March 15, 2004

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.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 15, 2004 8:49 PM
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