Robin Diel: Appeasement won’t secure ‘peace for our time’ |

Robin Diel: Appeasement won’t secure ‘peace for our time’

After watching the recent news coverage about relations between the United States and the governments of Iran and China, I’m surprised by the apparent belief that appeasement will stop the aggressive behavior of both these nations. Appeasement was tried before, but perhaps enough time has passed that Americans have forgotten the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

After the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles (1919) limited Germany’s borders, reduced the size of the German Army, and de-militarized the border between France and Germany (the Rhineland). When Hitler became the German Chancellor in 1933, he immediately rebuilt the German Army. Hitler placated Britain and France when he promised there would be no revival of German aggression against its neighbors. In 1936, Hitler ordered the re-occupation of the de-militarized Rhineland. The German Army was under strict orders to retreat if there was any opposition from Britain or France. Nothing …

In 1938, Hitler took over Austria in the Anschluss to form the “Greater German Reich.” In the face of these blatant violations of the Treaty of Versailles, Western European powers were apathetic. They still did nothing. Hitler, emboldened by these easy victories, demanded Czechoslovakia. Cowered by overwhelming fear that any confrontation would spark another war, Neville Chamberlain (British Prime Minister) and Edouard Daladier (French Prime Minister) betrayed Czechoslovakia and gave Hitler what he wanted. In less than a year, the Second World War began when Hitler’s gambit to seize Poland was finally confronted by Britain and France. Years of appeasement failed.

In his book The War of the World (2006), Niall Ferguson said “ … appeasing dictators came naturally to important sections of what a later generation would call the British Establishment.” Cultured diplomats from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean lean toward appeasement of Iran and China rather than confront their bad behavior. Both Iran’s Shiite theocracy and Communist China strive for regional expansion at the cost of their neighbors.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and lifetime President Xi Jinping continue aggressive actions despite United Nation sanctions in much the same way Hitler ignored the League of Nations. While Iran will not confront the U.S. in open military combat, the Iranians use proxy combatants (militias) in “asymmetric warfare” which offer an outlet for their aggressive behavior and plausible deniability to the international community. On May 31, Martin Patience from the BBC reported on Iran’s proxy militia groups inside Iraq, brazenly marching through the streets of Baghdad.

While Iran has drawn the most attention, China’s domestic and international “bad behavior” has largely been ignored. BBC reports commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre show the communist government still unapologetic for the massacre and have “erased” that event from Chinese history.

In the September 2018 edition of The Philadelphia Trumpet, Jeremiah Jacques cataloged Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. China seized the Paracel/Spratly Islands and finalized its hold on the Scarborough Shoal. Significant Chinese military forces on these islands cut off vital trade routes and seize considerable natural resources.

In 2018, a U.S. aircraft carrier visited Vietnam for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War. In April 2019, Reuters World News reported that a second visit was hoped for 2019 along with the delivery of six patrol boats to bolster the Vietnamese Coast Guard. This thaw in American/Vietnamese relations is not a coincidence. The Vietnamese fear the new might of the Chinese Navy. While drawing less attention than the Persian Gulf confrontation, the Trump administration has started to increase U.S. naval and air patrols in the South China Sea.

On the other side of the world, aggression by the Russian oligarchy is getting some “push-back” as well. The Air Force Times (April 2019) reported that Poland and the United States began discussion of a permanent U.S. military base in Poland “which would serve to counter potential Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.” The possibility of a U.S. Army base in a former Warsaw Pact nation is unprecedented and sends a clear message to Moscow. This is somewhat similar to when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the Pacific Fleet to Pearl Harbor in 1940 to counter Imperial Japanese aggression.

Winston Churchill remarked that appeasement was a “fatal delusion …” Economic and military confrontation with Iran and China are not without risk, but avoids the known failure of appeasement policies that Europeans still cling to. Hopefully Americans will not fall for the same “fatal delusion” in the 21st Century that Britain and France fell for in the last.

Robin Diel lives in Penn Valley.

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