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The Wages of Appeasement

By Matthew Yglesias on December 29, 2006 at 6:46 pm

"The Wages of Appeasement"

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“In the general condemnation of neo-conservatism,” writes Victor Davis Hanson, “we forget, at least as it pertains to foreign policy, it arose from a variety of causes, not the least as the reaction against the moral bankruptcy of both rightist realism and leftist appeasement.” He continues:

We were reminded of those poles these past few days with news that confirmed Arafat’s order to murder American diplomats in Khartoum. That apparently had made no affect on Bill Clinton, at least if it were really true as legend claims that such a terrorist much later was the most frequent overnight foreign guest to the Clinton White House.

Suffice it to say I don’t see things this way. The news was that Arafat ordered the killing of American diplomats back in 1973. But it’s been a long time since Palestinian nationalist groups deliberately targeted Americans. In other words, violent Palestinian nationalism used to be a problem for American security and now it isn’t a problem anymore. Why’s that? Well, appeasement. The process of engagement initiated by Henry Kissinger, significantly advanced during Jimmy Carter’s administration, and pushed further down the road by George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton succeeded in making the problem go away. Along the way, this diplomatic process also managed to significantly enhance Israel security by leading Egypt to drop out of the anti-Israel coalition in the Middle East. What’s more, during the Clinton years the engagement process came close to achieving a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians that would have further enhanced Israeli security and removed a significant diplomatic problem for the United States of America.

At the end of the day and for various reasons, that ultimate goal was not achieved. But the process that came close to success did achieve a great deal. It didn’t do so quickly or easily, but it did achieve a lot. And there’s every reason to believe that an American administration willing to continue down that path would be able to achieve much more. Certainly, the Bush administration’s alternative approach has managed to be enormously more costly while bringing about essentially nothing in the way of positive results.

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