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The Baseball Bat of Analogies


When in doubt, whine about appeasement.

I wonder when the “lesson” of 1938 will lose its force. I would like to think that its days are numbered, especially given how often (and how badly) supporters of the 2003 Iraq War have been driving the analogy into the ground. By invoking the analogy ad nauseum, I suspect that “hawks” are slowly depriving it of any rhetorical meaning. Then again, 1938 survived the Vietnam War, an experience that should have put any decent analogy in its grave.

Let’s be brief. There is no meaningful parallel between 1938 and 2006. Appeasement is a strategy that has been in the toolbox of statecraft since the beginning of diplomacy, and it often works. The experience of 1938 is commonly simplified and misunderstood. “Appeasement” exists now only as a rhetorical stick capable of bashing anyone who opposes any war under any circumstances; it’s more a baseball bat than a helpful tool for thinking about international politics.

To put it as clearly as possible, when you hear someone invoke 1938 to justify military action, you know they’ve got nothing. It’s as dead and meaningless as any cliche can be. You’re either talking to a moron or to someone unwilling to supply his or her real reasons for military action.

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