The Price of Appeasement

Lee Harris suggests a thought experiment in Tech Central Station.

Suppose that last week’s attack had not been the work of terrorists, but the work of the United States. Suppose American jets had flown over Madrid on Thursday morning and dropped a scattering of bombs on the commuter trains, killing and maiming the exact same people who were killed and maimed in the terrorist’s attack. Suppose, further, that President Bush had subsequently announced that Spain would be subjected to further attacks if the Spanish voters did not vote as he wished them to vote.

Had the Spanish people docilely obeyed such a brutal command, and voted as the United States bid them vote, the world would be left in no doubt who really ruled Spain. The election would have clearly been understood as an act of collective capitulation and an abject abandonment of all claims to national sovereignty. Henceforth Spain, with good reason, would have been looked upon as a puppet state of the USA — in the exact same way that Soviet tanks in the streets of Prague in 1967 proved to the world who really ruled the Democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia.

This is imperfect, of course. Al Qaeda did not issue a demand that Spain vote a certain way. Perhaps they didn’t think they needed to.

MADRID, Spain (CNN) — A document published months before national elections reveals al Qaeda planned to separate Spain from its allies by carrying out terror attacks.

A December posting on an Internet message board used by al Qaeda and its sympathizers and obtained by CNN, spells out a plan to topple the pro-U.S. government.

“We think the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw because of the public pressure on it,” the al Qaeda document says.

“If its forces remain after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party will be almost guaranteed — and the withdrawal of Spanish forces will be on its campaign manifesto.”

That prediction came to fruition in elections Sunday, with the Socialists unseating the Popular Party three days after near-simultaneous bombings of four trains killed 200 and shocked the nation.

(I’d like to add, as a post-script, that I do not agree with the conclusions drawn in Lee Harris’s article. The man is often brilliant, but he’s far too gloomy for me today. I still think the excerpted paragraphs are worth thinking about, however.)

Revolution Calling

You won’t see, read, or hear much about the violence sweeping through the streets of Iran in the mainstream media, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

The Corner and Project: Free Iran have the latest.

From The Corner:

I am listening to KRSI (Radio Sedaye Iran) right now. There are many Iranians calling (from Tehran, and Gorgan, etc.).

All reports indicate that almost every neighborhood in Tehran is on fire. People are throwing home-made bombs, Molotov cocktails, etc. into the homes of mullahs, and burning pictures of Khamenei in complete defiance of his recent edict to mourn during the month of Muharram.

From Project: Free Iran:

The Islamic republic regime’s anti-riot units and plainclothes men have opened the charge, at this time 21:35 local time, against the demonstrators in southern Tehran, Esfahan’s Tchahr Bagh and the city of Mashad by using knives, clubs and chains. Unconfirmed reports are stating about the use of plastic bullets in Esfahan and the Sadeghieh square of Tehran.

Several have been badly wounded during the attacks but fierce resistance is being made by thousands of young Iranians, male and female, who are opposing the attacks by the use of all available tools and especially Molotov cocktails which were made for such eventuality.

I don’t expect the Iranian regime will fall tomorrow, though for two reasons I hope that it does.

First and most obviously, the regime deserves to be violently overthrown. It has no right to exist. And the people of Iran, like all humans everywhere, have the right to live in freedom and with dignity. The Middle East, and the world as a whole, will be far better off when the religious fascists are marginalized, exiled, caged, or dead.

The second reason I hope it falls tomorrow is that it would really show up the media. Holy shit! The Iranian government was overthrown? How the heck did that happen?

The fools are asleep at the wheel. They either have no idea what is happening in the world, or they don’t care. Or maybe they don’t think we care.

Yet we do.

Home Again

I just got back from spending four days in the lovely city of Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s after midnight and I’m too tired and out of the news loop to write anything. Blogging will resume shortly.

I couldn’t help but notice this, however. Maybe I’m woefully behind the news curve, but are people aware that the bombings in Madrid happened 911 days after September 11?

Yes, It Was Appeasement

It looks like terrorism works, at least in Spain.

MADRID, Spain (AP) — The leader of Spain’s victorious Socialists said Monday he will withdraw his nation’s support for the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, restating a campaign promise a day after his party won elections overshadowed by terrorist bombings.

The fact that the Socialist party won Spain’s election isn’t appeasement per se. And it certainly wasn’t a vote for Al Qaeda, as some have alleged in my comments section. The Socialists are not a pro-Osama party.

Besides, the fact that a peaceful transfer of power followed an election in a country that was recently ruled by General Franco’s fascists is itself a rebuke to the totalitarian ideology of the killers.

What counts as appeasement is that the new Spanish prime minister vows to retreat from Iraq just days after the worst terror attack in Spain’s history. The general consensus in Spain seems to be that by joining the coalition to oust Saddam Hussein they were drawn into a fight that wasn’t theirs, that they made themselves a target when they should have stayed neutral. The bombs dropped in Iraq explode in Madrid sums up the thinking rather nicely.

Some people aren’t happy with the “appeasement” charge. Here is Randy Paul:

it is a special type of odious arrogance that will accuse an entire nation of being cowards simply from the comfort of your keyboard in San Diego because they decide to exercise their rights as citizens in a democracy, the same rights that you claim that we are fighting for in Iraq.

Spaniards aren’t being called “cowards” for exercising their democratic rights, Randy. No one I’m aware of has said Spain can’t vote for a left-wing party or that it doesn’t have the right to pull its troops out of Iraq.

The voters of Spain have every right to do both. But that doesn’t change the fact that what Spain has done is appeasement.

Let’s look up appeasement in the dictionary so we’re all on the same page.


n. The policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace.

Appeasement is not the same thing as treason or surrender. An appeaser recognizes that he has an enemy, or at least a potential enemy. In this case, Spain properly recognizes Al Qaeda as the enemy. The concession granted is the troop pullout from Iraq. The voters of Spain think this will take them off Al Qaeda’s enemies list and that Spain will then be at peace.

Some have called this a surrender. It is not. For Spain to actually surrender to Al Qaeda they would have to evacuate Andalucia and give it back to the House of Islam.

The problem with appeasement is that, from the point of view of the enemy, it’s not good enough. Al Qaeda won’t leave Spain alone unless Spain does surrender. Throwing the enemy a bone won’t cut it. Spain might get bumped down a notch on the target priority list, but that will not solve the problem.

Winston Churchill described the futility of appeasement best.

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

The implication, of course, is that the appeaser still gets eaten.

For those who think pulling out of Iraq immediatly after a huge terror attack isn’t appeasement, I’ll have to ask them what they think would qualify as appeasement (as opposed to surrender). If this doesn’t qualify as a textbook case, what does?

UPDATE: Let me just add that I think calling Spain a nation of cowards is obnoxious. (I do agree with Randy Paul about that.) Appeasement is a mistake, and it’s a mistake motivated by fear. It’s also a mistake that the US made repeatedly in the 1990s. (See Somalia.) And we weren’t a nation of cowards then.

Terror in Madrid

At least 180 people were killed in Madrid by ten or more bombs in commuter train stations. The Spanish government seems certain it was the Basque ETA, not Al Qaeda.

This is huge, by far the worst terror attack in Spain ever.

A few years ago two separate bombs exploded in Madrid the day after I left the city by train to Seville. I remember airport-style security checks in the train stations, and I also remember not worrying much about it. The ETA was far more like the IRA than Al Qaeda; small occasional bombs that seemed more like attention-getting devices that weapons of mass murder.

But it looks like 9/11 raised the stakes. Perhaps Al Qaeda made the ETA feel like pikers. To get the kind of attention they wanted they had to make themselves full-bore enemies of civilization like their Middle Eastern counterparts.

Bastards. They will never get their own state this way. But I can see why they might think it would work. Europe loves the Palestinians.

I, for one, wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it was Palestinians or their friends who committed this act. It is right up their alley, and Europeans better think long and hard about where they stand.

UPDATE: When I wrote “Palestinians or their friends” it was a sloppy way of saying “Middle Eastern terrorists.” I posted this first thing in the morning before I was fully awake.


Spanish interior minister says new line of Madrid blast investigation opened after police find van with detonators and Arabic-language tapes. Details soon.

Someone in my comments section accused me of being an “Internet conspiracy theorist” for thinking Middle Eastern terrorists might have killed 200 people with bombs. Might want to rethink that. I don’t know who did it, but it should be clear that it could go either way at this point. The Spanish police certainly think so.

Al Qaeda in Spain?

From Fox:

MADRID, Spain — Al Qaeda has reportedly claimed responsibilty for a series of bombings Thursday that left at least 190 people dead and 1,240 wounded.

According to wire reports, Al-Quds Al-Arabi — a London-based Arabic newspaper — reported the terrorist organization said it was behind the the 10 bombs that rocked three Madrid train stations during the height of the morning rush hour.

Maybe they didn’t actually do it and want to bask in the glory. But my gut tells me they did it. The Basque ETA has never been even remotely this bloodthirsty.

Is Smoking Rated R?

The AP reports the lastest front in the war against smoking.

LOS ANGELES — If Nicolas Cage lights a cigarette in a movie, Hollywood’s ratings board should respond as if he used a profanity, according to authors of a new study that criticizes glamorous images of smoking in movies rated for children under 17.

“No one is saying there should never be any smoking in the movies,” Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said Tuesday at a press conference at Hollywood High School. “What we’re simply asking for is that smoking be treated by Hollywood as seriously as it treats offensive language.”

Some people think smoking is offensive, obviously. But is it really comparable to profanity?

What would the authors of this study rather have me do? Like up a smoke on a street corner? Or say eff you in front of their kids?

Since R-rated films typically earn less money because they are not open to most teenagers, Glantz said he hoped such a policy would discourage filmmakers from depicting unnecessary smoking, such as the nicotine-addicted worm aliens in “Men in Black.”

This is just bullying and control freakery, a way to impose an agenda on artists by threatening to cost them millions of dollars if they don’t comply.

Why stop with smoking? If we’re going to protect The Children from seeing bad adult habits on screen, we might as well restrict the number of Twinkies, french fries, and Froot Loops an actor or actress can eat in a movie.

Here’s another AP headline for you: Obesity May Pass Smoking As Top Killer

Maybe next the MPAA will slap an R rating on a movie if an actor or actress is fat.

In the meantime, I think kicking smokers out of every bar in New York and California ought to be enough micro-management for now.

From Iraq to Haiti

Those who care about both human rights and consensus in the international community owe it to themselves to read Carroll Andrew Morse’s piece in Tech Central Station: The Bias Towards Brutality and Totalitarianism.

Free Advice

Pejman gives some advice to the Democrats and tells them how they could win. He’s right, but they won’t listen or understand.

Maybe next time.


This is the dumbest criticism of John Kerry I have ever read.

Deborah Orin in the New York Post:

Democratic presidential nominee-to-be John Kerry called Yasser Arafat a “statesman” and a “role model” in a 1997 book that Kerry cites as proof of his own foresight about foreign policy.

So far, so good, right? Kerry admires Arafat. That’s bad.

Keep reading.

Kerry expressed the opposite view eight days ago, when he told Jewish leaders in New York that he shares President Bush’s belief that Arafat must be isolated because he’s not a “partner for peace” – much less a statesman.

Okay, so Kerry is waffling again. But, hey, at least he learned something in the meantime, perhaps. Lots of people thought ol’ Yasser was worth something before the second intifada, and if Kerry wised up (as I did), good for him.

“Terrorist organizations with specific political agendas may be encouraged and emboldened by Yasser Arafat’s transformation from outlaw to statesman,” Kerry wrote in “The New War,” now out of print.

Kerry added that terrorists “whose only object is to disrupt society require no such ‘role models [as Arafat].’ “

Well, look at that! Kerry didn’t say the Palestinian terror-master was a statesman or a role model. He criticized other people for saying so.

Deborah Orin can’t read her own sentences. And neither can her editors.


New Column

I have a new Tech Central Station column up: Liberalism in the Balance.

Comeback for Baby Doc?

In my last Tech Central Station column I argued that Saddam Hussein should be executed because former dictators are potentially dangerous as long as they are alive.

This is what I’m talking about.

Baby Doc Duvalier wants to go home to Haiti. Nice timing on that one.

Duvalier said he wants to help Haiti in any way he can.

”This is my country. . . . I’m ready to put myself at the disposal of the Haitian people,” he told Gillen, who also interviewed him in December 2002.

Duvalier called the recent events ”a dark chapter in Haiti’s history” and said he felt anguish and concern for his homeland.

”I’m shocked by the situation my country is in,” he said.

Give me an effing break.

Duvalier claims there is no legal obstacle blocking his return, a wish he has been expressing since the late 1990s.

He’s living as a free man in Paris. If the French government cares about Haiti, if they care about human rights and democracy at all, they will find a way to put that man in a cage.

(Via Randy Paul.)

Hitch on Gay Marriage

Dennis Prager sees the fight for gay marriage as a war of “secular extremism” against Western Civilization, and he compares those of us who support gay rights to Al Qaeda. (Thanks, Dennis. You’re a pal.)

Christopher Hitchens provides some perspective.

It demonstrates the spread of conservatism, not radicalism, among gays.

When I become bored or irritated by the gay marriage battle–and I do, I sometimes do–I like to picture the writhing faces and hoarse yells of the mullahs and the fanatics. Godless hedonistic America, not content with allowing divorce and pornography, has taken from us our holy Taliban and our upright Saddam. It sends Jews and unveiled female soldiers to our lands, and soon unnatural brotherhood will be in the armed forces of the infidels. And now the godless have an election where all they discuss is the weddings of men to men and women to women! And then I relax, and smile, and ask my [gay] neighbors over, to repay the many drinks and kind gestures that I owe them.

Tom Cole: Right-wing Punk

This election is going to suck.

Republican Congressman Tom Cole claims a vote against the re-election of President Bush is like supporting Adolph Hitler during World War Two.

There really isn’t much to say about this except that Tom Cole appears to be the right-wing equivalent of an anarchist punk. For those who can’t see what’s wrong with his statement, well, there isn’t anything I can say to help.

He later said his quote was mischaracterized.

Who knows? He was bound to say so whether his quote was mischaracterized or not. And since his original words aren’t published online, I can’t check.

But he did say this. Quote.

If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election.

Osama bin Laden is not on any ballot.

I’d say Osama, if in fact he’s still breathing, would probably prefer a John Kerry victory. After all, the Bush Administration, as Christopher Hitchens put it, “wakes up every morning wondering how to take the war to the enemy.” John Kerry sees this sort of thing as “the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in modern history.” So, yeah, Osama bin Laden might prefer a US president who is a little less…enthusiastic about taking the war to the enemy.

But boy oh boy is that a different statement from what Cole said. He said, in a roundabout way, that John Kerry is Osama bin Laden. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, but Cole said this in a prepared speech. It wasn’t an off-the-cuff slip-up.

He turned around and said Kerry is a “patriotic individual.” Well, that’s good. At least he knows the First Rule of Holes.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Robert Matsui responds:

Congressman Cole’s comments are disgraceful and must be repudiated by Republican candidates from President Bush on down the ticket…Congressman Cole should apologize to Senator Kerry and the millions of Americans whose patriotism he has impugned.

In a country where Ann Coulter sell millions of books peddling Cole’s brand of shtick, I’d say Mr. Matsui is right on the money.

(Via Kevin Drum.)

Bush Vs. Kerry

So it looks like John Kerry is it.

And therefore I’m out.

I would have voted for John Edwards had the Democratic Party chosen him as the nominee. Heck, I would have voted a straight-Democratic ticket next year if that’s how it went down. But it didn’t, and so I won’t. I can’t.

Until further notice, this blog officially supports George W. Bush for president in 2004.

I will not be his cheerleader. Though I will defend him from scurrilous charges, I don’t like the man, and I never have. I appreciate very much what he has accomplished in the realm of foreign policy, as anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows. And there is simply no way I can vote for his opponent who has spent the past year whining about every good thing we are doing and have done in the Middle East. This is by far the most important task now and ahead of us.

I am not about to join the right-wing bandwagon. I will support a Democratic Congress as I always have.

The Christian Right can take its hysterical reactionary agenda and stuff it. They are not my comrades, and they should not come looking to me for support. They will get none.

I cannot and will not be a team player for the Republican Party. None of the partisan “responsibilities” apply to me because I do not accept them. When I side with the liberals I am not a “traitor.” I could be plausibly accused of heresy for siding with conservatives as a Democrat. But that’s because I actually was a Democrat. I am neither a Republican nor a conservative. I will vote a split ticket this year because the way I see it, each party gets some things right. The inverse of that statement is obvious. Each party gets some things wrong.

I hope the Democrats spend the next several years, whether in the White House or out of it, getting themselves a serious foreign policy. Right now they don’t have one. Some individual Democrats are exceptionally sharp on this subject. But the party as a whole is lost. It hasn’t always been this way, and there is no reason to expect it to remain this way forever. I may very well support the Democratic candidate in 2008. It depends on who they nominate, and it depends on what happens between now and then.

It’s also entirely possible that John Kerry will win in November and I will come around to his side. He may win and govern well, and if he does, I will notice. I’ll be grateful and relieved.

Until then I oppose him, and I do it without malice. I don’t hate the man, and I doubt I ever will. Hatred destroys people emotionally and intellectually. The pitched level of anti-Bush hatred is shocking to me, just as the fury from the right against President Clinton was shocking. The asinine bluster from political haters is surely the dumbest commentary on any subject I’ve ever heard and read from adults. Get a life, haters. This is just politics.

I am the same person I was when I wished Al Gore were president. And if I change my mind about Bush in the meantime, or if I warm to a President Kerry, I’ll be the same person then that I am today. Some people make the funniest judgements about others because of who they support as a president. It’s not until you change your mind about a president that you come to realize how petty that is.


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