History teaches that nations are not driven by a desire for freedom but by an insatiable will to power. Hence appeasement ends always in rack and ruin. History also teaches that nations always repeat the mistakes of history however, foreseeable, irrational and ruinous. Thus the army of Charles 12 of Sweden intent upon the conquest of Russia invaded and perished in its vast, frozen wilderness.
Napoleon, repeating the folly, invaded Russia with an army nearly a million strong. He left scattered along the wayside of a mortifying retreat 700,000 French soldiers taken by a Russian bullet, bayonet or wintry death. Napoleon, leftist Jacobin, and self-styled Emperor, abandoned a worshipful French army to its fate.
Hitler dead set on conquering “living room” for a burgeoning German population ordered the invasion of Russia. The German army crossed bridges set upon foundations built by Napoleon’s engineers. It perished in winter at “Fortress” Leningrad, and as it retreated to the Kursk Salient. Tens of thousands of German prisoners were marched to Stalin’s gulags and few returned.
The unconquerable forces of Great Britain, the United States and France defeated Germany in the First World War. But the casualties were for all nations mortifying. Winston Churchill, the greatest statesman, poet and prophet of his age, expressed the outrage of Europeans who with wobbly hearts tried to screw their courage to the sticking place thereby to end the scourge of a once vainglorious, ascendant and martial Germany. “The peoples,” wrote Winston Churchill,
…transported by their sufferings and by the mass teaching with which they had been inspired, stood around in scores of millions to demand that retribution should be exacted to the full. Woe betide the leaders now perched on their dizzy pinnacles of triumph if they cast away at the conference table what the soldiers had won on a hundred blood-soaked battlefields… There was hardly a cottage or a family from Verdun to Toulon that did not mourn its dead or shelter its cripples.
The Victors in the Treaty of Versailles severely restricted Germany’s power to prepare its people for another war. Versailles forbade Germany’s reinstitution of a universal military draft and the creation of anything more formidable than a ceremonial navy and token air force. But its severe terms were never enforced. Instead, France and Great Britain embraced a policy of disarmament and appeasement—so fresh and terrible were the memories of Verdun and the Marne, maxim machine guns and chlorine gas, trench warfare and virulent disease. In The Gathering Storm, Winston Churchill wrote,
No one could deny that we were hideously unprepared for war. …. Great Britain had allowed herself to be far surpassed by the strength of the German Air Force. All our vulnerable points were unprotected. Barely a hundred anti-aircraft guns could be found for the defense of the largest city and centre of population in the world; and these were largely in the hands of untrained men.
History teaches again and again that appeasement is not a strategy; it is a synonym for cowardice; it is surrender by a thousand cuts; it is a denial and retreat from the reality that the human predator is ever vigilant, opportunistic and merciless.
Appeasement therefore if it is to be palatable must be centered upon a laudable and artfully crafted fantasy. Accordingly, the British Parliament counseling prudence embraced the outright falsehood that Germany had finally and at last given up the ways of war. Britain’s socialist party (renamed the Labor party) and as well conservatives such as Neville Chamberlain, pursued disarmament even as they blinded themselves to the fact of Germany’s defiance of Versailles. Other than for an occasional rattle of sabers, the British government did precisely nothing when Germany built three battleships including the Bismarck, then the largest and most deadly battle ship afloat.
The liberal press and socialist party characterized Winston Churchill as a warmonger for his prophetic warnings that a rearming Germany would engage Europe in a second world war. The British and French governments let their air force become obsolete and looked the other way when Hitler ordered the reinstitution of a universal draft. In a bow to Churchill’s warnings that Britain no longer maintained air superiority Parliament sent Anthony Eden to visit Adolph Hitler the democratically elected chancellor of Germany. Hitler explained that the German air force was equal in power to that of Britain, and as all the world would soon discover ultimately superior in virtually every armament capable of wrecking misery and mass destruction.
When Neville Chamberlain succeeded the ailing Scotty Baldwin as Prime Minister, he had already conceived an image of himself as the great peacemaker; and so embraced a policy of “not offending” Hitler or Mussolini. Even as the truth of Germany’s new military machine became too nakedly real to deny, Britain and France did nothing when Hitler’s army occupied the Rhineland, nothing when Hitler ordered its fortification, a portent of his intention to wage war, and again nothing when the dictator Mussolini partnered with Hitler and conquered Abyssinia. They did nothing when Hitler first corrupted and then annexed Austria to the Thousand Year Reich.
Appeasement in the name of prudence continued even unto the betrayal of a democratic Czechoslovakia and Hitler’s armed invasion of Poland. Finally, lethargically and unprepared, Britain declared war on Germany. The Germans’ quick, implacable destruction of the first British expeditionary force and its narrow escape from Dunkirk exposed years of self-delusion pitched in the apathetic language of prudence.
Will the United States repeat again the mistakes of history, as did Charles of Sweden, Napoleon, Hitler, France and Great Britain? Well then, what will be the critical fantasy, the prudent language upon which appeasement will be made to sound appealing, rational, indeed, the only prudent course?
In America, appeasement is now premised upon the fiction that now and historically Islam has proved itself to be a religion of peace. But even were this true, whatever does Islam as a religion of peace have to do with a minority of Muslims who for the past quarter century have justified their slaughter of Americans, Europeans and Jews upon the prurient hatred and religious ideologies of religious Jihad.
As the fantasy unfolds Americans are told that the Muslim-jihad slaying and wounding of American soldiers at Ft Hood was nothing more than a “Work Related Incident.” Just so, President Obama engages the powers of rhetoric to conceive for Americans an Arab Spring, a resplendent renaissance that will transform an increasingly terrorist Middle East into a collective utopia of friendly democracies. In the conception he has ignored the lessons of history: Predatory nations will not requite with peace the strategies of appeasement: self-delusion, base flattery, national self-abnegation and serial, groveling apologies.
Recently, the president announced that America will develop a more potent military by cutting a half trillion dollars from its budget, retiring 180, 000 well and expensively trained troops and setting its sights on Asia rather than the Middle East or Europe. One might well wonder how a radical reduction in the number of American soldiers and the slashing of the defense budget will somehow make the military more “agile” and therefore better able to wage war.
The Marine Corps is also slated to downsize by tens of thousands. Many Republicans have sought a pay freeze for government employees and have suggested trimming the overall federal workforce -- but this isn't exactly what they had in mind. Unlike thousands of government pencil-pushers, the US military provides a constitutionally required service, and the safety and endurance of the republic literally depends on its strategic capability. The military is also more trusted and beloved by the public than any other civic institution. Yet this president has decided to curtail their numbers and limit their capacity to wage worst-case scenario war, while increasing the pay of other federal bureaucrats. This decision comes despite last year's warning from Ocala’s own Defense Secretary that further military cuts could "damage our national defense."
Ah, but here’s the rub. How will the American leadership deal with the lessons of history? And will the American citizen, insulated from his ancient culture and history, succumb to fantasies so “agile” that appeasement; disarmament and retreat in a still dangerous world will be successfully portrayed as the only safe and prudent path? As the unspeakable devastation of the Second World War began to unfold Winston Churchill described its first cause. “We shall see,” he wrote as he began to describe the immolation of Europe
…how the counsel of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead directly to the bull’s eye of disaster.
My new book Renegades, Their Betrayal of America. Her Revolution and Renaissance, endorsed by our own Jeff Crank, is now available at Amazon.com. Type in my name and “Renegades.”
 Guy Bension, Political Editor Townhall.com