We Can't Make Deals with Evil

We cannot make deals with evil.  The approach that Donald Trump seems to feel would work best with the various existential dangers we face is to negotiate better deals with them.  This assumes that the problems we have faced come from poor negotiating skills.  With some opponents, this is undoubtedly true.

Putin, for example, is a strongman who also understands the geopolitical bottom line.   China, likewise, plays us for patsies and someone like Trump could do much better than Obama or Clinton.  Our southern border problem is porous partly because we do not exert practical pressure on Mexico and the Latin American nations from which illegal aliens come to use through Mexico.

These are problems in which we must engage shady operatives trying to cheat us, and in these cases, better deal-making can help us a lot.  But there are other forces in the world that are simply evil and immune to blandishments, bribes, and better negotiators.

The Soviet Union was such a threat.  Republican and Democrat presidents from Truman to Carter – six men who were basically good men trying to protect us by reasoning with Russia – failed because they thought that we could "do business with the Russians."  That was never the case.  The Leninist worldview was guided by hideous maxims like "the worse, the better" and "the more innocent, the more guilty."

What this meant was that improving the condition of the world was the last thing these Marxists wanted.  The final, quasi-mystical triumph of communism could come only when life became so wretched around the globe that people at last saw the light and ushered in communist rule forever.

This is why only Reagan could defeat the Soviet Union.  His strategy did not really contemplate negotiating or deal-making.  It was, instead, both puritanical and practical: "Here is my strategy for the Cold W  ar: we win; they lose."  The deal-makers were presidents like LBJ and Ford and Carter, the well intentioned who brought us closer to defeat by treating the Kremlin as if it was simply another regime.

That same was true four decades earlier when smart men, good men, and competent businessmen like Neville Chamberlain tried to cut good deals with Hitler, but Chamberlain also, passionately, hated all that Hitler represented.  In one way, what Chamberlain and others before Churchill tried to do with Nazism made sense:  avoiding another world war was worth almost any compromise and the opening demands of Hitler – Saar, Rhineland, Austria, Sudetenland, Memel, and Danzig – were nearly always "reasonable" in the context of Versailles. 

The problem was that the Nazis were evil.  Churchill was the Jeremiah then.  There was no deal and no agreement and no arrangement with Hitler that would ultimately work, and on the other side of the planet, the Japanese Imperialism which committed the Rape of Nanking was not a system with which we could have permanent and good treaties.

Much of what we face today is like those threats of the last century.  These threats and the people attracted to their causes hate us and want us dead or enslaved.  We cannot bribe them – in fact, with radical Islam, it is our very materialistic view of life that makes us in their eyes so contemptible – and we cannot try to live with them – they view our very existence as wicked.

We can only defeat them and show why what they believe is wrong – not just mistaken or foolish or imprudent, but rather morally wrong.  That, in turn, requires another vision of life that can replace the sick misology that causes them to send their children to certain death.

If that vision is democracy alone, we lose.  Hitler came to power through the democratic process, Japanese imperialism was often popular, and many evil regimes today could win elections.  If that vision is prosperity, we lose.  The conquer and pillage wealth creation plan still works as it has for millennia…besides, it is not greed which moved men like Osama bin Laden to murder us. 

We defeat evil only by calling it evil, by never trying to make deals with this evil, and then by utterly vanquishing the evil and throwing it into the dustbin of history.  Who plans that for our enemies today?  Who today views the world, rather, like Chamberlain viewed Nazism or Carter viewed Communism and seeks to reason and to reach sane agreements with those whose primary motivation is naked hatred and unapologetic evil?  Must we learn this all over again?

We cannot make deals with evil.  The approach that Donald Trump seems to feel would work best with the various existential dangers we face is to negotiate better deals with them.  This assumes that the problems we have faced come from poor negotiating skills.  With some opponents, this is undoubtedly true.

Putin, for example, is a strongman who also understands the geopolitical bottom line.   China, likewise, plays us for patsies and someone like Trump could do much better than Obama or Clinton.  Our southern border problem is porous partly because we do not exert practical pressure on Mexico and the Latin American nations from which illegal aliens come to use through Mexico.

These are problems in which we must engage shady operatives trying to cheat us, and in these cases, better deal-making can help us a lot.  But there are other forces in the world that are simply evil and immune to blandishments, bribes, and better negotiators.

The Soviet Union was such a threat.  Republican and Democrat presidents from Truman to Carter – six men who were basically good men trying to protect us by reasoning with Russia – failed because they thought that we could "do business with the Russians."  That was never the case.  The Leninist worldview was guided by hideous maxims like "the worse, the better" and "the more innocent, the more guilty."

What this meant was that improving the condition of the world was the last thing these Marxists wanted.  The final, quasi-mystical triumph of communism could come only when life became so wretched around the globe that people at last saw the light and ushered in communist rule forever.

This is why only Reagan could defeat the Soviet Union.  His strategy did not really contemplate negotiating or deal-making.  It was, instead, both puritanical and practical: "Here is my strategy for the Cold W  ar: we win; they lose."  The deal-makers were presidents like LBJ and Ford and Carter, the well intentioned who brought us closer to defeat by treating the Kremlin as if it was simply another regime.

That same was true four decades earlier when smart men, good men, and competent businessmen like Neville Chamberlain tried to cut good deals with Hitler, but Chamberlain also, passionately, hated all that Hitler represented.  In one way, what Chamberlain and others before Churchill tried to do with Nazism made sense:  avoiding another world war was worth almost any compromise and the opening demands of Hitler – Saar, Rhineland, Austria, Sudetenland, Memel, and Danzig – were nearly always "reasonable" in the context of Versailles. 

The problem was that the Nazis were evil.  Churchill was the Jeremiah then.  There was no deal and no agreement and no arrangement with Hitler that would ultimately work, and on the other side of the planet, the Japanese Imperialism which committed the Rape of Nanking was not a system with which we could have permanent and good treaties.

Much of what we face today is like those threats of the last century.  These threats and the people attracted to their causes hate us and want us dead or enslaved.  We cannot bribe them – in fact, with radical Islam, it is our very materialistic view of life that makes us in their eyes so contemptible – and we cannot try to live with them – they view our very existence as wicked.

We can only defeat them and show why what they believe is wrong – not just mistaken or foolish or imprudent, but rather morally wrong.  That, in turn, requires another vision of life that can replace the sick misology that causes them to send their children to certain death.

If that vision is democracy alone, we lose.  Hitler came to power through the democratic process, Japanese imperialism was often popular, and many evil regimes today could win elections.  If that vision is prosperity, we lose.  The conquer and pillage wealth creation plan still works as it has for millennia…besides, it is not greed which moved men like Osama bin Laden to murder us. 

We defeat evil only by calling it evil, by never trying to make deals with this evil, and then by utterly vanquishing the evil and throwing it into the dustbin of history.  Who plans that for our enemies today?  Who today views the world, rather, like Chamberlain viewed Nazism or Carter viewed Communism and seeks to reason and to reach sane agreements with those whose primary motivation is naked hatred and unapologetic evil?  Must we learn this all over again?