May 24, 2008
HOW MANY TENS OF MILLIONS DEAD WAS THE APPEASEMENT WORTH?:
Negotiating isn't appeasement: Bush, McCain and other conservatives are on the wrong side of history when they dismiss Obama's foreign policy. (J. Peter Scoblic, May 17, 2008, LA Times)
The modern conservative movement was founded in no small part on the idea that presidents Truman and Eisenhower were "appeasing" the Soviets. The logic went something like this: Because communism was evil, the United States should seek to destroy it, not coexist with it; the bipartisan policy of containment, which sought to prevent the further spread of communism, was a moral and strategic folly because it implied long-term coexistence with Moscow. Conservative foreign policy guru James Burnham wrote entire books claiming that containment -- which, after the Cold War, would be credited with defeating the Soviet Union -- constituted "appeasement."
Instead, conservatives agitated for the rollback of communism, and they opposed all negotiations with the Soviets. When Eisenhower welcomed Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev to the United States in 1959, William F. Buckley Jr., the right's leader, complained that the act of "diplomatic sentimentality" signaled the "death rattle of the West."
Conservatives even applied this critique to one of the most dangerous moments in human history: the Cuban missile crisis, during which the United States and the Soviet Union nearly came to nuclear blows over Moscow's deployment of missiles 90 miles off the American coast. When President Kennedy successfully negotiated a peaceful conclusion to the crisis, conservative icon Barry Goldwater protested that he had appeased the Soviets by promising not to invade Cuba if they backed down.
The Soviets withdrew their missiles in what was widely seen as a humiliation to Khrushchev, but Goldwater believed that Kennedy's diplomacy gave "the communists one of their greatest victories in their race for world power that they have enjoyed to date." To Goldwater, it was far preferable to risk nuclear war with the Soviets than to give up our right to roll back Fidel Castro.
Cubans may have only died in their thousands fleeing across the Gulf, but why does Mr. Scobolic think that sentencing a people to such conditions was a good thing, particularly when regime change in Cuba would have been so easy? The nuclear war risk is, of course, historically inaccurate, former Soviet officials having long ago conceded they had no such capacity at that time. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2008 7:33 AM