“A little learning is a dangerous thing,” wrote Alexander Pope.
Daily, our 43rd president testifies to Pope’s point.
Addressing the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s birth, Bush said those who say we should negotiate with Iran or Hamas are like the fools who said we should negotiate with Adolf Hitler.
“As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement. …”
Again, Bush has made a hash of history.
Appeasement is the name given to what Neville Chamberlain did at Munich in September 1938. Rather than fight Germany in another great war — to keep 3.5 million Germans under a Czech rule they despised — he agreed to their peaceful transfer to German rule. With these Germans went the lands their ancestors had lived upon for centuries, German Bohemia, or the Sudetenland.
Chamberlain’s negotiated deal with Hitler averted a European war — at the expense of the Czech nation. That was appeasement.
German tanks, however, did not roll into Poland until a year later, Sept. 1, 1939. Why did the tanks roll? Because Poland refused to negotiate over Danzig, a Baltic port of 350,000 that was 95 percent German and had been taken from Germany at the Paris peace conference of 1919, in violation of Wilson’s 14 Points and his principle of self-determination.
Hitler had not wanted war with Poland. He had wanted an alliance with Poland in his anti-Comintern pact against Joseph Stalin.
But the Poles refused to negotiate. Why? Because they were a proud, defiant, heroic people and because Neville Chamberlain had insanely given an unsolicited war guarantee to Poland. If Hitler invaded, Chamberlain told the Poles, Britain would declare war on Germany.
From March to August 1939, Hitler tried to negotiate Danzig. But the Poles, confident in their British war guarantee, refused. So, Hitler cut his deal with Stalin, and the two invaded and divided Poland.
The cost of the war that came of a refusal to negotiate Danzig was millions of Polish dead, the Katyn massacre, Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz, the annihilation of the Home Army in the Warsaw uprising of 1944, and 50 years of Nazi and Stalinist occupation, barbarism and terror.
In that same speech to the Knesset, Bush dismissed the idea we could ever successfully negotiate with Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran:
“Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them that they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before.”
But did not Ronald Reagan’s negotiations with the Evil Empire, as he rebuilt America’s military might, bear fruit in a reversal of Moscow’s imperial policy and an end to the Cold War?
Richard Nixon went to China and toasted the greatest mass murderer of them all, Mao Zedong, when Maoists were conducting a nationwide purge: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Yet, Nixon ended a quarter century of implacable U.S.-Chinese hostility. Was Nixon’s trip to China useless?
Three years after Nikita Khrushchev drowned the Hungarian revolution in blood, Ike had him up to Camp David. John Kennedy ended the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, by negotiating with that same Butcher of Budapest.
Were Ike, JFK and Nixon all deluded fools? For the dictators they negotiated with — Khrushchev and Mao — were far greater mass murderers and enemies of America than is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Bush’s father negotiated with Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, the Butcher of Hama, and made him an American ally in the Gulf War.
The president’s own diplomats negotiated an end to the nuclear program of Col. Gadhafi, who was responsible for the air massacre of American school kids over Lockerbie.
Bush’s own diplomats are negotiating with Kim Jong-il’s North Korea, a state sponsor of terror. Ambassador Ryan Crocker is negotiating with Iranians in Baghdad. Egypt is negotiating on behalf of Israel with Hamas to retrieve a captured Israeli soldier. Are they all deluded fools?
Bush refused to talk to Yasser Arafat because he was a terrorist. But four Israeli prime ministers negotiated with Arafat. Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin shared a Nobel Prize with him. “Bibi” Netanyahu ceded Hebron to him. Ehud Olmert offered him 95 percent of the West Bank.
Were all four Israeli leaders deluded fools?
True, the Chamberlain-Hitler summit at Munich proved a disaster, as did the FDR-Churchill-Stalin summits at Tehran and Yalta, and the JFK-Khrushchev summit in Vienna. But JFK’s diplomacy in the missile crisis may have averted a nuclear war. And Eisenhower, Nixon, Gerald Ford and Reagan all met with foreign dictators with blood on their hands, without loss to America, and sometimes with impressive gains.
What has Bush’s refusal to talk to Hamas, Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran done to make either Israel or America more secure?
Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail] is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books, including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War.