Building on his popular “The World Is about Me” theme, Barack Obama expressed the hope that that he was the target of Bush’s recent remarks about appeasement:
The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.
This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis….
There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It’s natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
(That senator, by the way, was William Borah, a Republican from Idaho known as “The Lion of Idaho”)
When I heard this portion of the speech, my first thought was “He’s referring to Jimmy Carter and most of Europe.” But the truth is that there has always been a solid contingent of people who believe that, “some ingenious argument will persuade [the enemy] they have been wrong all along.”
Hidden within this myth of appeasement is the worldview that relegates our enemies to the role reactors to American policy; our enemies they are never the agents of change — they’re just reacting to what we do. Thus, if we Americans change what we do, fanatics will no longer seek to destroy us. (This is the core foreign policy assumption of American liberalism, what Jeanne Kirkpatrick called “the Blame America First movement.”
This tempting illusion has led misguided politicians and commenters throughout history to marshal this tired fallacy into a “new course” that seeks an understanding with our enemies — a relaxing or easing (dare we use the term detente?). This is the illusion of the left wing of the Democratic party, and no matter how much Obama waves his arms and shouts, “Look, the president is talking about me!” the problem is bigger than Obama — much bigger.