Dangerous game

An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last. — Sir Winston Churchill

To millions of people around the world, Barak Obama is the messiah, a visionary with the message of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, whose mere image portrays a new America in the quest for peace.  Barack Obama may possess John F. Kennedy’s youthful ambition and Ronald Reagan’s communication skills, but his foreign policy doctrine bears a striking resemblance to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy towards Nazi Germany.  Obama follows the path of enlightened left-leaning intellectuals, whose Weltanschauung or world view is deeply rooted in the ‘culture of reason’ of the Western liberal tradition.  This world view is naïve at best and disastrous in consequence under the worst circumstances.  

World peace has been the eternal dream of great thinkers since the time of antiquity; it has yet remained an illusion due to conflicting interests of self-interested individuals and states, and the inability of world bodies to enforce international laws.  While some world leaders continue to pursue their Wilsonian vision of world peace with reforms of existing and the creation of new international organizations, others are engaged in ideological battles and proxy wars against Western values and civilization.  In essence, those who provide financial, logistic and military support to terrorist organizations, such as Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Al-Qaida affiliated organizations worldwide, are not remotely interested in peace.

Barack Obama’s foreign policy disregards these fundamental principles, as Americans, who in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001 rallied behind their president in the global war against terror, have become weary of counting their dead and wounded veterans.  As in the case of many left of center politicians, Barack Obama speaks with an eloquent and convincing voice to people around the world with a populist message of dialogue and negotiation within an international framework.  His dovish vision of world peace is far from reach in today’s political landscape where dialogue with terrorist sponsoring states eventually helps terrorists to plan their next major attacks.   

In the new era of 24×7 news media, Barack Obama utilizes his eloquence in public speaking and superb communication skills to galvanize the masses with populist themes and moral arguments which often provide the target audience with instant gratification.  The problem lies in the fallacy of the argument on how to deal with those who threaten Western values and civilization.   

War on Terror: Unconventional & Asymmetrical Warfare

Over the past few years, the phrase ‘war on terror’ has become synonymous with the George W. Bush doctrine, an interventionist policy to secure and defend the United States’ national interests against countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups by all means necessary, including preventative wars, deposing foreign leaders and regime change in rouge states. The war on terror is unconventional and asymmetrical in nature.  As the world media airs sounds and images from front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war on terror is fought on multiple (i.e. military, economic, intelligence, information, etc.) fronts.  With memories of the Vietnam war haunting the American psyche, terrorists groups, i.e. Hamas, Hezbollah and Al-Qaida, use asymmetric strategies, such as sporadic bombings and IEDs (or Improvised Explosive Devices) against Western targets, to gain strength and undermine the American will.  In the struggle against Western values and civilization, terrorist sponsoring states and organizations have discovered Americans’ angst towards their country’s long term military commitment half way around the world.

George W. Bush deserves high praise for recognizing threats from rouge states, namely Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, and affiliated terrorist organizations.  The 43rd president of the United States has yet lacked essential communication skills to explain the complex elements and nature of war on terror beyond the American presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Now, Barack Obama has no intention to redefine the objectives of war on terror as a timeless fight against terrorist regimes and organizations.  Obama cares little about the long term outcome of war on terror, while he is determined to create a personal legacy as the first black American president to realize world peace, albeit at the superficial level.  To this end, Barack Obama pursues the dangerous policy of appeasement.

Historic Lesson

Historian Keith Eubank defines the origin of the term ‘appeasement’ in conjunction with attempts to reduce “international tensions between states through the removal of the causes of friction”2.  Eubanks describes that in the immediate aftermath of World War I appeasement “meant concessions to disgruntled nations in the hope that the concessions would alleviate their grievances and lessen their tendency to take aggressive actions” ii.  At the time, many Britons, who viewed World War I as entirely avoidable and accidental, nurtured appeasement policies with concessions towards Nazi Germany.  The appeasers had developed strong guilt feelings over the Treaty of Versailles despite warnings and objections from the French.   

History highlights fundamental weaknesses of British appeasement policy towards Nazi Germany, as in 1938 Neville Chamberlain secured short term peace with Hitler’s signature under the Munich agreement which allowed Germany to increase the size of its navy, army, and air force, to reoccupy the Rhineland, and annex Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland.  Chamberlain and many others in the British political establishment believed the annexation of Sudetenland would address Germany’s grievances. However, according to Keith Eubank, “the appeasers did ignore one important fact: a policy of appeasement could end only with Germany restored to its former strength” ii.  

The appeasers ignored warnings from seasoned statesmen like Winston Churchill who had advocated a strong military policy for Britain and had foreseen threats of Nazi Germany as a re-emerging military power in Europe.  In Churchill’s autobiography, Martin Gilbert quotes Churchill’s conversation with Chamberlain’s predecessor, Stanley Baldwin, in 1934.  Churchill “warned Mr Baldwin that the Germans had a secret Air Force and were rapidly overhauling ours [i.e. Britain’s Air force]…  [Churchill] gave definite figures and forecasts.  Of course, it was all denied with all [the] weight of official authority”3.  This was not Churchill’s first or last warning which was disregarded.

The appeasers were idealists and optimists who wanted to trust Hitler.  In the end, British appeasement policy allowed Nazi Germany to further strengthen its military might leading to the annexation of Austria in 1938 and the break out of WWII with the invasion of Poland in September 1939.  Today, history books recall atrocities and war crimes that may have been prevented with Britain’s stronger stand against Nazi Germany.   

Don’t Trust the Enemy

History is a constant reminder of struggles between civilizations.  Although idealists from the left and the right of political spectrums underscore values and interests that unite people across continents, the future of the human race is threatened by exaggerated confidence in the power of reason and the underestimation of fanatic forces in the West.

In his book “The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam’s Threat to the West”, Lee Harris examines the worst case scenario, namely – the destruction of the West by radical Islam.  Western leaders are victims of a curious illusion that “has created and maintained rare islands of reason in a world otherwise ruled by the law of the jungle”4.

Western thinkers have nurtured scientific theories based on the ‘fanaticism of reason’ which is both overly optimistic and fatal.  They are by-products of a culture of reason; a culture that views humans as rational actors.  This perception is fundamentally wrong and fatal, as humans are primarily self-interested tribal actors.  This phenomenon is clearly visible in the ‘us versus them’ mindset of radical Muslims and communists (also operating as socialists in various regions) around the world.

Radical Muslims, socialists and communists pose the single biggest threat to the West and the survival of the human race.  These groups view the destruction of Western values, culture and standards as the key to their cultural survival.  To destroy the West, they resort to any means, tactics and strategy.  Regimes in oil rich states such as Iran, Libya, and Venezuela direct millions of petro-dollars to an ideologically driven propaganda and proxy wars against Western interests.  These regimes have no interest in their nation’s future; they simply pursue an ideological struggle.  To this end, the coalition between radical Muslims and the extreme left is the means to an end.    

Terrorist sponsoring regimes in Iran, Libya and Venezuela often fuel the ideological hatred in other countries, such as Syria and Lebanon, and provide financial support for the purchase of nuclear and conventional military technology from North Korea.  They provide financial, logistic, ideological and political support to terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Al-Qaida, who return the favor with hit and run attacks against Western interests.  Together, they pose major threats against the human race, as forces of fanaticism move closer to nuclear proliferation.   

Most recently, Barack Obama has presided over a session of the UN Security Council which adopted a US-drafted resolution to realize the president’s vision for a world without nuclear weapons.  This resolution has passed unanimously following Obama’s remarks on fundamental threats of nuclear weapons.  According to the Washington Post, “Obama is pressing for a new worldwide treaty to halt production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium and strengthen the global non-proliferation treaty, which has limited the spread of nuclear weapons for decades but now is in danger of fraying”5.

Obama’s noble vision falls in line with the naïve dovish attitude of the left-leaning political elite whose idealism blinds them towards the dangers of realpolitik.  These idealists view de facto leaders in many terrorist sponsoring states and their proxy allies in terrorist organizations as reasonable actors with whom they may negotiate as equal partners within an international framework.  This is a naïve and wrongful assumption, as the destruction of Western values and civilization is the raison d’être for terrorist regimes in Iran, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, North Korea, etc. and their terrorist allies (i.e. Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaida).  In short, the leaders of terrorist sponsoring states and organizations are neither reasonable nor are interested in peace.  For them, negotiations are the means to an end.  The means is the delaying tactic, and the end is the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction for the purpose of the final annihilation of Western values and civilization.

The Obama administration fails to learn from Bill Clinton’s foreign policy mistakes towards North Korea.  Since the 1990s, the communist government in North Korea has pursued an aggressive nuclear proliferation strategy.  While conservative hawks have persistently advocated a pre-emptive military response, Bill Clinton opted for negotiation and appeasement during his presidency.  Clinton relied on President Carter to appease the Marxist-Stalinist regime in Pyongyang which in return used delaying tactics and American aid to build its nuclear program.  As a nuclear power, North Korea poses the biggest threat to regional stability in East Asia with an aggressive arms race on the Korean peninsula and the sale of nuclear technology to Iran as well as other rouge states.6

The Solution

In his famous State of the Union Speech on January 29, 2002, George W. Bush coined the phrase ‘axis of evil’ in reference to governments that help terrorism and seek weapons of mass destruction.  Although George W. Bush identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as states that posed the greatest threats to American interests, he failed to distinguish between de facto governments and people in the aforementioned countries.7 As a result, George W. Bush’s foreign policy was only partially successful, as it prevented a second wave of terrorist attacks on American soil following 9/11.  However, successive American administrations have failed to communicate the need for a multi-tiered approach towards rouge states.   

First, rouge states need to be redefined as ‘rouge regimes’ which would include de facto regimes in Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, etc. Second, the United States must lead the world community in supporting ‘regime change’ to replace dictatorships with democracy.  Third, it is vital to support democratic forces in their non-violent struggle against terrorist governments to facilitate regime change by peaceful means.  Once again, the United States can take the lead in bringing together opposition groups to lead velvet revolutions.  This tactic may be applied in countries, such as Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, where opposition groups share a common enemy but have historically struggled to unite along shared common values.  Fourth, current and future American administrations can use nuclear capabilities of the United States to deter nuclear proliferation plans by the governments of North Korea, Iran and other terrorist sponsoring countries.  Fifth, the world community must act united in cutting financial ties between terrorist sponsoring regimes and organizations.  Finally, various forms of economic and military actions may be used as the last resort to protect Western values and civilization against terrorist regimes and organizations. 

In short, the United States needs to learn from the mistakes of its recent past and find pragmatic solutions to foreign policy challenges of our time.  The ‘war against terror’ is an asymmetric struggle that requires new innovative strategies.  This is nothing like the Vietnam, first and second Persian Gulf wars, or in fact any other conventional battlefield-based conflict.  Hence, the Obama administration bears the moral responsibility to take existing and emerging threats from rogue regimes and organizations seriously.   

Appeasement must yield to regime change on a broad scale by different ways and means.  Barack Obama should stop playing the dangerous game of appeasement, as to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill the crocodile (in this case terrorist regimes and organizations) does not necessarily eat the appeaser (i.e. the United States) last.  In other words, terrorist sponsoring states and organizations will use prolonged negotiations to acquire weapons of mass destruction, or some forms of ‘dirty bombs’, and prepare their next attacks on Western targets at the time of their choosing.

Behshad Hastibakhsh, 39, is an award winning political scientist, business executive, marketing and public relations  specialist, public speaker and published writer with the will to stand for the just cause. 

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