The Low-Level Subversion Menace


Blake Hounshell responds to my post suggesting that folks wielding the “appeasement” ax are drastically overstating Russia’s practical ability to coerce Ukraine by giving examples of a few kinds of mischief Russia coule plausibly cause and then saying “when people are talking about the Russian threat, this kind of low-level subversion is primarily what they mean — not tanks in the streets of Kiev.”

I agree that Russia could plausibly engage in low-level subversion against the Ukrainian government, but Blake’s being way too generousto the “every day is Munich” crowd here. The trouble with appeasement at Munich wasn’t that Hitler followed up the absorption of the Sudetenland with a campaign of low-level subversion aimed at the remaining parts of Czechoslovakia. It’s that he followed it up with a full scale invasion of Prague, the dismemberment of the country, and then a new round of war aimed at Poland all of which was part of a deranged scheme of world conquest. If people don’t mean to conjure up images of tanks rolling into Kiev — or at a minimum, bombers in the sky above — when they talk about future Russian pressure on Ukraine, then they shouldn’t use inflammatory language about Munich and appeasement. Writers choose these analogies for a reason — they’re intended to shut down consideration of costs and benefits in favor of creating an emergency mentality. The fact that some other, radically scaled-back version of the claim might be true doesn’t make the initial claims any less irresponsible and inaccurate.