July 30, 2009
Skinned Cats and Tyrants
As the old saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. By the same token, there is more than one way to lose liberty. Specifically, liberty can be taken away or given away.
Perhaps history's most famous example of giving away freedom is the 1938 Munich Agreement. Brittan's Neville Chamberlain and other European leaders believed they could stop the advance of Nazi Germany with a policy known as Appeasement. The Munich Agreement allowed Germany to vastly expand its borders without military opposition. In the days following the summit Chamberlain fatefully declared that they had achieved "peace in [their] time." Not long after, Adolf Hitler blitzed through much of Europe in what would become the deadliest war in world history.
The belief behind appeasement is that there is some new and painless way to pacify those who would do us harm. Appeasement usually takes the form of agreements which can be explicit but often are implicit or unspoken and always unenforceable.
For appeasement to work, the aggressor must act against his own self interests out of a sense of reciprocal good nature -- a condition that makes appeasement unreliable and often dangerous.
The rejection of appeasement is one of the pillars of the modern Republican Party -- at least when it comes to foreign powers. Domestically we often find the opposite to be true.
With rare exceptions Republican politicians, strategists and party leaders have adopted a just give them what they want and it will work out attitude. We have examples such as Medicare entitlement expansion, massive growth in federal education spending and attempts to grant amnesty to illegal aliens.
The most recent case of Republican political appeasement is the "civil" treatment of Supreme Court Nominee Sonya Sotomayor. Over the past 30 years, Senate Democrats have clearly drawn battle lines by impugning, badgering, disgracing and blocking scores of qualified court nominees, including nominees to the Supreme Court. The Republican response was to heed Democrat warnings and not be too rough on the Latina judge.
Senator Lindsey Graham perfectly summarized the appeasement mentality in a statement he made during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings:
And what I hope is, if we ever get a conservative president and they nominate someone who has an equal passion on the other side; that we will not forget this moment.
This statement carries all the hallmarks of appeasement. Graham "hopes" that his courtesy will make for a new and painless way to stop the Democrats from using hard-line tactics on judicial nominees, Democrat compliance is not enforceable and not even promised and Graham's hope is contingent upon the Democrats acting against their own self-interests.
Graham and others claim that this behavior is politically necessary. Republicans cannot be seen as obstructionists or racists. Graham believes if Republicans pursue "ideological purity" they will lose elections.
But the notion that Republicans are racists or obstructionists is caricature, not reality. Since that caricature is already a contrivance of the Republicans' political enemies, will Democrats ever stop using these labels as long as it is politically advantageous?
Since Democrats use false political labels, regardless of actual Republican behavior, the moderate Republicans are only ceding legitimate political ground under the poor assumption that doing so will engender goodwill on the part of their opponents. In other words, they are committing political appeasement.
We should pause for a moment and ask why we find appeasement in foreign policy so dangerous. The obvious answer is that the longer we put off forcefully dealing with hostile nation states or terrorist groups, the harder it is to neutralize their threat. But that begs the question of what the ‘threat' is. The threat is not to our safety, if safety were paramount we would never fight a war.
The threat is to our freedom. We reject appeasement because it allows the threats to our freedom to grow stronger, increasing the likelihood that we could lose that freedom. And if freedom is our most precious asset, isn't domestic political appeasement at least as dangerous as the appeasement of foreign powers?
When Republicans agree, under the guise of bi-partisanship, to welfare expansion, racial preferences (as in the case of amnesty), activist judges and federal economic planning (health care, stimulus etc.), they are giving away liberty piece by piece.
Abraham Lincoln said that "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." Like the old adage about skinned cats, there is more than one way for a tyrant to gain power, which is why we must defend liberty on all fronts.