Believe it or not, this is an argument for attacking Syria:
World War II began 74 years ago Sunday when German troops invaded Poland. The invasion conclusively discredited the concept of “appeasement” as a foreign policy for, well, the next 74 years. But if the U.S. Congress opposes authorization of the military mission to Syria that President Obama has now handed off to it, and if Obama uses that as an excuse to back further away from enforcement of his “red line,” the “A” word will likely come to dominate the international debate once again.
And Barack Obama, who in his first term was known as the vanquisher of Osama bin Laden, could come out of his second looking more like Neville Chamberlain.
I don’t want to overstate things. Bashar al-Assad, a tinpot dictator who is fighting only for his own survival, is no Hitler. He’s not set to overrun an entire continent. And the “lessons of Munich” and the dangers of appeasement are generally overdrawn. But, after all, it was Secretary of State John Kerry who lumped Assad with the Fuehrer on the talk shows Sunday, saying that he “now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein [who] have used these weapons in time of war.” (Technically, Hitler’s only use of gas was not on the battlefield but to kill millions in extermination camps.)
Gee, if “appeasement,” “Munich,” and “Hitler” are terrible analogies to the civil war in Syria, why use them? My advice would be not. But that’s why I don’t make the big money.
But in all seriousness, all the talk of Hitler and Munich and such is really just to set up the mother of all slippery slopes (for those keeping track at home, that was a reference to Saddam Hussein of Gulf Wars I and II fame–he also used to be Hitler):
Yet that international order is what is now in some danger, 74 years later. After all, it was just this kind of war weariness that created Neville Chamberlain, and his foreign policy of “positive appeasement” as he called it, in the years after the terrible bloodletting of World War I. If one becomes unwilling to strike dictators and mass murderers, all that remains is to appease them.
Come to think of it, this is also a false dichotomy: there’s “appeasing” (giving in to expansionist and genocidal demands–here Assad has none that I’m aware of) and military strikes. I can imagine one or two other possibilities.