Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Appeasement, Then and Now

We watched the special features on the Remains of the Day DVD, on which actor Anthony Hopkins and novelist Kazuo Ishiguro speak quite intelligently about the pre-World War II desire for "peace in our time" and attempts to appease Hitler. Rather than doing the easy and natural thing -- deplore those silly saps, recite another "never again," and bask in how morally superior we are now -- both of them make it clear that hindsight is 20/20 and that none of us can really know how we would have acted in those times. They also pointed out that attempts to appease our enemies, in spite of it's general ineffectiveness, are still going on. They both mention Bosnia, so I suppose the featurette must have been shot ten years ago.

But it got me to thinking about our current situation in the Middle East. The commonly accepted liberal wisdom, swiftly becoming the commonly accepted mainstream wisdom, is that all this strife with Islamic fundamentalists is of our own making. If we just spoke with them, understood them, respected them, accepted them, then they wouldn't hate us so much and they'd want to be more like us. It's a cultural form of the strategy of appeasement: let's make nice, and maybe they won't kill us.

But Nick Cohen pointed out in Friday's Wall Street Journal ("An Upside Down World") that all the liberals in America and Europe who are rushing to defend Islam and show extra-careful regard for Muslim delegates are trapped in a contradiction, since those very delegates vehemently oppose everything they hold sacred: liberalism, secular humanism, and feminism. Those same smug liberals who assume they would sooner die than shake hands with Hitler are still seeking "diplomatic solutions" with foes whose ideologies are perhaps more morally repugnant than the Nazis'.

Ah, but them's fightin' words. Anyone who points out the fundamental contradictions in our values and the values of Muslim fundamentalists are deemed viscious hawks determined to foment a religious war. Still . . . at some point, even for liberals, our determined multiculturism must fail and give way to outrage. The Taliban was just dastardly enough that all the Western world could work up a good hate long enough to bomb them back to the Stone Age (which, admittedly, was not far to go in Afghanistan.)

I am actually not that hawkish, these days. Nobody is. How could they, what with our asses getting kicked in a war of questionable value? But I do think it's important to look back at history and recognize that the decision to fight is rarely an obvious one, at least at the time, and that it is possible for our enemies to take advantage of our lofty ideals.

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