Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Difference Of Talking Through Strength

This clip will probably circulate pretty widely (I got it from here, but it also was linked here), but let me help it along.

For a moment it made me think that I should watch TV news more, though then I’d have to lay out money for cable, and anyway others have made it clear how atypical Chris Matthews’s performance here was. One of Avedon’s commenters made a plausible guess as to why Matthews gave Kevin James such a deservedly hard time: “it seemed to me that Matthews was vetting the schmuck for future wingnut commentary usage, and found him wanting.”

I’m sure Susan Jacoby will take much satisfaction not only in James’s ignorance, as proof that Americans today are ignorant of history, but in Matthew’s recurrent references to 1939 instead of 1938 for the year Chamberlain went to Munich. Though odd, it’s a minor slip compared to James’s helpless thrashing around. When Mark Green urges James to read Richard Clarke’s book (Against All Enemies, I suppose), James counters with “The Path to 9/11”, a 2006 made-for-TV movie. Unsurprisingly, he gets its name wrong, calling it The Pathway to 9/11.

Matthews’s definition of appeasement -- “giving away things to the enemy, not talking to the enemy” – though not ideal, will probably work as a useful comeback to those who throw the word around carelessly today. At least it should help people to clarify in their own minds why it’s not only not appeasement, but proper and necessary diplomacy to meet with groups like Hamas and Hizbollah.

Besides, “appeasement” is a double-edged word, likely to turn in the hand of those who use it:

In Egypt, two days after Bush accused “some” of falling for the “false comfort of appeasement,” a reporter asked him if he does not “aim to do nothing but appeasing Israel.” He sidestepped that question (and didn’t acknowledge that his own incendiary word was being thrown back at him).

I doubt Bush even recognized it. Not only has the US appeased Israel by assenting to its numerous land grabs and its acts of war and terror, but many countries have appeased the US, the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it in 1967. Tony Blair could be seen as the Neville Chamberlain of his time, except that Blair actively collaborated with Bush instead of trying to talk him to a halt.