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The Politics Of Appeasement In The Age Of Obama

Refugees_Budapest_Keleti_railway_station_2015-09-04Historically, we have been in this present predicament before. A time when the world, particularly the western democracies are weary of war. The populace soon chooses to elect leaders that reflect that sentiment in the hope that there will be a return to normalcy. These politicians came to power with the promise to end war and to engage in policies that will prevent future conflicts. It is little wonder that these leaders will cling to their line of reasoning, even as it becomes ever more difficult to explain and justify.

Eventually these same politicians begin to live in a fantastical world when they are no longer confronting the real issues and seem unable to solve problems in rapidly changing conditions. They refuse to believe that their policy prescriptions are no longer adequate and are actually making things worse. These politicos continue forward with the same plans that are doomed to failure because they refuse to acknowledge, that circumstances have transformed. In the end, they all doom their credibility and legacy as the consequences of ill advised actions come to fruition.

Syrian refugees strike in front of the Budapest Keleti railway station, 3 September 2015

Syrian refugees strike in front of the Budapest Keleti railway station, September 2015

A real leader recognizes when a course of action is no longer plausible because of conditions on the ground. They will access the information available to draw new conclusions in attempting to solve issues as they arise. A politician on the other hand, will often take the easy way out by avoiding the tough decisions by pretending that that a crisis doesn’t really exist, or is not as threatening as it looks.

Why in the end does it matter? It is these set of circumstances that will bring about radical change in policy in numerous nations around the world, including those in Europe and in North America. As the new leaders take office, there will be changes to economic policy and therefore investment priorities as a result. This will have broad implications on the markets and the general overall economy.

This is where the politicians in Europe and the United States find themselves in 2015. It mirrors another time in history. The present international situation and in many cases domestic concerns, resemble an environment similar to that of the late 1930’s. As despots and authoritarian leaders around the world proceed to destabilize global norms and institutions by aggressive actions, they are met with individuals who are easily manipulated and fooled.

Refugees wait to cross the Greek-Macedonia border, 24 August 2015

Refugees wait to cross the Greek-Macedonia border, 24 August 2015

Worse yet, the media will be complicit in providing coverage for these individuals refusing to see what the facts clearly indicate. The public not wanting to believe the worst case scenarios, will put trust in these public figures that are only projecting what they themselves wish were true. Many of them have little knowledge of what is really occurring and if they do, will also deny the facts when it interferes with their personal politics or way of thinking.

In the face of aggression on the eve of the Second World War, the individuals in power then decided that conferences, negotiations and treaties would prevent the impending crisis. Today this type of foreign policy is referred to as appeasement and has been officially discredited. However, the same foolish methods used then in the face of aggression are being employed now, despite all the objections to the contrary.

German cavalry and motorized units entering Poland from East Prussia during 1939.

German cavalry and motorized units entering Poland from East Prussia during 1939.

The citizenry largely content to have their leaders focus on domestic issues are eventually rudely awakened to the reality, that events that happen abroad which are poorly managed have consequences to their own country. The impact on the economy and the security of their nation can only be denied so long, before the facts simply overwhelm the propaganda of their respective governments.

It would be almost comical if not for the dangerous outcomes of nonsensical decisions by politicians, who refuse to surrender their ideology regardless of reality. Today much like the years before World War II, we have the same type of leaders in charge, who think that agreements and treaties signed with virtual dictators will prevent further aggression and war.

Putin taking the presidential oath at his 3rd inauguration ceremony, 7 May 2012

Putin taking the presidential oath at his 3rd inauguration ceremony, 7 May 2012

In fact, they end up guaranteeing additional conflict and hostility. These foreign despots will eventfully mistake reluctance to take decisive action as weakness of the nations they confront rather than the personal failures of individual governments. New governments in the West will emerge as they always do, when it is obvious that present leaders are unable to deal with current issues in an effective manner.

The most important issue to voters in democratic societies is security, despite public polls that indicate economic issues. Why is this so? It is because most constituents take the former for granted, until the question is forced upon them by events.

One only has to look what is presently occurring in Europe, with hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring in from the Middle East and North Africa. As disturbing as it may be, only now is the public becoming aware that millions more will soon follow, in the unfolding crisis to the south and east of Europe. Now the public finally is confronted with the reality, that elections do indeed have consequences and many of their governments are ill prepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.

Irish Naval Service rescuing migrants from an overcrowded boat as part of Operation Triton, June 2015.

Irish Naval Service rescuing migrants from an overcrowded boat as part of Operation Triton, June 2015.

As the new arrivals swamp European border areas and fill infrastructure to capacity in accommodating them, the public at last wants to know how and why this was allowed to happen. Only now will large numbers of people understand, that the failures their leaders made in foreign policy have terrible outcomes. Now finally, voters will begin to hold these expedient politicians and their absurd policies to account.

In Europe just as in the debt crisis following the financial debacle in 2008 and 2009, a number of governments will be forced to make a drastic change in policy or they will fall victim the wrath of the voters. The public will no longer be content to hear the same ideological arguments as the fabric of their society becomes threatened.

Wien Westbahnhof railway station on 5 September 2015: migrants on their way to Germany

Wien Westbahnhof railway station on 5 September 2015: migrants on their way to Germany

To watch the dramatic reversal of action by Germany as the leading power in Europe in one week, is evidence enough. The previous open door policy and willingness to accept as many as 800,000 to one million refugees in the next few months is now being strikingly changed. The government of Angela Merkel is reinstating control of their common border with Austria and it is creating a domino effect across Europe.

The Chancellor of Germany was wise to see that the public no longer supports the vision she put forth, just a few days ago. This occurred regardless of the Schengen agreement, that has allowed border free travel for two decades among many nations throughout Europe.

In the United States at long last, the public is turning against the foreign policy promoted by the Obama Administration. The long list of failures are now coming closer in view, as more Americans are beginning to understand that the ideology of their present leadership, is endangering the health of the economy and the security of the population at large.

The signatories announcing the agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons in July 2015.

The signatories announcing the agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons in July 2015.

Large majorities of the public already oppose the latest example of appeasement, when it comes to the newly negotiated agreement with Iran. Once again, the public is being asked to trust their government despite not being aware of all of the security arrangements and details contained in the understanding. This time there is a growing and resounding echo of protest. Of course, that will not stop the American President from proceeding apace, thinking once again that his ideology and personal preferences,should takes precedence.

He is risking much. As with the previous controversial domestic issue known as Obama Care, his personal credibility and that of his political party is on the line. The issue over nationalized health care according to many political pundits cost the Democratic Party the House of Representatives in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. The lack of any support on the Republican side, allowed conservatives to blame any problems and there were many, that were associated with the new medical entitlement.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew defending the Iran Deal at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 23 July 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew defending the Iran Deal at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 23 July 2015

The nuclear issue with Iran is similar. If the agreement as it now stands fails, because Iran refuses to live up to the commitments it made, President Obama and the party he represents, will pay a high price with the voters. Political analysts have already suggested that a number of Senate seats that were in play for 2016, that the Democratic Party might have been able to win back, are now likely to remain firmly in Republican Party hands. This of course, will keep the Senate from returning to Democratic Control.

Since the Democratic Party already in the minority, will use the power it has to stop the Senate from disapproving of the deal negotiated by the Obama Administration, it has in reality sanctioned the foreign policy of the President over the last almost 7 years. The tumult and the rapid disintegration of order in the Middle East and North Africa as elsewhere, will be associated with the Democratic Party.

Although President Obama himself might not pay a political price as he will be out of office, the party he represents surely will. The legacy he has been desperate to protect will take another major hit and his attempts to secure that his polices survive with the election of another Democrat for president, will be doomed to failure. To stake ones political reputation on the trustworthiness of the present government of Iran, is foolhardy indeed.

Kurdish demonstration against ISIL in Vienna, Austria, 10 October 2014

Kurdish demonstration against ISIL in Vienna, Austria, 10 October 2014

It also put into question many of the previous actions taken by his administration that helped to contribute to the collapse of the now failed nations states of Iraq, Libya and Syria. Pundits will increasingly investigate the failures in regard to preventing the rise of ISIS also known as ISIL. Analysts will be sure to comment on how much terrorism spread during the years, when the American President refused to acknowledge that the problem was reaching near crisis proportions.

Others will focus on how a resurgent Russia and an increasingly belligerent China were able to thrive during the years that Obama was President. With Russia increasingly flexing military muscle on the world stage as China projects power in the South China Sea, some might wonder what the United States might of done in these increasingly dangerous situations.

From left to right, Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano as they prepare to sign the Munich Agreement

From left to right, Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano as they prepare to sign the Munich Agreement

More people will inquire whether the Ukrainians should have been provided military assistance in their struggle against Russia, for example. They might also ask how successful was the reset on foreign relations with Russia after all? Still others might ponder if the American government might of done more to prevent and retaliate against Chinese hacking of government and corporate computer systems?

The public will also be able to assess the priority that was previously placed on certain issues that in retrospect may seem less important in an oncoming crisis. A prime example being in this case, the controversial subject of climate change and the legislation put in place to combat it.

History has not been kind to political leaders who refused to modify beliefs despite evidence that suggested that their opinions and prerogatives were wrongheaded. One only has to look at what happened to the hapless Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Neville Chamberlain, after he promised peace in our time. The results were the disastrous Munich Agreement presided over by this British leader, which practically guaranteed a global war not even a year later. His very name and the events associated with the accord, have become synonymous with appeasement and cowardice.

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