Even a Few Words Matter
Victor Davis Hanson
British Prime Minister
Arriving home, Chamberlain proudly displayed Hitler's signature on the Munich Agreement, exclaiming to adoring crowds, "I believe it is peace for our time. ... And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds."
But after listening to Chamberlain's nice nonsense, Hitler remarked to his generals about a week later, "Our enemies are little worms, I saw them at Munich." War followed in about a year.
Sometimes deterrence against aggression is lost with just a few unfortunate words or a relatively minor gesture.
Secretary of State
Well before the Soviets invaded
Why, after a horrendous war with
Saddam invaded a little over a week later.
These examples could be expanded and serve as warnings. In the last 18 months, the Obama administration has made a number of seemingly insignificant remarks and gestures -- many well-intended and reasoned -- that might be interpreted as a new U.S. indifference to aggression.
Consider the number of apologies Obama has issued to various states that suggest we, not others, are the problem.
To the Japanese, he touched on the brutal way America ended World War II.
To the world at large, Obama apologized for
To the G-20, he lamented America's prior rude behavior.
To the Muslim world, he confessed to wrong policies and past mistakes.
In addition, Obama has bowed to Saudi autocrats and Chinese dictators. In morally equivalent fashion, an Obama subordinate brought up to human-rights violator
The Japanese are distancing themselves from America. British, French and German leaders are increasingly wary of
War is now more, not less, likely in the
Even little words and gestures still matter in high-stakes international relations. Bad actors look hard for even the smallest sign that they might get away with aggression without consequences.
A deferential and apologetic President Obama may think he is making those abroad like us --and he may be right in some cases. But if history is any guide, aggressive powers are paying close attention to these seemingly insignificant signs Soon, they may turn their wild ideas into concrete aggression -- once they convince themselves that America neither wants to nor is able to stop them.
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Even a Few Words Matter | Politics
(c) 2010 Victor Davis Hanson