Saturday, July 09, 2005


I feel rather bad about this because John Derbyshire actually quoted a piece of my email on the Corner recently. But not so bad as to not comment on it, obviously:

I am getting quoted a lot -- here for example -- and getting more calls from talk radio producers than I can cope with. All of which ought to be nice, but somehow isn't. I'm depressed.

I'm depressed too because as far as I'm concerned, having expressed a number of interesting and provocative opinions out of leftfield over the past few months, he's talked nothing but rubbish for the past 48 hours. Go figure.

It's a commonly held view among my classmates that I am something of a curmudgeon. I dunno why, something to do with some jokes about cute little puppies and a hedge trimmer or something. Or that thing about nuking Quebec. It's a broad canvas. Anyway, the general perception is that I care about nothing, that I am cynic of Olympian proportions and that my reaction to things like a Make Poverty History rally in Trafalgar Square, guest starring Nelson Mandela, would be to roll my eyes, mutter under my breath and make snarky comments about his greatest legacy being that he didn't metamorphose into a crazed child-eating dictator like everybody else in Africa and about people living in a whimsical fantasy world of cant and hypocrisy that bears no resemblance to the harsh realities of real life.

Needless to say, this is a completely inaccurate impression of me. Apart from the eye rolling. And the Mandela stuff. And the fantasy world comments.

And the muttering.

But that fact is that I'm a nice guy. Because while there are people out there who talk bollocks for a living, supported by a surprisingly large number of people in various parts of the broadcast news media eager to pay them to do so, I talk out of my arse free of charge. Gratis. No payment received or requested.

Basically, what I'm trying to say, in my small way, without too much fanfare or aggressive salesmanship, is that I am, without doubt, a living saint.

Though that is likely to be the only type of saint I'll ever be, due to some things I apparently said about the Pope. I was actually talking about the Irish at the time, but people will rush to take things out of context...

Anyway, where was I. Oh yeah, appeasement. Frankly I think we need a moratorium on the phrase for at least the next week. Now, arguably I'm not really in a position to talk as I actually made fairly sloppy use of the phrase "appeasement from a position of strength" myself a couple of weeks or so ago but really it's getting out of control in some places.

First of all, nobody - nobody - should be allowed to use the word outside of discussing the 1930s without reading this and this. Perhaps the greatest of the "lessons of Munich" is that as soon as somebody starts talking about the "lessons of Munich" you need to lock away your silverware. The pitfalls are many and perilous. The peril of bad history is exacerbated when the term "appeasement" takes on, as it has done recently, so broad and sweeping a definition - effectively employed to condemn any policy that is not expeditionary in nature and which does not involve "going on the offensive" - that it becomes, rather like such overworked terms as "fascist" and "militarist" (and, indeed, "neoconservative"), essentially meaningless.

References in the wake of the London bombing to the Madrid bombings and the Spanish electorate's reaction to it within this particular framework showcase the intellectual dereliction of the appeasement reference in a particularly ungenerous manner.Stanley Kurtz has led the charge:

The West may have forgotten about Spain's cowardly appeasement. Al-Qaeda has not.

Appeasement and shame, thy name is Spain. It's good that the Spain precedent is being used as a touchstone. The whole shameful incident had fallen off the radar screen. It deserves more attention. For one thing, I'd like some information. How have people in Spain thought about the episode in recent months? Have they ignored it? Are they proud of it? Is anyone in Spain having second thoughts now?

The reaction of the Spanish electorate was many things. My preferred term at the time for the outcome was "unfortunate". I do subscribe to the view that senior AQ figures may have taken from Spain reinforcement to the notion that America's allies represent her soft underbelly and that the pillars upholding the coalition could gradually be kicked out from underneath it.

But - and let's be absolutely clear here - the reaction of the Spanish was not appeasement in any even vaguely coherent definition of the term. Nor is there the slightest shred of evidence that it was motivated by cowardice. The reaction was a backlash against an already less than popular government who were perceived - at least understandably and perhaps correctly - as having sent up a deliberate smokescreen following the Madrid attacks in an attempt to artificially inflate, or at least avoid the depression of, its polling numbers.

Arguably nobody in the Western world has been so steadfast in the face of domestic terror threats, so less inclined to appease - as the Spanish. The vast public marches, rallies and protests that follow terror attacks on Spanish soil, coupled with a stern unwillingness to buy off ETA, do not speak of a nation that is either cowardly or minded to appease. The motivation of the Spanish electorate - which may or may not have had unfortunate consequences - was not to somehow buy off Islamic terrorists but to rid themselves of a government they perceived as being pernicious and dishonest.

I hold no brief for the Spanish. In my list of countries against whom I nurse blinkered xenophobic prejudices, the Spanish easily make the top 10 (just don't even to begin to commence to get me started...). And Mr Zapatero is a buffoon of the very worst type who will hopefully soon be slam-dunked into the rubbish bin of history. But to condemn the Spanish as cowards and appeasers is both intellectually sterile and deeply unworthy.

*Completely unable to think up a single halfway appropriate post title.


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