It looks like appeasement is going to be a big discussion this fall in the presidential elections. We saw President Bush start off the conversation yesterday in Israel. It’s clear that the republicans have a strategy with regard to Obama and it is to make the case that he’s a classic liberal, weak on foreign policy, and a friend of our enemies.

The word appeasement is loaded with meaning and it harkens back to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain‘s strategy of trying to make peace with Hitler which culminated in the Munich Agreement of 1938 where part of Czechoslovakia was handed over to Nazi Germany in a failed attempt to buy peace with Germany. Of course that strategy failed and it took an all out assault on Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy (and Imperial Japan) to rid the world of that evil last century.

I hope we can have a real debate about appeasement that is not colored by the wounds of the last century. It is certainly true that those who don’t pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it. But it is also true that there is more than one way to fight a war against those who would like to see our country and our way of life destroyed.

We can, as our current administration has done, take the fight right to the terrorist threat, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and possibly Iran. We can try to use our military might to, as GWB says, "fight them on their soil so we don’t have to fight them on our soil." I think our success with this strategy is questionable. It seems to me that we have probably energized our enemies more than anything else with our war in Iraq and our words and body language.

In the meantime, there is something really important going on all over the world. I’ve touched upon it recently in my post about Geographic Balancing, where I wrote:

The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the middle east,
are quickly attaining economic purchasing power parity with the United
States and Western Europe.

The twin forces of technology and freedom are making this world a more balanced place. There is so much we can do to fuel these positive changes.  A hungry mob is an angry mob. But a rising standard of living is the greatest peace pipe of them all.

Of course we need to have a strong military and I believe that the USA has that today and will continue to have that for some time to come. We must be able to defend our borders and are interests around the world. The first Iraq war was a sensible war. The second was not.

But the single most important thing we can do in the war against terrorism is to show the young, alienated youth of the muslim world that there is a better way. That they can make their homes, communities, and countries better by engaging in the modern world and taking advantage of the great equalizer that technology and freedom represents.

And that is what Obama is saying when he talks about engaging the world and our enemies in a dialog. Think back to the school yard in middle school. There was the tough talking kid who would throw a punch at you if you looked at him the wrong way. And there was the cool kid who had his head on straight and got everyone going in the right direction. I want our country to be the latter and we’ve been the former for the past eight years.

As Teddy Roosevelt said, "speak softly and carry a big stick". That’s my kind of appeasement.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Jeff Giddens

    well put. in the interest of hilariousness, did you see chris matthews tear up kevin james on hardball on the appeasement issue?…stunningly brutal. and enjoyable. every minute of it, in nonpartisan fashion.

    1. S.t

      The funny part here was that moron Chris Matthews thinks that the USS Cole was attacked during the Bush years, but it was attacked by Al-Qaeda when Bill Clinton was president, on October 12, 2000.

    2. coreyh

      Chris Matthews makes the key point: “the thing that Chamberlain did wrong was not talking to Hitler, it was giving him half of Czechoslovakia. There is a fundamental difference between talking with the enemy and appeasement.”And I can’t recommend the writings of Matthew Yglesias on topics like these highly enough: http://matthewyglesias.thea…” Meanwhile, Bush continues to fundamentally misunderstand the purpose and nature of diplomacy. The idea of talks isn’t that you marshal convincing arguments and beat your enemies back with force of words. The idea is that it’s sometimes possible to achieve a reconciliation of partially divergent interests. Maybe Iran wants a nuclear weapon in order to deter American attack. And maybe America wants a nuclear-free Iran to help preserve stability in the region. Down one path, we have conflict and the U.S. sanctions and bombs Iran which causes suffering but only delays Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. But down another path, each side discusses it’s top priorities and we reach an agreement on verifiable disarmament in the context of security guarantees and a path to normalized relations. Down the road, that gives the U.S. the stability we want and creates more prosperity and security for Iran.Maybe that won’t work — it wasn’t possible to reconcile interests with Hitler — but that’s what’s on the table. Now if you believe that literally every antagonistic force in the world is exactly like Hitler, then the distinction collapses, but only an idiot would believe that.

      1. markslater

        “an appeaser is one that feeds a crocodile – hoping that it will eat him last” WC

    3. vruz

      I saw it, and I couldn’t believe it.Matthews was practically forced to call it “pathetic” on the air.James not only didn’t know who Chamberlain was, and what he did, but also refused to concede he didn’t know what he was talking about, not even the meaning of the word ‘appeasement’.Such degree of ignorance and blind stupidity is obscene, embarassing not only for James but for the media, his party and the public as a whole.The only antidote for this is Education, Education, Education.

  2. S.t

    Obama, Chamberlain, and Iran…So, on one side of the table you’d have Iran, Syria, Carter, Farrakhan, Venezuela’s Chavez, domestic terrorist & Obama charity buddy William Ayers, and on the other side you’d have Obama?Seems to me he wouldn’t feel out of place on the same side as some of those guys? Hell, he already sits on the same charity board as Ayers, a guy who tried to assassinate Jack Murtha.Which side of the table would Michelle Obama sit?At the core of the argument here is that in any negotionation there is a ‘give-&-take’. What kind of offer would Obama be willing to slide across the table? What the fug do these pieces of garbage deserve anyhow?If I were McCain, I’d say “Sure I’ll go to Iran. I’ll go to Iran to negotiate terms of their surrender”.

    1. ivanpope

      Sir, you are …

      1. fredwilson

        now we’ve found the killer app for video comments!

        1. Steven Kane

          trash talking and name calling?

      2. mrclark411

        Comments are always more authoritative when spoken with an English (Aussie?) accent. Perhaps that is the real killer app for video comments – convert my American accent to a proper UK accent.

        1. markslater

          and dubai in to a country.

          1. markslater

            was it not you who identified it as a country in a prior post? if not my apologies.

          2. mrclark411

            it was, thus the good point. =)

    2. fredwilson

      ST:surrender from what?the notion that they have to surrender to the US is ridiculous to methey are citizens of the world just like we arefred

      1. S.t

        The Iranian people don’t have to surrender. But how long do you wait until you take Mr. Ahmadinejad seriously about his intentions for Israel?I feel sorry for the Iranians.

        1. fredwilson

          I suspect the Iranians will solve their own problems in good timeParticularly if we work to engage them in the modern worldfred

          1. Jack

            In February, 2003, they announced plans to go nuclear. In February, 2008, they had 3000+ centrifuges refining nuclear material. Is this the engagement of the modern world that you meant?After 29 years of saying “NO! I really mean it. NO” to engagement in the modern world, do you get even the remotest inkling of what their true intent is?Maybe if you listen to their words, it will help? “The West thought the Iranian nation would give in after just a resolution, but now we have taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched more than 3,000 centrifuge machines, installing a new cascade every week,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said….

        2. Fardad

          Please feel sorry for your collapsing empire, your inhumane warmongering culture and failiing capitalism. The decline of your criminal enterprise is imminenet.Come back and feel sorry for us when we increase the oil price to $160.Moron!

          1. markslater

            there is not one single social or moral principle or concept in the philosophy of that islamic state which has not been realized, carried in to action, and enshrined in immutable laws a million years ago by the white ant.

    3. dcostolo

      Please. This is the same tired right-wing hate radio hyperbole that may have worked for GWB under Rove, but is not convincing anybody anymore, judging by how well the GOP is doing in these House special elections. Throwing a pile of names into a hat and screaming “this guy likes terrorists” is no more serious public discourse than just waving around a sign that says “obama rhymes with osama”. It’s over for fear-mongering, it’s over for coulter and james and hannity. It probably still has a cute cable and radio audience, but you’re not going to win any more elections with it for a while.Also, in case you haven’t noticed, “going to iraq to negotiate the terms of their surrender” turned out to be “stupid” and “laughable” except for the part of the tragedy where lots of people are “dying” for “no reason”.

      1. tetsuotrees

        Couple of points to make here. First, the GOP is losing because the GOP is nominating…well…losers. It is then supporting those losers with…more losers. It is a party that has completely abandoned its core set of principles, and the public has subsequently lost faith in that party’s rhetoric. Note also that each of those special election losses were to very conservative Democrats.Second, the “Obama rhymes with Osama” thing. It would be helpful to recall that it was a Democrat who brought up the issue of Barry’s middle name, not some GOP’er. And it was again a Democrat, a Senator this time, who enabled the entire (albeit ridiculous and sophomoric) “rhyme” to become an issue of any kind. Even now, that rhyme is used by conservative media folk primarily to poke fun at Ted Kennedy more than it is used to actually drive opinion about Barack.Now, if you don’t think a man’s voluntary associations draw legitimate questions regarding his character, or that character is not an important factor to consider when hiring or electing an executive of any kind, well…I guess we’d have to just disagree here (but Fred’s blog is absolutely a worthy venue for such a discussion). As shallow as the CJH crowd’s attacks on Barack can be, the question of character, particularly when the alternatives are a Clinton and John McCain, is extremely important to many people. As well it should be. This is not fear-mongering – no one I know of is suggesting that Barack’s avoidance of reference to his middle name means he would like to turn America into a part of a new Caliphate. Rather, it is part of a broader argument against his candidacy that suggests given his lack of experience running anything of importance with measurable success, his willingness to lie to his supporters and to the general public about his past associations, his inability to construct coherent positions with respect to a wide array of policy issues, AND given his character flaws that seem to be multiplying by the day, perhaps this man is not quite fit for the Presidency.It seems that the whole appeasement argument has taken on a life of its own, and has forgotten the central fact that this man said he would sit down with leaders of extraordinarily despotic regimes WITHOUT preconditions of any kind. I’m sorry, I don’t care which side of the argument as to whether or not this qualifies as appeasement you side with, this is a shockingly absurd policy suggestion.So too is the suggestion that recalling the words of those would wish us ill will somehow qualifies as fear mongering. And to be perfectly honest, I think that kind of mudslinging is every bit as bad as anything silly being excreted from bowels of the right. None of it moves the nation forward in any way.Your comments regarding Iraq and the situation there are beneath contempt – the suggestion that a people learning how to stand on their own, to formulate a set of principles worth fighting for, to protect their own against insurgents that would seek to establish a Taliban-like regime along the Euphrates, and to move beyond one of modern history’s most unbelievably horrible dictators is hardly “stupid” or “laughable” and certainly does not constitute a lack of reason behind the deaths that have resulted. Someone named themselves “YourHateWillConsumeYou” in response to one of my previous posts (which displayed no such tendencies). Seems his vitriol was misplaced…

  3. dave

    “It is certainly true that those who don’t pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it.”And apparently those who do pay attention to history are *attempting* to repeat it.

  4. TimWalker

    Fred — You’re absolutely on the right track here. The BIG problem with the Bush Administration’s approach over time is that they cast everything in terms of Option A (their way) or Option B (giving into terrorists, etc.). The problem is . . . the world simply DOESN’T work that way. Especially given the multivalence of BRIC (et al.) economies, flows of immigrants, flows of information, and so on. It’s simply NOT as simple as state-versus-state anymore, yet the Bush Administration has continued to act as though we’re operating in a classic Great Powers world.I fear that McCain would only continue that approach. It’s all about gruff-and-bluster, or, worse, gruff-and-bluster backed ONLY by the barrel of a gun. And all of that is failed, failed, failed as a pragmatic approach to solving the world’s or the USA’s pressing issues.Yes, have the “big stick” ready. It’s not like Obama or any other mainstream candidate would do anything but have it ready. But show the basic understanding that a good police officer does: the gun is there, but you only unholster it when it’s the only remaining solution to the problem.

  5. Paul

    “engaging the world and our enemies in a dialog”What is that, exactly? Has this ever worked?(Maybe 30 years ago with Isreal/Egypt, but we send billions every year to buy off the Egyptians)It is what people who know nothing about the realities of foreign policy say. Besides, why would the US want to legitimize these disgusting two-bit dictators (Chavez,Ahmadinejad,Kim Jong Il).

    1. fredwilson

      It works every day in businessWhy is the global diplomacy any different?

      1. Steven Kane

        i’d argue this does not work everyday in business. witness microsoft and yahoo and carl icahn et al?and it does not work everyday even in cases that look (at least from my POV) to be shockingly obvious — despite literally a hundred years of talking and ML King’s righetous work for ten years, would school integration have taken place had JFK not sent in federal troops to enforce court orders at gun point?any case, what does business or economics have to do with any of this? you simply can not think about such issues and not have ideology be front and center. it is true that a hungry mob is an angry mob but c’mon — high school level logic here — that does not mean all angry mobvs are hungry, right? the 9-11 hijackers were to a man well educated, and affluent, and they were all saudi arabian adult males, arguably amongst the most affluent citizenry to ever walk the earth. ditto osama bin laden.ideological struggles do not get resolved by throwing money and bread and microprocessors at people. as someone else pointed out, as part of the 1977 Camp david accords we began a massive foreign aid program to Egypt (they get as many dollars as does Israel, but somehow we never read about that in the media.) can anyone argue that all that aid has made Egypt a better or more reliable or less threatening ally (let alone a less repressive open society for its won citizens or any less jihad-formenting?president bush’s choice of words and choice of venue are regrettable — he should not have thrown slings and arrows regarding USA foreign policy in a foreign land. our unofficial tradition of “internal differences disappear at the ocean’s edge” is an excellent one and president bush should be castigated for breaking that honorable traditionbut — and I’m an Obama supporter here — the notion, so popular these days on the left and in the media, that somehow our problems are all about Bush administration practices and policies is silly and frankly shockingly naive. we are engaged in an ideological struggle with an ideological foe. why do we not get OUTRAGED when Iranian President Ahidinijad says — as he did THIS WEEK — “The [Israeli] criminals assume that by holding celebrations they can save the sinister Zionist regime from death and annihilation.”Somehow ignored by the blloggers and pundits commentators is that President Bush was addressing the Israeli Knesset literally THE NEXT DAY. Again, I condemn President Bush’s choice of venue and all, but how exactly are we supposed to react to that? By saying, “lets cut a deal?”, or “how about if i give you a lot of foreign aid and supplies – will you abandon the ideological venom and make nice with everybody?”unfortunately we all have to internalize that sometimes ideological differences make even the most compelling and common sense practical notions the midst of the los angeles riots, LAPD beating incident victim Rodney King went on television and made his famous plea, “people, can’t we all just get along? can’t we just get along?”no, sometimes we can’t.

        1. fredwilson

          SteveYou and I disagree on that last pointI think we can if we just work at itfred

          1. Steven Kane

            i also think we can if we just work on iti just think we disagree on what kind of work we need to do and in what sequence;)

      2. chernevik

        It works in business because both sides want to increase the total value held by both parties. In politics, very often, one side is simply trying to maximize its own influence.The Gulf states have been awash in capital inflows for decades. Their societies are still under-educated and under-developed. Why? Because their elites enjoy their monopolies on power and wealth and don’t want the power-and-wealth-dilution they would suffer in truly open, developed societies. And because they can sustain their position with oil wealth and don’t need popular opinion. bin Laden attacked the US to get us out of Saudi Arabia, figuring the Saudi regime can’t make it without us. We are not his first concern; we are unavoidably positioned between him and his real goal.The islamic extremists are recruiting among disaffected people who believe the US is the core pillar of an international order that sustains the corrupt and oppressive governments that keep them in poverty. This, unfortunately, may well be true, though we neither need nor create that corruption. The extremists need chaos to destabilize their governments; we, and a functioning global economy, need order.Obviously that order cannot be stable long-term if it isn’t founded real justice and fairness and development for everybody, and the clear migration toward a more humane order would ease a lot of the complaints. It’s going to take a long time, and we should have been working harder at it since 1989 forward. But it’s obviously true that political development is ulimately the long-term solution.But that ordered world relegates bin Laden et al to the dustbin of history, so they won’t have much use for it no matter how great it would be. And it could take fifty years — that’s how long Communism took after WWII. If Iran gets the bomb in fifteen years, are you ready to bet that it won’t get into the wrong hands and go off in New York, or Tel Aviv, over the following thirty-five? If that happens, there will zero patience for further negotiation — we will simply go into all-out warfighting mode. And at that point we will see such order as can be built on a force-only mode, until that inevitably collapses into real chaos.And if the extremists see us diverted from our obligations and our interests by a fear of violence, they will see that violence works, and they will use more of it, and work politically less. Failing to fight our proper battles slows the process of political development.Technology has scaled up the dangers of extremism, and their ability to generate the chaos that is their strategic method. With the right technology, and enough decades, they might win. To me, Iraq was about capping the technology possibly available to them for the next ten years or so. The current occupation is a discharge of obligations taught us by Versailles, and hopefully some political development. Iran, North Korea and Pakistan also pose similar technology distribution problems, though each different and less severe than Iraq’s.Both as a country protecting ourselves, and as a community hoping for an ultimate order built on something besides pure force, we don’t have time to wait for talking to fix everything. The catastrophes are probably emergent in decades, but they are so in fewer decades than “political development only” could possibly take. To get an order of justice and reason a century from now, we have to contain the politically violent and the technology they can deploy. Once we’ve got them in that box, then we’ll have the decades we need to solve the real problem.

        1. chernevik

          To my point above about bin Laden’s ultimate target:”In his second audio message in three days focusing on the Palestinians, the al-Qaida leader said the only way to liberate Palestine is to fight the Arab regimes that are protecting Israel. “…The extremists want to push us out of the region so as to weaken the incumbent Arab regimes that are their real business. Insofar as the goal is pushing us out, the extremists and the Iranians have goal alignment. If we leave Iraq, while the Iraqis are developing a stable politics with our help, both the extremists and the Iranians will conclude that pushing works, and will follow up with more of the same.And why would they stop attacking us? After all, it seems to be working. Until we’ve demonstrated that it doesn’t, any assurances we get from them would be simply tactical, and temporary.

    2. dcostolo

      paul, you can’t fight a 12 front war and win. you can rarely fight a two front war and win. you need to immobilize your enemies, and one way to do that is to engage them OFF the battlefied. engaging iraq on their turf on the battlefield in 03 has a) emboldened and strengthened iran, b) tied up critical us military resources that would be better served fighting the real al-queda in afghanistan, and c) destroyed our global leverage in other economic and diplomatic centers of influence such that we have too little ability to negotiate. Chavez can afford to be a lot louder and bolder now than he would have been in 2002, since he knows we’ve punched ourselves out. To say that this is what people who know nothing about foriegn policy would say ignores the fact that the vast majority of the foriegn policy experts in the state department’s senior ranks were against the invasion of iraq.

    3. TimWalker

      “Has this ever worked?” — From your tone I take it that you mean this rhetorically — i.e. you’re suggesting that it has never worked. So, let me disabuse you of that notion with a few examples:–U.S. detente efforts with USSR and PRC in early 1970s: reduced tensions, improved trade, cost little.–U.S. economic diplomacy toward PRC over the past 15-20 years: has helped to integrate China into the world’s economy while reducing military tensions between China and its regional neighbors.–The U.S. did a ton of “talking” with the ex-Warsaw Pact nations in the 1990s that helped bring those countries into the Western / Free World sphere. This came at the cost of some tensions with Russia, but in general has made the region more stable, not less, and a better contributor to the global economy.–Current efforts vis-a-vis North Korea are far from perfect, but they beat the heck out of a shooting match. This is a case of talking backed up my military force (along the Korean DMZ) AND by earlier talking (with China) and earlier military action-plus-economic aid (with Japan).–The U.S. diplomatic corps did an excellent job of capitalizing on the U.S. victory in Iraq in 2003 to persuade — not force — Qaddafi to give up Libya’s nuclear weapons program. A classic case of using dialogue to build upon military successes.One more thing: “why would the US want to legitimize these disgusting two-bit dictators”? — This rhetorical question also falls down upon analysis, for the simple reason that Kim, Chavez, and Ahmadinejad are all ALREADY in power in their respective countries. It doesn’t matter that we dislike it; it doesn’t matter that we think of them as noxious; it’s just a fact of life — or, to use your own phrase, a reality of foreign policy.Posturing can be important in its own way. But posturing does not a sensible foreign policy make.

      1. S.t

        Wouldn’t it have been great if Gore or Kerry or Obama had been president on 9/11? Then they could’ve invited Mr. bin Laden to Camp David to apologize for America’s aggression’s, and talked about their feelings, right?Is that what the Dems want?Maybe Obama & the little Iranian dude can go on Oprah before he obilterates Israel and have a cry-&-makeup-fest?

        1. fredwilson

          Come on st. take that crap elsewhere. That is just stupid shit that I don’t want on my blog.fred

          1. S.t

            where the heck is Andy Swan when I need him?

          2. fredwilson

            StThe diff between you and andy is that I smile when he disagrees with someone in these discussions and I cringe when you disagreeTone is really important. Something obama is a master at and mccain and gw bush are notFred

          3. S.t

            A big part of the problem here is that there is no Gorby-type leader of the Muslin/Arab world.

          4. howardlindzon

            I am the fake andy swan and can speak to him being hungover but agreeing with fred. Its all about tone and andy is ALL about conversation.

        2. TimWalker

          You know what would *really* be great? It would *really* be great if grownups who are interested in finding the best ways forward for the United States would stop with the dumb dichotomizing. You know the kind I mean, right?Dems = “feelings” = “diplomacy” = light-in-the-loafers = unpatriotic etc.G.O.P. = “hard facts” = “strength” = manly = patriotic etc.Give me a break.If Ahmadinejad attacks Israel, it’s the end of his country. He knows this, and more to the point the grownups in Iranian politics know it. (Doesn’t mean they like it – but they know it.)We don’t know what a mythical President Gore or President Kerry would have done in the wake of 9/11. We don’t know what Truman or Nixon or Reagan would have done in the wake of 9/11. But we do know what the actual president actually did in the wake of 9/11 — including the parts of his policy that didn’t work.It’s a hell of a lot more responsible to face up to this now — without the cartoon-cutout images of Oprah etc. — than to keep up this macho nonsense about being “tough” on U.S. enemies, as if toughness only comes in one flavor and always means aggressive military response.Truman was wiser than this. So was Eisenhower. So were both Roosevelts. Why not let’s join them?

          1. Steven Kane

            re: your comment about Iran knowing it would invite retailiation if it attacks Israel –mutually assured destruction policy worked against the soviet union. but otherwise, historically, that policy usually fails.its failing right now, all over the world.the junta in myanmar is grievously wounding its own country and population rather than risk exposing its own ideological bankruptcy.and the palestinians? the number one target (most frequently targeted) for hamas rocket attacks out of gaza? the israeli power station that supplies GAZA — the palestinians themselves — with electricity.and even the most un-Bush-like Democrats from the Clinton years (e.g. Dennis Miller) attest that Arafat turned down essentially everything he ostensibly wanted (except repatriation rights, and sorry, no country on earth has ever allowed that) rather than give up the ideological ghostand how about Cuba? the Castro brothers have literally ground Cuban society and people into the dirt rather than concede their ideological failuresoh, and we all remember how the japanese surrendered as soon as they realized they were defeated? no, they would not surrender. despite that they were utterlu and totally on the brink of collapse. not until TWO atomic bombs had laid waste to major cities.etcfanatical islamic ideologues do not want peace and plenty. they want absolute control of human society and death to infidels. that’s not me being inflammatory. thats their own language, e.g. osama bin laden, ayatollah a sustaini, mohammed al sadr, hezbollah, etc….

          2. fredwilson

            And I want to play golf like Tiger WoodsAt some point I realized it wasn’t going to happenFred

          3. Steven Kane

            do you think the radical islamicists are anywhere near that point?or that hardened ideologues even think that way?also, even if you do, if/when there is another 9/11 or madrid train bombing or london tube/bus incident, should we just turn the other cheek?

          4. fredwilson

            I am not advocating turn the other cheek. I am all for finding bin laden and taking him outBut what did iraq do to us to deserve the whomping we’ve delivered to them?Who is the schoolyard bully in that story?Fred

          5. tetsuotrees


          6. tetsuotrees

            You failed here to address SteveKane’s question – “do you think the radical islamists are anywhere near that point?”If you do, it would seriously call into question your interpretation of the words coming out of the mouths of some of our worst enemies, including Iran’s current president.If you do not, it kind of makes this entire appeasement argument look pretty silly, doesn’t it?

          7. fredwilson

            my first boss taught me a very important lesson:watch what they do, not what they say

          8. tetsuotrees

            I’d observe, then, that mass-producing mechanisms for refining nuclear weapons grade material while insisting in English that they aren’t and simultaneously crowing in Persian, Pashto, Farsi and Arabic that they’re about to wipe out the great Satan and it’s Israeli friends (i.e. lying to the English-speaking world) seems just a touch on the false-side of peaceful.

          9. TimWalker

            Steve — Thanks for the thoughtful reply. But note that Myanmar, Palestinians, etc. aren’t examples of MAD. Myanmar, for better and worse, is a diplomatic backwater. Israel, for a large set of reasons, can’t afford politically to wipe out the Palestinians — setting aside humanitarian concerns, etc.The case of Iran / Israel is different, because it’s a simple if / then statement: if Iran launches missles at Israel, then Iran will be devastated immediately, without fail. We’re not talking about Germany and France massed at each other’s borders in 1914 — each telling itself that it could prevail. We’re talking about unlimited (albeit distinctly lopsided) thermonuclear warfare, guaranteed, for Iran.

          10. Steven Kane

            Ok, point well takenBut instead of MAD, substitute the word “self preservation”Ideological tyrannical regimes do not act out of self-preservation in theway you are describingThat’s why the Myanmar example is worth considering. They’d rather take thewhole house down in flames rather than concede an ideological inchAnd lets not forget, the Iranian regime sent waves of children to theirdeaths as cannon-fodder soldiers in the Iarn/Iraq war:…So I can’t help but feel extremely skeptical of any strategy that relies onthe current ideological iranian regime to think and act like us.

          11. TimWalker

            Steve — There’s a key difference between “think and act like us” and “act for its own self-preservation.” That the Iranian leaders (of 20 years ago, mind you) sent child soldiers to their death is neither here nor there in terms of the current regime’s survival. (And we’re not talking about Ahmadinejad — we’re talking about the clerics. We shouldn’t be surprised if/when Ahmadinejad departs.)The Burma regime (a) has been far more insulated from world opinion for the past 20 years than Iran has, and (b) has no real power to use as leverage against the rest of the world, unlike Iran. I’m not saying that your assessment of the Burma regime is wrong, just that it’s apples and oranges to compare them to Iran.By the way, ideological tyrranical regimes DO — sometimes — act from easily understandable motives of self-preservation. It has happened, for instance, in North Korea, Libya, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

      2. Paul

        Partially rhetorical and thank you for the list. Diplomacy works, of that I have no doubt. But only with rational actors. To sit down with Hamas, Iran, Syria, NK, Venezuela – we are both legitimizing them and negotiating with looney tunes – ain’t gonna happen – and trust me, no matter what BHO says, he won’t do it either..Our problems are kind of a result of the success of the cold war. We are now the unchallenged superpower. To retain power these leaders have to find a way to blame the US instead of admitting their own shortcomings. There is not one thing we can do to change that, other than replacing those regimes. Which we are well on our way to doing. Two down, five to go.

        1. fredwilson

          This gets to the whole argument about interventionist policy. Looking at the recent history of our use of preemptive acts of force (vietnam, iraq2) tells me that we should let countries work their own problems outFred

        2. TimWalker

          Re rational actors: there were plenty who wouldn’t have put Qaddafi on that list before he backed down re nukes. Sure, SOME of these folks are just batsh*t, but it’s vanishingly rare to find a leader who is genuinely suicidal.And again, we’re not “legitimizing” if these folks are already in power. It’s responsible to sit down across the table from folks, even if nothing will be worked out in the long run. Keep avenues open so that on the off-chance that something productive develops, you’re ready to hear it.As for regime change, I would just note that it’s very, very expensive — in dollars, in lives, in international clout, et cetera. We need more cost-effective methods for the next, oh, few decades, in my opinion.

          1. pfreet

            Tim you bring up a great point about Gaddafi. It’s not as if Bush went to Tripoli and gave ol Muammar a stern talking to. Gaddafi saw the writing on the wall and backed off. He did not want to be next on our list. This example actually validates the Bush doctrine.I think many people misunderstand the Bush doctrine. On a simple level it is that you are either with the US or with the terrorists. Gadaffi chose to be on the side of the US. Ahmadinejad chooses to be with the terrorists.

          2. TimWalker

            pfreet — The example does not validate the Bush Doctrine, which is, in any case, ill-articulated (not by you, but in general). Qaddafi never chose to be “on the side of the US.” Probably he continues to hate the U.S. as he has done in the past — but he understands the costs and benefits of playing ball with the U.S. in this particular case.Note, also, the Qaddafi example is a specific, explicit departure from the concept of regime change. The U.S. (and the British, if memory serves) were able to get cooperation from Qaddafi *after* assuring him that what they wanted was *policy* change in terms of nuclear weapons, and NOT *regime* change that would depose Qaddafi.So, yes, the U.S. and its allies took advantage of the military facts in hand — the recent deposition of Saddam — and used it to their advantage in the case of Libya. But NOT in the manner that the Bush Doctrine has been used in Iraq.By the way, in many cases the politics of the Arab world and of Islamist belief render meaningless such a simple dichotomy as being “with” the terrorists or being against them.

  6. Andy Freeman

    > That they can make their homes, communities, and countries better by engaging in the modern world and taking advantage of the great equalizer that technology and freedom represents.One big problem with the poverty causes terrorism argument is that the actual terrorists are well educated and fairly well off. (Osama is actually rich.) Many have lived in the West. They know what the modern world has to offer and they reject it.I realize that you’ve got a lot invested in the “poverty causes terrorism” position, but what if it isn’t actually true?

    1. fredwilson

      Osama is not the guy who is blowing himself and others up

      1. tetsuotrees

        But many of those who are “blowing himself and others up” are indeed wealthy, and have had access to education. See the comment above regarding the relative economic status of the 9/11 hijackers.The entire “poverty causes terrorism” argument is borne out an unwillingness to examine the root causes of that poverty – poverty is a symptom, not a disease. It is a lazy position to hold, and to be quite frank, the adherence to it by so many who are, in fact, wealthy themselves displays a shocking lack of understanding of money, wealth, culture and the actual role those elements play in human affairs.

    2. SOB Denver

      This is a compelling question that needs to be vetted, but I believe there is truth in it. Control of the mainstream media by extremists (example in the US: Rupert Murdoch) can have a dramatic effect on the poor and uneducated (references: popular sentiment in the US to support the Iraq war initially, exit poll results that 50% of primary voters in West Virginia still think Obama is Muslim). If you grew up in a desolate, oppressive environment and were promised 40 virgins when you arrived in heaven because you fought the good fight against the evil Empire and did the will of God, a desperate individual may consider this option “patriotic”. Dialogue and education can make a difference. If you haven’t already picked it up and enjoy a good nonfiction read, consider purchasing the book from Greg Mortenson, a US mountain climber and nurse from the bay area, has made an amazing difference in the education of Afghan and Pakistani children. His schools are a necessary departure from the Saudi sponsored madrassas that preach a militant, extremist Islamic faith. If you don’t read books, consider renting “Charlie Wilson’s war.” It’s entertaining regardless of your viewpoint, but it emphasizes the end game isn’t military intervention. We could have helped prevent the rise of the Taliban last time we were in Afghanistan, but like people said above, history repeats itself and the US is too illiterate to read the books.

  7. mray177

    I don’t get why everybody assumes that by showing radical Muslims a “better way” is a viable political strategy. The history, religion, and politics of the Middle East suggest that this alienated region of this world won’t abandon it’s hatred for freedom just by some how demonstrating a better quality of life. Rational people can debate the merits and strategy of such a policy, but there is no empirical evidence to imply such a broad vision will have demonstrable impact upon the issue of extremism in the Muslim world. To me it may be a niave approach on the same level of this administration’s assumptions in the region. Also, I’m not sure that Obama has shown that his foreign policy positions are the answer. I’m not saying that he might not make a great President, I just think has not shown the American people that his way is the right way. If you want to vote for him based on personality and demeanor, that’s great, but I’m still wary about his policy positions and that might not bode well for him. By his voting record he is a leftist democrat (I don’t use that as a negative) and, in the past 35+ years, the only two democrats to serve in office both ran as conservative democrats. Even if Obama is willing to talk to Iran, he hasn’t clearly demonstrated how that will help the situation. In wartime that might not be enough for the American people.

  8. ScottyBob

    Perhaps what Obama means by sitting down with them is a master plan is to conduct one of those fake sweepstakes, get Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Bin laden and the rest to show up at some hotel conference room thinking they won something big and then take them down!The U.S. cannot continue trying to be the global mom, bully and cop rolled into one. The truth is that the U.S. really cant be any of those roles in the future. The EU is an example of how partnerships are going to carry the day in the future. We cant play “my way or the highway” any longer because we dont own the highways anymore. The repubs throw appeasement terms around to insert thoughts of extremes into people’s heads. Sitting down doesnt mean look the other way, but funny how Bush tried to equate the 2.Scott

  9. tetsuotrees

    Excuse me – but any attempt to argue that Obama would be, in any way, strong on defense or good for U.S. foreign policy is utterly laughable. Remember the last time we elected a President with no experience in successfully running anything of substance, no experience in successfully creating or implementing policies of any kind with any foreign parties, and a penchant for making demonstrably ridiculous statements in front of a too-adoring-to-notice public? I sure do – you’re bitching about him now.And while I typically enjoy your writing and thoughts, your reference to Teddy and his “big stick” is similarly ridiculous. How effective are soft words backed by a big stick that isn’t used with any substantive effect? That big hole in lower Manhattan should serve as an ample reminder, but somehow its effect seems completely lost on so many of us. So too should the extensive testimony of numerous figures who have sought to do irreparable harm to the very liberal (both classical and modern) minds our current idiot cowboy seeks to protect.Name a single liberal president who has “had the big stick ready.” You can’t. He hasn’t existed, and no amount of hating the Texan with the ten-thumbed way of handling policy of any kind will change it. And forgive me for stating the obvious, but when confronted with a bunch of folks who would like little more than to separate your head from your shoulders with a dull knife and post the video of their infidel bloodlust on YouTube for all the world to see, to stone to death the homosexuals among you, to use your mentally handicapped and disabled as human bombs, to make your women the shameful embodiment of sexual and existential appeasement on threat of mutilation or death, or to, say, enrich enough uranium to lob one over on what has been for a generation our only true ally and the only sustainable democracy in the region, all the while practically screaming about how the day you will in fact lob it over is fast approaching – when faced with such people, the offer of a nice little sit-down starts to sound a scosh like GASP “appeasement”. Oh yeah, this is after those people have spent the better part of a decade killing your men and women throughout the globe, including two attempts to inflict massive destruction on your own soil, one of which succeeded with tragically spectacular effect.It is not an “anything but Bush” world. Admitting that he has been correct in principle is a first and necessary step in allowing our nation to correct his inability to properly execute. But this practice of saying “I can calm the enraged psychopath down if only I could spend ten minutes with the guy” is far worse, far more irresponsible, and far more naive than anything that has ever been uttered or acted upon by our current President.

    1. YourHateWillConsumeYou

      “A bunch of folks who would like little more than to separate your head from your shoulders with a dull knife and post the video of their infidel bloodlust on YouTube” – How about throwing a puppy into a ravine? Or any of the other atrocities some of our misguided soldiers who have been written off by this Administration”To stone to death the homosexuals among you” – Let’s not pretend that the US at large is supportive of homosexuals. Just take a drive through any state in this country that doesn’t touch the Pacific or Atlantic to have your eyes opened.”To use your mentally handicapped and disabled as human bombs” – No argument here. Wrong is wrong.”To make your women the shameful embodiment of sexual and existential appeasement” – ummmmm, Pr0n?”Enrich enough uranium to lob one over on what has been for a generation our only true ally and the only sustainable democracy in the region, all the while practically screaming about how the day you will in fact lob it over is fast approaching” – Our ally in the region has nukes. From the Iranian perspective, if hostile parties (Israel and us) are clamoring to topple you and have a massive military force massed on your border, what are you going to do? Nothing? Clearly you never played a game of Risk and “accidentally” nudged the board when faced with a similar situation.

      1. tetsuotrees

        “How about throwing a puppy into a ravine? Or any of the other atrocities some of our misguided soldiers who have been written off by this Administration.”Uhhh. Decapitating humans. Throwing a puppy into a ravine. The inability to thoughtfully distinguish between the relative weight of actions rears it’s ugly head, with fantastically ridiculous effect. The point here, my friend, is that the infidel bloodlust mentioned is deeply ingrained into the psyche of those who wielded those knives, and is beyond the capacity of rational dialog to ameliorate. So too, apparently, is the urge among some in our own western world to reduce the relative impact of everything to the lowest common denominator. Seriously, your comment here is almost shockingly naive. How widespread in American culture is the desire for mass murder? Even those who supported the Iraq war grow extremely weary of the bloodshed, and this as the overwhelming majority of the blood being shed is of those who would seek to destroy us. And if you’ve ever spoken to anyone who has engaged the enemy, you will find that many harbor severe reservations about taking life except for under the most extreme circumstances. Even then, the experience scars many, sometimes irreparably, and always tragically.”Let’s not pretend that the US at large is supportive of homosexuals. Just take a drive through any state in this country that doesn’t touch the Pacific or Atlantic to have your eyes opened.”Well now let’s see here. So you’re saying that fly-over country isn’t gay friendly. The last time I checked, there are some rather significant population concentrations between the Pacific and Atlantic that boast large and thriving homosexual populations. I used to live near Boys Town in Chicago, and certainly didn’t see any stonings there. Hmmm, tell you what – why don’t we let that one sit for a sec and move to a more personal example. I grew up in a town of 280 people, two hours from the nearest large city, smack dab between the coasts. You would be hard pressed to find a place further from an ocean on the North American continent. Gay people there? You betcha. Vilified by the community? Not at all. STONED TO DEATH IN PUBLIC VENUES? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Again, this whole relativity thing has got to stop my friend. Eyes opened? Good one…”No argument here. Wrong is wrong.”…”ummmmm, Pr0n?”Ummmmm, choice? I don’t think one can make the case that there’s a legitimate comparison to be made between Jenna Jamison and oh, say, Nojoud Muhammed Nasser. Period.”Our ally in the region has nukes. From the Iranian perspective, if hostile parties (Israel and us) are clamoring to topple you and have a massive military force massed on your border, what are you going to do? Nothing? Clearly you never played a game of Risk and “accidentally” nudged the board when faced with a similar situation.”Quick, name the last ten times an Israeli Prime Minister stated it was the Israeli State’s intent to wipe out all of the surrounding muslim countries…………Sorry, too hard? Try this one: what nation is pro-actively engaging in military operations in both Iraq, Lebanon and Israel? …How about this: Why did Israel develop nuclear weapons capabilities? And, given that they’re presumably the only nuclear power in the region, why haven’t they exercised the use of that power?Ok, I’m sorry, this must be very difficult for you. Let’s do a little bit of role playing. I tell you I’m going to eradicate you and everything you hold dear, because I quite frankly don’t think you or any of the things you hold dear have a right to exist. You go buy a gun, and tell all of your friends, family, co-workers, etc. to do the same. I announce to you, your friends, your family, your co-workers, and even to the next door neighbor’s dog that I’m going to get a bigger gun, and when I get it, you will be no more. Who, precisely, is out of line here?How fitting you bring the game of Risk up in a discussion about appeasement. I’ll just let that one stand on its own.Bye, bye. TT

    2. Krassen Dimitrov

      “Admitting that he has been correct in principle is a first and necessary step in allowing our nation to correct his inability to properly execute. “Nope, I can’t do that, he has no principles. Sure, freedom is good and there are evil people in the Middle East. But that’s not his principle! If freedom is good, how come we don’t do anything with Burma? Or Turkmenistan? If democracy’s good, then how come Putin’s soul’s is good, too?Just saying: “I am for freedom, motherhood and apple pie” is not a principle. Not when you lie to the public about WMD, then retaliate against a legitimate sceptic (Joe Wilson) and then pardon the guy who covered everything up.

      1. tetsuotrees

        “Nope, I can’t do that, he has no principles. Sure, freedom is good and there are evil people in the Middle East. But that’s not his principle! If freedom is good, how come we don’t do anything with Burma? Or Turkmenistan? If democracy’s good, then how come Putin’s soul’s is good, too?”Krassen, I admire your sentiments. First, let me say that I did not comment on whether or not the President HAS principles – I merely stated that the thought process that led him to his decision to invade Iraq was sound (and in my opinion, the decision he made was the right one – others will always disagree, sometimes vehemently, and that is perfectly legitimate). And saying the man has no principles is ludicrous – he clearly has principles. He is HATED for his principles. Whether or not he has well-reasoned principles, or actually adheres to those principles are different matters entirely. I think you may be surprised how often I would tend to side with the President’s detractors when discussing those issues, but alas, that is for a different time and place.Now, why don’t we do something about those other nations? Great question, and I’m with you 100% that something should indeed be done (perhaps militarily, perhaps not, but that’s not the gist of what I’m trying to say). But why stop there? Why not take care of Darfur, North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and a host of other countries while we’re at it? Well, the simple answer is because we can’t. Not given what’s occupying our resources right now. There are tomes being written on the web and in print about the waves of issues that this particular discussion generates, so we’ll leave it at that.And I agree that the President’s publicly stated judgment with respect to Vladimir Putin’s character was wildly off the mark.Now for this last bit. “Not when you lie to the public about WMD, then retaliate against a legitimate sceptic (Joe Wilson) and then pardon the guy who covered everything up.” Whether or not W lied about WMD will be debated for decades, until the full and unclassified account of what he knew, when he knew it is released. I personally don’t think he lied about it, just as I don’t think any of the other intelligence organizations in the world lied about it – including those from nations antagonistic to our case in venues like the U.N. But I, for one, never placed that much stake in the WMD issue – if Saddam had WMD, they should have been forcibly removed irrespective of whether or not he had anything to do with Islamo-fascist terrorism. People seem all too eager to forget the litany of reasons for which we invaded Iraq, but we’ll let that slide for now as well.What I will take serious issue with is your invocation of the Joe Wilson situation – not because I don’t like what you have to say, but rather because it is a topic that has been so thoroughly exposed as a fabricated controversy that you run the risk of having anything else you argue written off. I would suggest you revisit the Senate Intelligence Committee reports on Joe Wilson, which exposed the man as a complete fraud, and the case one of inherent institutional bias propagated by a very silly case of nepotism, backed by a rather absurd willingness to draw more attention to oneself in the hopes that the attention will obscure the fact that you lied through your teeth about every important disclosure you claim to have made. There are very few public figures who have been more thoroughly discredited than that man, and you harm your ability to make a legitimate case against much of anything by bringing him up.Freedom, motherhood and apple pie, I think we can agree, are all good things. And you’re right, they aren’t, taken together, a principle. But I ever implied that they were.Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. TT

        1. Krassen Dimitrov

          “But I, for one, never placed that much stake in the WMD issue … People seem all too eager to forget the litany of reasons for which we invaded Iraq”Well, there we go, there was NO littany. I cannot speak for all people but I speak for MANY who were in my shoes: I was a father of two little children, a baby and a two-year old (we have three now ), and I was told by a respected man like Colin Powell that Saddam had purchased yellowcake from Niger. Yellowcake is enrcihed uranium ore. Once you get uranimum-235 to some reasonable purity, an undergraduate can make a bomb out of it. That WAS the deal for me and I believe for many other people. You and others like you may have had other motives, certainly oil may have been a factor, or whatever. Regular folks like us, with young kids, were scared. Ambassador Wilson took an unpopular stand in 2002 and 2003 to say that this claim was not credible. Turns out, he was telling the truth. I want to know why the President of the United States intimidated, retaliated and smeared the guy who was telling the truth. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what kind of person Wilson is, womanizer, self-promoter, whatever. He was telling the truth and the president of the U.S. was not only lying to us, turns out, but was using all kinds of unsavory tactics to shut up and discredit the person who was telling the truth. What happens next: there is an investigation in this whole affair, there is a guy who is found guilty of obstructing justice, and the President – the same person who has never pardoned anyone in Texas – decides now is the time to overrule a court’s decision. Principles? Are you kidding me? Scaring a nation shitless with talk about yellowcake, while at the same time trying to supress evidence to the contrary, and when the whole thing unravels, in a truly “mafioso” style, take care of the guy who didn’t “sing” ? Please!If you want America to be enforcer of freedom around the world, that’s fine, it’s a policy issue that can be discussed (pretty much like McCain does now), the pros and cons considered by the people, and if the country decides that your position is the way to go – that is we need to go and bomb evil people – that’s fine.However, playing with people’s most basic emotions – fear and self-preservation – by suppressing the truth, manipulating the facts, and “taking care” of convicted criminals who had covered up the whole shebang? that’s just rotten…

  10. Krish

    I do agree that we need to fight terrorists, etc. I am wondering why even the thinking class a.k.a liberals are falling into the trap of “enemies”, “terrorism”, etc. put forward by ignorant classes a.k.a conservatives. Why don’t we (thinking class) take a hard look at what caused the so called enemies in the first place and try to address that. A good doctor is one who treats the source than the symptoms. I think it is time we take a hard look at what actions of ours could have resulted in creating so many “enemies” around the world (why is it that no other country has so many “enemies” as this country? Conservatives baloney the “jealousy” word because of their ignorance. Why can’t we the liberals take the fight to the heart of conservative baloneyism and call their bluff. Why can’t liberals do what they are good at (critical thinking) and call the conservative baloney once and for all, even if it means electing another GWB again. Let us tell the people without any defensive tactics that the conservative baloney is what has lead to the start of US downfall in the world stage (unless we consider world to be just US). This may lead to defeat in November and again in 2012. But when US actually goes down due to the stupidity of conservatives, we can at least be satisfied that we did the best to prevent it from happening. My 2 cents.

  11. cortland

    “But the single most important thing we can do in the war against terrorism is to show the young, alienated youth of the muslim world that there is a better way.”If the better way you refer to is what most of us think of as a better way (bigger bank accounts, more opportunity, larger homes, increased personal satisfaction, etc.), then I don’t think they’re interested. They view our lifestyle as sinful. The things we value (education, opportunity, personal expression, money, freedom of thought), they do not. Using your schoolyard analogy – these are home-schooled kids and their curriculum is fire-and-brimstone.I agree with talking to them, but as we saw when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited NYC, some of these guys live on another planet. Talking to them is not appeasement, but does talking to them move our interests forward? What do we have to gain? Turning them all into capitalists? Not gonna happen, IMHO.

    1. fredwilson

      Why are they “not interested”?I think it has to do with indoctrination and religious beliefsBut those can be changed over time with different realitiesfred

      1. cortland

        It definitely has to do with indoctrination and religious beliefs; it haseverything to do with it. But, that is not going to change simply because wein the West think they would be better off living more like us. For the mostpart, I think they’re happy with their lifestyle, and I think we are goingto be the last ones to change that lifestyle. Of course, we should notpro-actively try to isolate and anger them ala GWB. That is purposeless andshort-sighted.

      2. markslater

        ” a fanatic is one who cant change his mind and won’t change the subject” WC

    2. amalik49

      How can you say they aren’t interested? The reason Hamas and other terrorist organizations have such an easy time recruiting young men to blow themselves up is they are offered the prospect of having their family taken care of afterward. Now obviously this doesn’t justify such barbarous acts, but can you imagine having so little hope that blowing yourself up so your family doesn’t go hungry is a viable decision – let alone an actual outcome?Don’t be so quick to assume that the 1.3 billion people on the “other” side are so eager to get to heaven and carouse with the (bulls***) 72 virgins. The sad fact is there is no hope in that part of the world. After 9/11 there was a great deal of talk about distancing ourselves from the oppressive regimes we are allied with and providing a Marshall Plan for the Middle East. Imagine how different the world would be if any of that had happened. Instead of an endless “sham-war on terror” we could have begun to established new universities and foster new markets. And lest anyone scoff at this, China and India were cultural backwaters only two decades ago. Everything takes time.

      1. cortland

        There’s more to blowing yourself up than ensuring your kids have somethingto eat. The suicide bombers/terrorists are usually hell-bent on someextremist religious notion of how the world should be ordered, and theybelieve their action will help to guarantee a little sliver of that order -even if it’s just killing a couple westerners.”Imagine how different the world would be if any of that had happened.Instead of an endless “sham-war on terror” we could have begun toestablished new universities and foster new markets. And lest anyone scoffat this, China and India were cultural backwaters only two decades ago.”-amalik49Yes, China and India have new universities and new markets but I assure youthat there are vast regions of those countries that are still, as you say,”cultural backwaters” where poverty, superstition, religion, fear andviolence are how life is defined. If those areas start to decrease in size,that is progress. I’m all for engaging the middle east, and a Marshall Planfor the middle east sounds like it could have some exciting potential, butwe have to accept that everyone is not going to like us, be like us or wantto be like us. That being said, we certainly don’t need to be activelyantagonizing sovereign nations per our current “policy.”

  12. Zanesafrit

    Yes. The key is to speak.The irony of these free-fire accusations from the WH is that their current sec’y of defense encouraged talks with Iran. And their role model, Ronald Reagan, met in person, many times, and TALKED with our then adversary in the Soviet Union, now called Russia. Not only did they want to destroy, they stated that goal many times AND they really do have nukes.But then Nixon met with China’s leaders when China was known as Red China. And he spoke with them many times. They too wanted to destroy us.Nixon met with Brexhnez. Ditto desire and means.Kennedy and Eisenhower met with Kruschev who wanted to bury us so bad he slammed his shoe on a table at the UN to empahsize the point.And all these efforts were considered smart, heroic, intelligent, mature, thoughtful, foresightful, insightful. And oh BTW they prevented war with an opponent who could destroy us. Now, by definition of the current WH resident, they’be known as appeasers. I’d love to see a debate where Eisenhower is called an ‘appeaser’ of Nixon or Reagan.

  13. sweller

    To your point about “Geographic Balancing”, how we are generally reacting to this as a nation is shocking to me.The following is well worth a read:…”…main theme is that if you go it alone, you can often get to a point faster than if you do it in a coalition, but if you want to get to the next point and the point after that and the point after that, you’ve ultimately got to do it with a coalition.”

    1. fredwilson

      I love that link/postI just reblogged part of it at fredwilson.vcThanks!

      1. amalik49

        Check out Fareed Zakaria’s book that just came out for a deeper dive.

  14. Q

    Is this “A VC” or “A PC”? As soon as the leaders in the Middle East stop looting their countries and blaming everyone else (Americans in particular) for their problems, and start taking responsibility for the poverty and lack of education among so many of their people, we might see some progress. Until then, it’s not going to happen. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but real change won’t happen until it is wanted by those in power.

    1. BillSeitz

      I think our saber-rattling makes us a good external-villain for those kleptocrats to use to keep their people in line.Hmm, maybe here too?

  15. nicktabbal

    Fred, I completely agree with you. The current administration’s policies have polarized the Middle East and heightened tensions. I cannot believe that some of the hawks out there still think we can win by fighting very country that does not agree with us. Keep up the good work.Nick

  16. Mark Collier

    They have a right under the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty to develop nuclear power. Even Bush acknowledges that.We pound the table and make accusations without evidence, and are then upset when they don’t do whatever we tell them even if they are only exercising their rights under a treaty we also signed? They are not part of the American Empire, are they?If we lived up to the treaty’s we signed and also allowed others to pursue their rights under such treaties, we’d have a lot more credibility.

  17. Mark Collier

    Fred, I think your off base to suggest that our invading Iraq was a way to “take the fight right to 1) the terrorist threat”. I know that’s not the central point of your post, but it’s important for people to make a distinction between going after the 9/11 culprits and going after Saddam’s oil patch.In fact, if you track these three stats over time I’ll bet you see a correlation:1) % of Americans who believe Saddam was behind 9/11 (75% at the time we invaded)2) Bush’s Approval Rating3) Support for the WarMisinformation is at the very heart of the support which led to our failed policy.

    1. fredwilson

      I thought the argument was sadaam had nukes or was building them. At least that’s how I heard the argument which had me on the fence. I know I didn’t have the conviction it was a bad idea that obama did at that timeFred

      1. Mark Collier

        That’s a fair point, but I still think that any time you lump in Iraq andAfghanistan under the heading “terrorism” people are likely to draw thewrong conclusions. Unfortunately, most of the democrats were complicit inperpetuating bush’s storyline in fear of looking weak.I always felt that Bush was more concerned with solidifying the perceptionof Iraq as a threat than whether or not they actually were a threat. Thefact that he’s using the exact same play book with Iran 5 years later doesnothing to change my mind.On an unrelated note, I’m trying Disqus for the first time and the emailreply is great! I finally added it to my blog today too

      2. pfreet

        Fred, regime change was the official policy of the US. It passed congress and was signed into law by Clinton in 1998. Hussein did not comply with numerous UN resolutions and violated the cease fire provisions of the first gulf war. WMD was icing on the cake, but not the legal reason for going into Iraq.

  18. Ethan Bauley

    Returns to collaboration are higher than outright competition (see API’s, Umair, etc)…this squares in foreign policy as well…I had an interesting discussion with a roomful of super liberal SoCal Internet geeks this morning…I expressed my disappointment that, when Sept 11 happened, there wasn’t someone in the White House that made me want to drop everything and work at the CIA or State Department to help solve our problems.What did the group of highly educated liberal hipsters say?”Totally! Working for the gov’t as a linguist [or whatever] would have been a great way to channel my energy!”A devastating, but not irreversible, missed opportunity.Food for thought…

  19. hypermark

    So much of this comes down to what the narrative is going to be the next four years in terms of foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. Is it to be the blind ideology, tough guy poses and scorched earth approach of the past eight years or realism measured by practicality?There is an awesome Op Ed by David Brooks in the NY Times called ‘Obama admires Bush’ that is actually the first real articulation I have seen from Obama on a specific foreign policy issue.  You can judge for yourself whether Obama’s comments are appeasing and willfully ignorant or not but I find his perspective pretty reasoned and somewhat enlightened.URL:…Also, as the title indicates, in a departure from politics as usual, Obama gives kudos to GWB’s papa in handling of Desert Storm.Mark

  20. BillKosMD

    Errrr, last time I checked, this is not 1938.

    1. pfreet

      Historical analogies are hereby verboten. Do not study history. Do not earn lessons from the past. Is that what you are saying Bill?Is appeasement OK this time?

  21. Brian

    Fred,The terrorists blowing up the world are not poor and uneducated. They are affluent and educated. The problem is not economic. I wish it were that easy to solve.

  22. rohun

    I’m glad you brought this up Fred. Fareed Zakaria has a new book out called The Post American World in which he argues that the greatest threat to the United States may not be “anti-Americanism” but rather “post-Americanism” where the rest of the world has simply moved on.This is as a result of the unprecedented global growth we are seeing for the first time ever (over 100 countries @ 4% GDP growth). Technological innovation and prolonged relative peace have clearly poured fuel on this fire. The next big multinational corporation the world’s business leaders look up to is likely to be located outside of the US (BRIC countries) and the US can no longer afford to pursue a foreign policy that is hypocritical (deweaponization, climate control, etc) and blind to the global information economy we now live in. In a not so distant future, it’s possible that countries would no longer fear the ‘big stick’ of the USA. They will just ignore us and move on.

  23. gregory

    they are already in the modern world, they go skiing, have tech startups, fly around the world, go on holidays, study in other countries, they do have a far greater emotional maturity than most americans, from what i encounter in meeting them in asia, and i wonder why american media never shows pictures of the shopping malls and clubs and rock bands that are there …. think maybe a demonizing process is underway? they are “just like us”, though we may beat them in the bellicose idiot leader category

  24. gregory

    jack, i am embarrassed for my country to read your post… you think george sounds any different from over here?

  25. vincentvw

    Terrorism is a sensitive topic, and I appreciate you voice your opinion on this. As a non-US person, but a Westerner, I have a slightly different one. First of all, I think there’s two ways of looking at the world.One is that resources are limited, and that we should focus on survival, aka use a ‘survival of the fittest’ strategy. That would make wars ok, in the sense that they are defensive moves against possible future resource-shortages.The second is that we live in a multi-cultural world where everyone has value and great things can be achieved through synergetic actions. That would not make war ok (though obviously, sometimes it’s inevitable). This is my choice of looking at the world.The way I see terrorism, and also the way I see bullies, is similar to the phrase to “don’t shop on an empty stomach.” What happens in that case, is that people make irrational decisions and end up making themselves and close ones unhealthy. The way I compare that to terrorism is that it often occurs in impoverished areas, where people make desperate decisions to survive. Bullies too, often come from a dysfunctional family and make irrational decisions to cope.With both, the answer is to fight the cause, to not let people shop on *an empty stomach*. Do children really get recruited to blow up buildings in a society where everyone can be productive and have enough to eat? When you fight these people, you end up destroying more of their infrastructure, simply for the reason that they are everywhere. How do you fight an army of children, of people spread all over urban areas? By destroying those areas, by destroying families. It’s a vicious cycle, where more destruction (from both sides) leads to more hatred, more hunger, more irrational decisions. And the easy solution is to bomb the place flat.My belief is that the good things come from hard work, and most mistakes are made through complacency. The policy that many colonising nations (as well as the US) have had in the past, and some continue to have, is that their way works sufficiently well. Unfortunately that way often results in an uneven balance of trade, where the coloniser benefits most of all, and the colonised end up losing more and more resources. Less resources = more hunger = more desperation = here we are. A more equalised distribution of resources = a more affluent planet = rational people all round = here we could be.Now, how is that for a Saturday-morning rant?

  26. isfan

    Appeasement comes in part from understanding each other and realizing we are not so different. An attempt at making this happen was Pangea Day last Saturday May 10th. This was a live worldwide event aimed at helping people realize that we are all really looking for the same things in life. This specific event was based on short films submitted by people from all over the world. There many great films worth checking out, some funny, some sad and others very thought provoking. You can see all the films here…One of the films that really stuck with me was “Combatants for Peace” as it consisted of Israeli and Palestinian soldiers getting together face to face to talk. Powerful stuff. You can check it out here:

  27. dfriedman

    I will say off the bat that you are of a political persuasion so opposed to mine that, were you to declare, in the middle of a political discussion that two plus two equals four, I would confirm it independently.Therefore you may want to apply the appropriate discount on this comment.That said, I think your conception of appeasement is naive. The argument against Obama’s appeasement approach is not an argument in favor of W’s conduct of this war; this war has been conducted incompetently at best. The argument against appeasement is more properly construed as one which posits that the religious extremists who we are fighting are deranged lunatics for whom the niceties of diplomacy and international opinion do not apply. To assert otherwise, in the vain hope that less blood will be shed, is to set yourself up for disappointment. Better to take a jaundiced, objective view of the people with whom we are fighting.

  28. Dan Weinreb

    The idea that the present situation can be clearly analyzed as an analogy to Hitler and Munich is so preposterous — but many people don’t think critically. They just hear a simplistic point, and it confirms some preconception (Democrats are wimps), and hey presto! It’s also amazingly simplistic to equate “engage Hamas” with “appease Hamas”. Especially since “appease”, in this context, also connotes “Believe them blindly when they make a promise”. George Bush is despicable.

  29. thomasl824

    Jack Kennedy said that it was better to meet at the summit then at the brink. US diplomatic history is a dialog with countires that have been our ennemies. I would suggest reading Jack Reynolds Summits that gives an in depth look at the Hilter/ Chamberlain series of meetings that lead to Munich. It would help if some of guys on TV knew even the basics.

    1. markslater

      churchill anecdotes on chamberlain and munich:”an old town clerk looking at european affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe” Chamberlain had once been mayor of birminghama few months after chamberlains return from munich, waving his famous piece of paper in 1938, during a debate on palestine, Malcolm Mcdonald (secretary of state for the colonies) had reached the end of a difficult speech and was discoursing lyrically about the land itself: “bethlehem where the prince of piece was born….” he intoned to be interupted by churchills voice “bethlehem? i thought neville was born in birmingham”.

  30. -=apostle=-

    Sounds like idealistic parroting. Sorry, religious zealots anywhere aren’t just reasoned with. Those folks over there are more hardcore about their religion than the far-right Christians in this country. Obama couldn’t get ppl in West Virgina to vote for him. What makes you think Obama’s gonna turn the ship in Muslim country if he had the chance? A tip for you – he wouldn’t be able to. Interesting that so many of you ppl completely forgot 9/11 (personally, we didn’t need a wmd argument to go into iraq, we had years of iraqi U.N. violations on the books after the first war, plus the sponsoring of palestinian homicide bombers, plotting to kill a president, etc.). The whole of the muslim extremist world needs to be beaten HARD with that big stick you mentioned to insure we don’t have any Muslim bruthas getting any subsequent bright ideas, and we’re not even half way there. But don’t worry, as long as there are ppl in this country who will use the big stick rather than talk about the big stick, your kumbaya love-ins will be safe. Ppl who talk about the world in academic terms, but don’t have the guts to fight have no concept of what needs to be done. We’re dealing with a scourge, don’t get all high-brow about it, just flush the scourge down the toilet. It’s that simple.

  31. andyswan

    A high-profile meeting (which will ALWAYS be viewed as a negotiation) with your sworn enemy is only a good idea if you are the weaker and less-respected of the two parties.