Bush might be wrong, but not stupid, about negotiating with terrorists

President President Bush Addresses Members of the Knesset on 15 May 2008 — Excerpt:

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Discussion costs little and might produce small but still valuable agreements, perhaps temporary cease-fires or limitations on the nature and size of terror strikes.  If fruitless, nothing has been lost and we have tried — which in itself gains a real if intangible benefit in the “court” of world opinion — the realm of the vital moral dimension of 4GW.  Bush uses a logical fallacy, creating a “false dilemma“:  either negotiations produce victory (“persuade them they have been wrong”) or they are not useful.

This is a cheap debator’s trick, but not stupid.  The following is stupid — an extreme illustration of the low quality of neocons’ (and their useful idiots’) reasoning and knowledge.

Interview with Kevin James on ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’  (15 May 2008) — Kevin James is a radio talk show host for KRLA in Los Angeles; Mark Green is president of Air America radio.  To see the video click here.  Here is an excerpt from the transcript (the crosstalk has been edited out):

JAMES: We‘re talking about Israel because it‘s the 60th anniversary of their independence, and it‘s where President Bush happened to be today, talking about the Knesset when he launched this blurb against Obama.  I‘m glad he did it!  I wish the White House had been a little more forthcoming… and say, You better believe this is against Obama because his policies are dangerous for this country and they‘re dangerous for Israel, as well!

GREEN: What Bush has done is since they‘ve run out of arguments, they engage in analogies. … Now comes President Bush using guilt by analogy, that somehow, Obama is Chamberlain, and anybody who the Bush people don‘t like is Hitler. We‘ve seen this before. Ho Chi Minh was Hitler. Ahmadinejad is Hitler. Osama bin Laden is Hitler. And now Hussein was Hitler.  Look, Hitler was Hitler. And I wish the Republicans would argue on the merits and not engage in McCarthyite guilt by association or analogy. They‘re doing it because their candidate is weak …

MATTHEWS:  Kevin, I want… to do a little history check on you because the president‘s referring to history.  He attacked those who would imitate Senator William Boar of Idaho, who was a Republican isolationist back in the late ‘30s, who supported whatever, some notion of getting along with Hitler better.  Let me ask you, what did Chamberlain do wrong, Neville Chamberlain do wrong in 1939?  What did he do wrong?

JAMES:  Oh, come on.  It all goes back to appeasement. 

MATTHEWS:  No, what did he do?  Tell me what he did. 

JAMES:  It‘s the key term.  It‘s the key term. 

MATTHEWS:  You have to answer this question.  What did he do?

JAMES:  It‘s the same thing.  It puts it all — we‘re talking about appeasement.

MATTHEWS:  Well, tell me what he did.  What did Chamberlain do wrong?

JAMES:  His actions enabled, energized, legitimated.  It‘s exactly the same thing.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not going to continue with this interview unless you answer what that thing is.  What did Chamberlain do in ‘39?  Tell me, in ‘38.  What did he do?  What did he do?

JAMES:  Well, ‘38, ‘39, Chris.  What year do you want?  It‘s the exact same thing that happened, Chris. He‘s talking about appeasement. 

MATTHEWS:  Just tell me what he did, Kevin.  What did Chamberlain do you didn‘t like?

JAMES:  What Chamberlain did — what Chamberlain did that I — what the president was talking about.  You just said the president was talking about — you just said the president was talking about Barack.  Look…

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  I want you to tell me, Mister.  You‘re making a reference to the days before our involvement in World War II, when the war in Europe began.  I want you to tell me now, as an expert, what did Chamberlain do wrong?

JAMES:  Look, you‘re not going to box me in here, Chris.  President Bush was making that.  I‘m glad the president {interrupted}

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know, do you?  You don‘t know what Neville Chamberlain did in Munich, do you? 

JAMES:  Of course.  What Neville Chamberlain — yes, he was an appeaser, Chris.  He was an appeaser. 

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?

JAMES:  And it energized and it legitimatized.

MATTHEWS:  Kevin, what did Neville Chamberlain do?   You are B.S.ing me. You are talking about a critical point in American history, in European history, and you can‘t tell me what Neville Chamberlain did in Munich.  What did he do in ‘39, ‘38? 

JAMES:  Chris, Chris, Chris, I wasn‘t the one that raised the Hitler comment.  My point is—my point is, what President Bush has done is, he has taken this shot across the bow, all right?

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know what you‘re talking about, Kevin.  Tell me what Chamberlain did wrong. 

JAMES:  Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, Chris.  Neville Chamberlain {interrupted}

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?

JAMES:  Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, all right? 

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?

JAMES:  Neville Chamberlain, his—but his policies, the things that Neville Chamberlain supported, all right energized, legitimized, energized, legitimized, and made it easier for Hitler to advance in the ways that he advanced. 

MATTHEWS:  I have been sitting here five minutes asking you to say what the president was referring to in 1938 at Munich. 

JAMES:  Chris, I don‘t know what the president was referring to when he talked about what was being said in 1930 — in 1939.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know what you‘re talking about.  Your problem, Kevin, is, you don‘t know what you‘re talking about.  And the problem is, you don‘t understand there‘s a difference between talking to the enemy and appeasing.  What Neville Chamberlain did wrong, most people would say, is not talking to Hitler, but giving him half of Czechoslovakia in ‘38.  That‘s what he did wrong, not talking to somebody.

JAMES:  Chris, but there‘s a difference.

MATTHEWS:  Appeasement is giving away things to the enemy. not talking to the enemy.

Please share your comments by posting below, relevant and brief please (max 250 words). Too long comments will be edited down (very long ones might be deleted). Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

9 thoughts on “Bush might be wrong, but not stupid, about negotiating with terrorists

  1. OMG. Delete this, you add powerfully to the cliché that the only history most Americans know about is American history, preferably American Civil War…. How did this guy get into a radio show? As fodder?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Why delete this? This is imo a splendid example of a neocon in action, almost a diorama of the species. Highly educational.

  2. Libya (state sponsor of terror, resident bogeyman of the Maghreb, target of U.S. bombing) + talks with the Bush 43 administration = Complete dismantling of Libyan WMD programs, exposure of the A.Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network, bringing Libya into the international system (and access to all that lovely oil).

    Talks with “terrorists” don’t work, eh?

  3. Unfortunately too many people are not willing to invest the or in time for a better long term outcome/payoff/return. We have become a nation that seeks quick simple solutions to problems that can only be resolved by sacrifice; time, money, land, et cetera.

    Bombing is a better tool to resolve a problem or as a talking point than negotiations.

    Asking the Saudis to increase oil production is better than practicing conservation or mandated energy savings measures.

    A lottery ticket for some has replaced savings for retirement planning.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Well said! Now the big questions: why has this happened? What will change this?

  4. It’s available as video: Chris Matthews Stumps Right-Wing Radio Host: ‘Tell Me What Chamberlain Did?’ ‘I Don’t Know’”

    Pathetic. Watch how this clueless guy still keeps dominating the conversation for minutes simply by talking louder and more. And he had still no chance because he was so clueless, resorting to buzzwords only.

    This mirrors the level of some discussions that I had with Neocons in the www.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I suspect that after the November elections these people will be gone like last year’s snow. Tomorrow’s post discusses this.

  5. We should note that while Matthews was indeed talking to James, he was not thereby appeasing him.

  6. Let me go through the list of ex-terrorists that became esteemed leaders:

    (1) George Washington (you can add the rest of them as well).
    (2) Nearly all the Irish leaders from 1920 – 1970, even those that weren’t claimed they were or were linked to those that were.
    (3) Indian leaders, ditto to Ireland.
    (4) South Africa, a certain person called .. what was his name again, oh yes Mandela? Plus all of the current Govt.
    (5) Vietnam.
    (6) China.
    (7) Russia.
    (8) And not least …. Israel. Various Israelis, for example, Begin, would have been hung if the British had caught them or been able to prove their links to terrorism, which they were up to their eyeballs in, e.g. Ben Gurion.

    Do we need to add to the list?

    For the US Govt to say “we don’t talk to terrorists” means that I expect anyday now, that the Founders (US added emphasis) will be expunged from the history books. Washington will be labeled a traitor and terrorist, Tom Paine, et al, put in their correct place as atheist revolutionaries. You should dig up their bones and send them to Guantanamo. Sleep deprivement works well for the dead I hear.

    Plus what about all those terrorists that the US (has or does) supports, a depressing list, Al Qaeda the US’s busom buddy (still helping it now), so many in South America I can’t remember all their names, … the list is endless.

    I await with baited breath for the US to go full tilt against ‘terrorists’. Note for US readers, when they really get serious, George Washington’s name will disappear from the school books and Washington DC will be renamed ‘NEOCON MEGOPOLIS RULER OF WORLD CENTRE (but can you give us some money China please)’.

    Obviously the irony abounds, drips actually … its been a hard day.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I had considered making the same point, but it was too depressing. Perhaps we should tweak Talleyrand’s adage: terrorism is a matter of dates. Should strategic bombing be on the list?

    Why is Washington on the list? There were some severe deeds done during the Revolutionary War — no coincidence that all those Loyalists fled to Canada — but what specific things did GW do?

  7. On GW, the definition of ‘terrorist’ (or its lighter cousin ‘insurgent’) is really handed out by the occupying/State/etc party. I’m sure that the British would have labelled the American forces by various terms, which, allowing for changes in language, would have been equivalent to today’s ‘terrorist’.

    Even in the last century labels have changed; revolutionary, communist, red, nihilist, guerilla, etc (even nationalist) have all been used in the past and are basically equivalent to today’s terrorist/insurgent/etc labels.

    In today’s terms he would have defintely been labeled an insurgent, with the ‘terrorist’ term coming in at various times, depending on events.

    The British ‘strategic’ bombing effort was deliberately a terrorist ploy, the minutes of the discussions make that very clear, they knew exactly what they were doing beforehand, to kill civilians, to destroy workers houses, to reduce morale, to instill fear, to encourage the German people to rise up against the Nazi party, etc, etc, etc. But the British had long experience of that.

    As I always remind people, you dont create and hold the biggest Empire the world has ever seen by being nice. In 1920 the RAF were dropping poison gas bombs on Iraqis.

  8. I also note the lack of comment in the media about the US’s (and Saudia Arabia’s) support of Sunni terrorists in Lebanon. Groups with clear links to AQ. Pity the Lebanese army and Hezbollah crushed them. Note also AQ’s declaration of war on Hezbollah.

    Note also the deafening silence about the US’s failed ‘show and tell’ with the ‘proof’ of Iranian weapons in Iraq. That collapsed when Iraqi and (more independent) US experts told them that they were NOT Iranian weapons. Exit stage left for the US ‘show and tell’ effort. Hasn’t stopped the rhetoric though, the ‘Big Lie’ continues.

    If you wrote up this stuff as a work of fiction the critics would slam it as too unbelievable.

  9. I also note sadly, the lost opportunities, both in the past and currently.

    Examples: Picking the wrong side in Vietnam. The US had close links to the North Vietnamese in and just after WW2. Making a deal with them would have meant a stable Vietnam much sooner and an, at least, neutral country in the cold war (the Vietnamese, as we all know are fiercely independent. as China knows all to well to its cost). Ditto Cuba, ditto … etc, etc.

    Me, if I was the US President, I’d take the first plane to Iran, pull them into Western orbit before it is too late and the SCO gets them totally. Want nuclear power, can we do a deal for you.

    Ditto Hezbollah, they are the dominant power in Lebanon, cut a deal. Ditto Syria, which keeps putting its hand up to say ‘hey I want to be your friend’, to be rebuffed again and again.

    Israel I’d bring to heel very quickly. Yes you’d give security guarantees, but at a price. I’d start with unilaterally cutting off all money and military aid for (say) 3 months. Then we’d start discussions. If the discussion failed then you cut off the aid for another 3 months and so on.

    I’ve never understood the US pandering (yes I know the politics, but really, it is ridiculous), it is like Malta dictating to the British Empire at its peak. Right.

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