. Does one level that charge against Israel with its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which violated a resolution of the Security Council. Clearly many people do not, retorting that it was a matter of Israel’s security, which perhaps it was. Furthermore, any tactical moves against opponents, I’m not sure what is specifically being referred to, cannot be attributed to expansionist plans. Iraq is surrounded by hostile enemies with nuclear arms, or the potential for them and weapons of mass destruction, Israel, Turkey, Syria, Iran. If their is such a potential for conflict, how does one thus distinguish between Hussein protecting himself and his own interests, and expansionist plans?

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6 Adem 03.05.03 at 3:04 AM

What is the direct evidence that Hussein has such intentions? There is no doubt Hussein is ambitious, but what his plans may be cannot be directly inferred from suggestive evidence of his policies. He was ambitious for power, and he did and still does have conflicts with his neighbors, as does Iran, Syria, Israel etc, and many other countries. Firing missiles does not imply expansionism. Russia and the US threatened each other with missile launches, but that does not imply expansionism. He may be a terrible person, but there has as yet been no direct evidence of expansionist plans. I stated he was interested in power in his own country, he is certainly a brutal dictator and is having disputes with his neighbors, which, again, does not imply expansionism, nor can one infer, at least from that evidence, that his intentions are not merely part of the regular middle east conflict. He would indeed be foolish not to try to gain an edge surrounded by hostile nations. To suggest that he plans to rule an Arab empire cannot be gauged from actions based on preexistent tensions.

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7 Adem 03.05.03 at 3:04 AM

Hitler, irrespective of the political, diplomatic or internal situation, stated that it was the right of the German people to conquer Lebensraum. He did so by 1920. Not only because of the Volk ohne Raum belief, which was more pragmatic, but because of the inherent right Germany for more space. THAT is direct evidence of expansionist intentions, which cannot be explained away as merely the result of tensions between Germany and Russia or Poland. That is why the pretext Hitler used, for example with “Deutschland und der Korridor”, is bogus. His invasion of Russia did not even have a pretext. That is why I maintain that Hussein, based on the evidence I have seen which all has alternative and more likely explanations, can be said to have expansionist aims.

He may indeed plan to rule the Arab world or plan to march his armies outside his borders in conquest without provocation, but again, where is the direct evidence?

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8 James 03.05.03 at 6:56 AM

How odd — this is the first time I’ve heard someone try to explain that, in fact, the Iraqi Ba’athist regime really doesn’t have any expansionist aims in the first place.

I have heard arguments that such aims don’t justify war, here, now. I’ve even made them now and again. But that Husseini Ba’athism just doesn’t want to go there? For those following along at home: Saddam rose through party ranks as a torturer, consolidated his position by killing his opponents, and became president in 1979.

A year after he became president, he led his country to war against Iran, from 1980 to 1988. Devastating as the Iraq-Iran War was, the troops rebounded nicely, or were made to, and in a couple years were back at it, invading Kuwait in 1990. International forces put a halt to the invasion and, from 1992, instituted inspection regimes, no-fly zones, and other measures.

Even with these precautions in place, the Ba’athist entity continued with its expansionism, massing its troops on the Kuwaiti border in 1994, having been found to have been building biological and chemical weapons by the U.N. in 1997, and evicting the U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998. Since then Iraq’s military relations with other countries, especially the U.S., have been on slow boil, with a 1998 U.S.-U.K. bombing campaign, various U.N. resolutions, and now the current confrontation. Through all of this, there has never been a time that the Baathist regime wasn’t either trying to expand its purvey through military conquest, or building the armaments to do so.

As for the pan-Arab expansionism theory that underwrites the actually-existing military practice, one would have to ignore the totality of Ba’athist history and philosophy to claim that it just suddenly, poof, vanished. The Ba’athist movement — initiated by French-educated Syrians, but designating Baghdad as the capital of the Arab nation — has of course been one of the main exponents of a military pan-Arabist movement which would eliminate the non-Arab states of the Middle East and join together in a united Arab republic. In fighting towards this aim, whether internally through ethnic cleansing of Iraqi minorities or externally through various military campaigns, the Iraqi Ba’athist party has been exceedingly clear about the political and military form of the pan-Arab state it hopes to quarterback from Baghdad.

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9 Adam 03.06.03 at 8:43 AM

What does demonstrating that Saddam violently rose to, and consolidated, power in Iraq have to do with expansionism? Personal Ambition on his part cannot be denied, nor is brutality. Many people violently rise to power, have people tortured, brutally suppress enemies…What does that have to do with expansionist plans?
Regarding Iran: There are other reasons people go to war other than flagrant expansionism. The war against Iran was not precipitated solely by Iraq. There were numerous border disputes, before and growing tensions. Is there proof that this war was expansionist and not the result or preexisting or then evolving tensions. On the contrary. In May 1982 Saddam began to withdraw from Iran to international borders. Iran continued to push on into Iraq. Saddam again attempted to end the war in June 1982. Baghdad offered to settle and withdraw its troops from Iran. Iran refused. The Iranian Operation Ramadan followed. It this expansionist ideology? It may be, but I do not see how citing Iraq’s invasion of Iran necessarily proves expansionist intentions. The US invaded France in WWII, but were not expansionist. The Soviets invaded Germany, justifiably, and they were expansionist, at least to a certain extent. Simply stating an attack took place is irrelevant. The context, circumstances and intentions can prove expansionism.

I believe I gave certain points regarding the invasion of Kuwait, including, among others, Glaspie’s comments to Hussein, which were by no means isolated. According to Saddam, and what he told US diplomats, at least part of the conflict with Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, emerged over tensions with OPEC. Saddam made certain demands, which Kuwait ignored. If one wants to use Kuwait as an example ideological expansionism, one ought at least to somehow explain the semblance that there were PRAGMATIC intentions involved. Did Hussein say something about invading Kuwait for the greater glory of Iraq? If it was the result of long-standing ideological convictions, where is the evidence? Yes, he attacked Kuwait, but one needs direct evidence as to why.

Again, the actions of the UN, the US or Britain do not prove Saddam currently has expansionist plans. “Through all of this, there has never been a time that the Baathist regime wasn’t either trying to expand its purvey through military conquest, or building the armaments to do so.” Well, what exactly? The testimony of General Kamel, including documentary support, claimed Iraq had destroyed its WMD stockpiles. The transcript of UNSCOMs debriefing of Kamel has been released, although his conversations with the CIA are still confidential, even though he is cited by Bush, Powell, Cheney and Hadley as Iraq’s “most important defector.”
What exactly is the UN evidence for WMD since the Gulf War? ALL the claims about such weapons refer to unaccounted for weapons produced before 1991. However, according to Kamel, who did provide documentary evidence, all WMD were destroyed after the Gulf War, leaving only blueprints and production molds. Furthermore, suggesting that there are WMD and operational facilities in Iraq cannot be proven by stating that the inspectors haven’t found them yet. That is an argument from silence. That the inspectors have not yet found them means either they are very well hidden, or that there are none to find. That in itself is not evidence for anything. The arms Saddam had before the Gulf War were obtained mostly from the US, the USSR and Britain, who had very close relations with him. How after the Gulf War, massive sanctions, inspections, even if staggered, foreign military presence and no shipments from his previous sources, where and how is getting the capability to manufacture and store massive amounts of WMD?

What exactly is the proof of the regimes constant attempts at expansionism? General Lee Butler, Head of US Strategic Command under Clinton stated: “it is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation has armed itself, ostensibly, with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, perhaps numbering in the hundreds, and that inspires other nations to do so.” He was, in fact, referring to Israel. Is Israel an expansionist state? Perhaps to a certain extent some interests in Israel are, but the Middle East has been a seed of conflict for decades, and in many respects Israel rightly feels insecure about her position. The Middle East is filled with nations hostile to one another.

“In fighting towards this aim, whether internally through ethnic cleansing of Iraqi minorities or externally through various military campaigns, the Iraqi Ba’athist party has been exceedingly clear about the political and military form of the pan-Arab state it hopes to quarterback from Baghdad.” Quotes would help please.

Is there any specific evidence, or is there only unsupported assertions and generalizations? I am perhaps mistaken about th

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10 Adam 03.06.03 at 8:52 AM

Is there any specific evidence, or is there only unsupported assertions and generalizations? I am perhaps mistaken about this issue, but I would appreciate some insight.

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11 segacs 03.07.03 at 2:57 AM

Adam, congratulations on being the first person ever to write a response too long for the comment field.

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12 James 03.07.03 at 3:32 AM

I don’t really understand. You are looking for direct quotes as to the nature and central ideology of the Ba’athist party? Of the persistent and continuous attempts by Iraq to expand its borders throughout Hussein’s rein as dictator and chief military commander?

The long detour as to whether or not Saddam really has large-scale weapons is a bit baffling — I haven’t any idea, nor have I made any arguments in that direction, nor is it relevant here. (For what it’s worth, I suspect he doesn’t have too many of them, if any at all; also that in an environment conducive to building them, he’d surely like to.)

No, we were discussing whether or not it is the Husseini Ba’athist entity’s ambition to expand its borders. That this is true is almost certainly beyond dispute. I also added that that is not in itself a reason for war, and that the argument as to whether or not war is a good idea is about other issues — not about motives, but about capabilities, and I agree with you that the Ba’athist entity may not have the capabilities, in which case war doesn’t seem like such a hot idea.

It sounds like you want to argue about half-a-dozen things at once, which is why it’s difficult to understand what you’re talking about. If it’s the will to expansionism, though, then it doesn’t get too much clearer cut than Saddam. As to learning more about Ba’athism, Hussein’s military strategies, etc., an encyclopedia is probably a better place to start than a Weblog.

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13 Adem 03.07.03 at 4:35 AM

I shall try to be clearer. Furthermore, I am not discussing the justification for war. The only reasons I brought up WMD is because of this quote:

“Even with these precautions in place, the Ba’athist entity continued with its expansionism, massing its troops on the Kuwaiti border in 1994, having been found to have been building biological and chemical weapons by the U.N. in 1997, and evicting the U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998.”
You clearly state that the continued building of weapons implied expansionism. That is why I brought up weapons. 1) The claims about weapons manufacturing after the Gulf War was spurious, unless you can refute the evidence I cited earlier. 2) Even so, building weapons does not imply expansionism, especially in the Middle East I you can refute my evidence cited above, please do so.

My main point was that Saddam does not have ideological expansionist plans. You discussed ideological motives for expansion on Saddam’s part, or rather the “Ba’athist entity”. You cannot necessarily equate Saddam with Ba’athist ideology from Damascus 1941. Stating that 60 years ago when the faction was founded they believed something does not prove Saddam believes it now. His party is officially called Ba’athist, but please cite quotes or any evidence that they are devoted to original Ba’athist ideology of 1941 or later (Does Saddam object to the Egyptian domination of Syria in the United Arab Republic as the Syrians did? Yes, and I’m sure Syria’s 1961 withdrawal from the UAR really proves they were pan-Arabists). If you read any encyclopedia, you would know that both the Iraqi and Syrian Ba’athist parties have been opposed to each other in many instances, and have each moved away from original Ba’athist ideology. You ought to distinguish them, rather than referring to the original general ideology of the Ba’athist party in 1941. Accordingly, I am talking about SADDAM, not general Ba’athism. He can call his party Ba’athist but they are no longer devoted to their original ideology, nor are they unified. Not even Bush refers to the ‘Husseini-Ba’athist’ entity. I said Saddam, not a generalized shell of a party from 1941. I am looking for direct quotes from Saddam regarding Saddam’s ideology. If he is a real Ba’athist, then where’s the evidence?

I attempted to demonstrate, using EVIDENCE, that your points about the Iran and Kuwaiti invasions DO NOT prove ideological expansionist intentions. People go to war for many reasons. Just because they go to war does not prove pan-Arab expansionist intentions on Saddam’s part. I attempted to demonstrate by use of specific evidence, that the wars against Iran and Kuwait were because of Middle East tensions, NOT “pan-Arab expansionism”. If the Iran war was because of expansionism, why did Iraq offer several times to end the fighting and withdraw from Iran in 1982? Did Saddam intend to conquer Iran by withdrawing his troops?

If the Gulf War was because of expansionist aims, why did it appear to be over the OPEC tensions between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Saddam even said so. What is your evidence that SADDAM invaded Iran and Kuwait for ideological reasons? I am asking for evidence for your belief that Saddam has ideological expansionist intentions.
Yes, you say: “If it’s the will to expansionism, though, then it doesn’t get too much clearer cut than Saddam.” WHY does it not get clearer cut? Is that just a quote from CNN?

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