Brezinski.jpg

Appeasement and the Suppression of Liberty

On Wednesday, when everyone was obsessing about the upcoming debate and no one but Joel Gehrke was paying any attention, Zbigniew Brzezinski appeared on Morning Joe to tout his recent book Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power and to discuss recent developments. In the course of the ensuing conversation, which focused in part on the events that took place on 11 September 2012 in Libya and elsewhere within the Islamic world, Brzezinski acknowledged, “We’re dealing here with a messy region which is increasingly slipping into increased instability — a region in which American domination is rapidly, rapidly coming to an end.”

In this situation, the former advisor to Jimmy Carter might have said a word or two about the failure of Barack Obama’s new-look foreign policy in the Middle East. He might have mentioned the President’s famous and highly apologetic Cairo speech. He might have noted the manner in which Obama had repeatedly and pathetically tried to suck up to the Iranian government. He might have discussed our betrayal of the Green Movement in Iran. He might have drawn attention to his administration’s embarrassing and futile attempt to flatter Bashar al-Assad of Syria and enlist him as a go-between in his attempt to foster a dialogue with the Islamic Republic. He might have emphasized the President’s marked reluctance to align the United States with those attempting to overthrow the tyrants dominant in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Iran, and he might have ended by commenting on the fact that displays of weakness and attempts at appeasing tyrants are apt to backfire.

CopticFilmMaker.jpgBut, of course, he did not do that. Instead, as Gehrke was quick to note, he endorsed the preposterous story that the Obama administration has intermittently peddled — that our troubles are somehow due to a fourteen-minute video posted on YouTube more than a month before the attacks in Benghazi by a Coptic Christian film-maker, and he suggested that a “crack-down” on the film-maker and those working with him might be appropriate on the off-chance that the video was designed “to provoke [Muslim] violence” against Americans:

I would like us to make it more explicit to the Muslim world: we not only condemn this, but if there are evil forces at work trying to provoke violence between us and you, we have the obligation to investigate and crack down.

When I read this, I could not help but think of a passage in the famous speech that Winston S. Churchill delivered when,  in the House of Commons on 5 October 1938, he criticized Neville Chamberlain for making the Munich Agreement and expressed fear that this would lead to Britain’s becoming “a satellite” of Nazi Germany:

In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands with which we shall no doubt be invited to comply. Those demands may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty. I foresee and foretell that the policy of submission will carry with it restrictions upon the freedom of speech and debate in Parliament, on public platforms, and discussions in the Press, for it will be said – indeed, I hear it said sometimes now – that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticised by ordinary, common English politicians. Then, with a Press under control, in part direct but more potently indirect, with every organ of public opinion doped and chloroformed into acquiescence, we shall be conducted along further stages of our journey.

I do not mean to suggest that the Islamic revivalism now so influential in the Middle East is a threat to us comparable to the threat posed to Great Britain by Nazi Germany in and after October 1938. That would be absurd. I merely intend to remark on the manner in which Barack Obama and his apologists are, in their eagerness to appease Islamic revivalism, willing to jettison the rights that sustain the United States as a bastion of liberty. We are already being confronted with such demands — from figures such as the new President of Egypt.

Of course, the man chiefly responsible for making the video in question is not a man of sterling character. He is a petty crook, and, technically, he may well have breached the terms of his parole from prison when he posted the video and adopted for himself a pseudonym. But he is also an American citizen, and this fact should give us pause.

I do not subscribe to the criticism the film-maker directed at Islam. But that, as an American, he had a right to speak his mind on the matter should be obvious. If he had no right to address so delicate a subject, then the First Amendment is a dead letter, and the rest of us are also bereft of the right of free speech. And, in the absence of that right, we Americans would no longer be a free people.

Soon after the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, the Obama administration tracked down the maker of the video. It released his name; it saw to it that his address was known; and soon thereafter, when the Railway Minister in the government of Pakistan offered a bounty of $100,000 to anyone who managed to find and kill the film-maker and announced that “if the government hands this person over to me, my heart says I will finish him with my own hands,” the administration thought it sufficient to chide him for his remarks and to comment that his conspiring to murder an American citizen was “inflammatory and inappropriate.” Otherwise, it did nothing. It could have lodged a formal protest with the government of Pakistan. It could have demanded the man’s resignation from his post. It could have sought a warrant for the arrest of the Pakistani politician when and if he stepped onto American soil. But, 0f course, it did nothing of the kind.

Instead, the Obama administration sent the Los Angeles police to knock on the film-maker’s door in the middle of the night and to haul him down to the station, and now it has seen to his arrest — and soon, we are told, he will face trial. Technically, of course, the authorities have a case against the man. But the political motive behind what the administration has done in his regard is clear to all concerned both here and abroad — and Zbigniew Brzezinski has done us the favor of voicing openly and frankly the vile rationale involved. Given what happened in Europe in and after 1938, one would think that a student of foreign policy born in Poland would have better sense. So soon we forget.

  1. Larry3435

    You lost me at “Zbigniew Brezinski.”  Sorry Professor, but I (for one) don’t need the debate as a reason not to pay attention to anything ZB has to say.

  2. cdor

    It’s a wonder why Brezinski ever left communist Poland in the first place. I do not know his timeline, but I would imagine his political views are less welcome in Poland these days than they are right here in the USA.

    I also am curious as to why we are so concerned about offending the Muslims, who , on a daily basis attack the Coptic Christians in Egypt. Not that being offensive or rude is a policy position to which I adhere, but do we know whether this Coptic Christian with the YouTube video has suffered family loss at the hands of Egyptian Muslims? Most Coptics have indeed suffered extremely harsh treatment. I would bet he has as well.

    That was a strong laundry list of weak actions towards Middle East Muslims, Dr Rahe. Also mentionable are this President’s weakness involving Russia and stabbing the Poles and the Czechs in the back with missile defense abandonment.

  3. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Larry3435: You lost me at “Zbigniew Brezinski.”  Sorry Professor, but I (for one) don’t need the debate as a reason not to pay attention to anything ZB has to say. · 34 minutes ago

    Fair enough. He was right at least once — on what we could do with Afghanistan to subvert the Soviet Union.

  4. Crow

    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any for, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.

    This much we pledge–and more.

    My, how far we have fallen…..

  5. Anne R. Pierce
    C

    Brezinski reveals the progressive version of realism’s true colors.

    Realpolitik didn’t help Europe avoid two World Wars. Combined with an ideology that sees all cultures as “relative,”  but shows “understanding” toward communism -which has caused endless suffering in the world – “realism” becomes tragic absurdity.

  6. Capt. Spaulding

    Reading the words of Churchill at that moment in history, and the corresponding thoughts of Roosevelt, are cause to believe in Divine Providence. 

  7. Illiniguy

    Paul Rahe: “I do not mean to suggest that the Islamic revivalism now so influential in the Middle East is a threat to us comparable to the threat posed to Great Britain by Nazi Germany in and after October 1938. That would be absurd.”

    I don’t think it’s absurd at all. It’s like comparing cancer with a heart attack. One is pernicious and generally discovered after it’s far along, while the other gets your attention right away. Both offer the same injunction: deal with it or it will deal with you.

  8. liberal jim

    Unfortunately the folly of the lefts approach to radical Islam does not make the neoconservative approach any wiser.  I find it difficult to believe that either group takes what they say seriously.  The primary objective seems to be to blame the other guy.  The corruption of both wings of the ruling class is becoming more obvious as time goes on.   Cheerleading for one or the other side should not be confused with objectivity.

  9. twvolck

    Did Brezinski change the spelling of his name?  It used to be Brzezinski.  The “rz” being pronounced like the “r” in Dvorak, or something like the “s” in pleasure.

  10. Survivor

    Zb….. I.e.,academic supplicants are not free to criticize with impunity those who hold official reins of governmental power and who also reside  in the same area of the political spectrum. To do so risks ostracizism from the lib intellectual club,  and further, and more importantly, removal from the invite list on  the liberal party circuit.    The man knows who fills his rice bowl.

  11. Flagg Taylor

    Zbig is a perfect example of that great Washington tradition of failing upwards. 

  12. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    twvolck: Did Brezinski change the spelling of his name?  It used to be Brzezinski.  The “rz” being pronounced like the “r” in Dvorak, or something like the “s” in pleasure. · 36 minutes ago

    No, he did not change the spelling. I slipped up. I will correct it now.

  13. Mollie Hemingway
    C
    Paul A. Rahe

    twvolck: Did Brezinski change the spelling of his name?  It used to be Brzezinski.  The “rz” being pronounced like the “r” in Dvorak, or something like the “s” in pleasure. · 36 minutes ago

    No, he did not change the spelling. I slipped up. I will correct it now. · 6 minutes ago

    Sorry. I should have caught that. You wouldn’t believe how Thelonius spelled Yastrzemski yesterday.

  14. RightinChicago
    Paul A. Rahe

    twvolck: Did Brezinski change the spelling of his name?  It used to be Brzezinski.  The “rz” being pronounced like the “r” in Dvorak, or something like the “s” in pleasure. · 36 minutes ago

    No, he did not change the spelling. I slipped up. I will correct it now. · 13 minutes ago

    I worked with a Zbigniew once.  He just went by Ziggy.  Use that.  It’s easier.

  15. TomJedrz
    cdor: It’s a wonder why Brezinski ever left communist Poland in the first place.   ….

    He didn’t.  His father was a Polish diplomat stationed abroad when Hitler invaded.  He spent his youth in Canada and then came to the US after college.  

    He is a very smart man, but has the “diplomat” world view … every problem can be talked through and the most important response to any crisis is to keep the other guy at the table.

    He is also a committed, partisan Democrat.

    Sigh … 

  16. Nick Stuart
    Paul A. Rahe

    I do not mean to suggest that the Islamic revivalism now so influential in the Middle East is a threat to us comparable to the threat posed to Great Britain by Nazi Germany in and after October 1938.

    I concur that Islamic revivalism is not a comparable threat.

    Leftist ideology, of the kind practiced by the current regime and applauded by most of the major media is.

    Just like the parallels between the world situation today and August 1914 are too close for comfort. The parallels between today and the takeover of civil society by the Nazi Party in 1933 Germany are uncomfortably similar. Anyone interested might want to read In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.

  17. Robert E. Lee
    Paul A. Rahe

      “…Brzezinski acknowledged, “We’re dealing here with a messy region which is increasingly slipping into increased instability — a region in which American domination is rapidly, rapidly coming to an end.”

    American domination?  We’ve been nothing but a bad joke in the Middle East since at least the 1960′s.  We can only be counted on the throw money at anything that catches our interest and make bad decisions about cultures, interactions, and events which we know nothing about.

  18. David Williamson
    Paul A. Rahe

    Larry3435: You lost me at “Zbigniew Brezinski.”  Sorry Professor, but I (for one) don’t need the debate as a reason not to pay attention to anything ZB has to say. · 34 minutes ago

    Fair enough. He was right at least once — on what we could do with Afghanistan to subvert the Soviet Union. · 2 hours ago

    Not really – that led to 9/11.

  19. David Williamson

    Wasn’t this the same guy who wanted the US to shoot down Israeli fighters?

  20. Red Feline

    Professor Rahe: “Given what happened in Europe in and after 1938, one would think that a student of foreign policy born in Poland would have better sense. So soon we forget.”

    Wouldn’t one think that a woman of German ethnic decent, from Romania, born early enough to remember the ethnic cleansing of Germans from Romania after the Second World War, brought to Canada when she was fifteen years old to join her ethnically-cleansed father, would be a staunch supporter of liberty and free enterprise? She benefited from the free education system of Canada, and became a university professor. One might think she would be grateful to the country that gave her such a warm welcome and such advantages in life. 

    One would think wrongly! The Communist system under which she grew up, even under Ceausescu, seemed to her to be totally acceptable, and still does. She is still supportive of Marx and thinks Socialism is an ideal system. She really doesn’t understand the vision of the Founders, nor does she want to do so.

    You can take a person out of a Communist country, but can you take the Communist out of that person? Including Ziggy?  

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