Appeasement

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In response to my post on Ahmadinejad I received this e-mail:

You’re such an appeaser. You would’ve said the same thing to Hitler too.

Now I could bring up the point that the obsession with Chamberlain and Munich is based on bad history, but Roderick Long has ably done that.

I would rather talk about the word appeasement. Appease is, via the typical route of Middle English and Old French, from Latin ad + pax which roughly means “to peace” or “towards peace”. This lineage is reflected most clearly in the primary and secondary definition of the word “appease”:


1. to bring to a state of peace, quiet, ease, calm, or contentment; pacify; soothe: to appease an angry king.
2. to satisfy, allay, or relieve; assuage: The fruit appeased his hunger.

To appease in these senses has a positive connotation. For Christians at least being a “peacemaker” or, one might dare to say, an “appeaser” is a role praised by Jesus Himself.

But, of course, my accuser means the third definition:

3. to yield or concede to the belligerent demands of (a nation, group, person, etc.) in a conciliatory effort, sometimes at the expense of justice or other principles.

(Note that the usage example under Synonyms for this sense is, you guessed it, “Chamberlain tried to appease Hitler at Munich“).

Here is what concerns me. I posted Ahmadinejad: Let’s Leave Each Other Alone because of my desire to go “towards peace” or appease in the first sense. But this reader immediately jumped to the third definition of the word. But he did not specify what principle would be compromised by going towards peace with Iran. Would it be unjust for there to be peace between the U.S. and Iran? What makes my desire, and evidently the desire of Ahmadinejad himself, for peace a betrayal of principles?

I ask all these rhetorical questions to be generous to my accuser. But here is what I really suspect. For my accuser, and unfortunately many others, the distinction between peacemaking in the positive sense and unjust and cowardly “appeasement” is entirely gone. When they see anyone seeking peace with any regime that the gov’t has declared an enemy they see appeasement in the third sense. If I am right then they really have no interest in justice or whatever principle would supposedly be sacrificed on the altar of a false peace, they simply have come to hate peace as such.

12:56 pm on September 22, 2006
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