GOP Senator Mark Kirk has no idea what appeasement means

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Iran had reached an agreement with the United States and five other nations on a basic framework for curbing the nation’s nuclear program over the next fifteen years. Specifics of the agreement are set to be finalized in June.

The fact that any sort of agreement had been reached led to a predictable volley of accusations from Republicans that the Obama administration had engaged in an historically irresponsible act of “appeasement.”

As Illinois Senator Mark Kirk said: “Neville Chamberlain got a lot of more out of Hitler than (State Department negotiator) Wendy Sherman got out of Iran.”

In referencing Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement during the run-up to World War II, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

“Appeasement” refers to a specific point in history, in which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, desperate to avoid a repeat of World War I, continuously ceded ground to Hitler in the hopes that the German dictator would eventually be satisfied. He wasn’t, and he kept taking land, and Chamberlain was eventually dragged into that massive war he had so desperately wanted to avoid.

But by ceded ground, I mean literally ceded ground. The Munich Agreement of 1938 allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia, giving Germany more land in exchange for, well, nothing.

Ever since then, the term “appeasement” has been used to refer to any time a world leader attempts to use diplomacy to stave off a war. As one could imagine, it’s been thrown around a lot during the latest round of Iran’s nuclear talks:

obama appeasement

Of course, this Iran deal doesn’t resemble the Munich Agreement in any way, shape or form. Iran is not an expansionary power, and they stand to gain nothing from this agreement aside from the lifting of sanctions on oil and financial transactions. In exchange, they have agreed to freeze their nuclear program, and allow an inspection regime to monitor its activity so that it cannot “cheat” and restart its program quickly enough to have a nuclear weapon within a year.

That’s an actual tradeoff. Iran has given something up in exchange for something it wanted, and in so doing has inched closer to rejoining the community of nations. It shouldn’t even be worth pointing out that the Munich Agreement allowed Germany go give up nothing in exchange for something it wanted, and in so doing allowed Germany a swifter exit from the community of nations.

Not that that matters. As Slate‘s Ben Mathis-Lilley reminded us yesterday, Republicans who make appeasement references are often just throwing the word out for effect, calling to mind this 2008 Hardball segment where Chris Matthews called out a Republican talking head who had no idea what it actually meant:

On the Internet, Godwin’s Law refers to the idea that the longer a debate goes on, “the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Traditionally, the invocation of Godwin’s Law marks the end of the debate, and whoever brought up the Third Reich has automatically lost.

If Mark Kirk can’t come up with a better criticism of the emerging deal with Iran, and has to resort to referencing appeasement in order to make his point, then he has automatically disqualified himself from this debate, as Hitler references both distort the current situation and trivialize Hitler.

As Mathis-Lilley put it, “the Chamberlain-Hitler analogy needs to be taken into a bunker with Eva Braun and shot.”

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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13 Responses to “GOP Senator Mark Kirk has no idea what appeasement means”

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  2. Mike F says:

    Why win? A long, drawn-out conflict is immeasurably more profitable than winding up a war in a little over three and a half years (WWII). And I don’t think that those who seek war are unaware of that fact.

  3. Indigo says:

    I like ‘Godwin’s Law.’ Never heard of it before but wow! it makes sense.

  4. Indigo says:

    Oh, you noticed that too. Oddly enough, our war drum thumpers haven’t noticed yet. And it’s been 70 years.

  5. Aajaxx says:

    Any American who thinks it is a good first answer is a glutton for punishment, considering the US hasn’t successfully prosecuted a war since 1945.

  6. rmthunter says:

    Kirk is fairly good on social issues, an idiot on the economy — and, apparently, foreign policy as well.

    I’m hoping Illinois comes to its senses and replaces him with Tammy Duckworth next year.

  7. rmthunter says:

    ” . . . anybody who thinks war is a good first answer for anything at all is a Republican.”


  8. BeccaM says:

    When the only tool you believe you have is military force, every problem looks like it can only be solved by overwhelming and massive bombing campaigns.

    As far as I’m concerned, anybody who thinks war is a good first answer for anything at all is a raving sociopath. Or at the very least, someone with a pathological lack of empathy and humanity.

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  11. JaneE says:

    I have only read about the high points, and the deal isn’t signed yet, but it sounds like Iran just took several years of development for their nuclear capability and tossed it in the trashcan. At the very least it is a giant step backwards. It leaves them the capability to develop nuclear energy generation and medical isotopes while it removes the enriched products which might more easily make weapons-grade material along with the more recent technology to create more. And it sounds like the easing of sanctions happens after most or almost all of that has been verified.

    The only people who won’t like this deal are the ones who want war no matter what. I can’t help but think of the fact that Saddam Hussein did agree to inspections before the last Iraq war started, and the US just said “too little, too late” and invaded anyway. I am very much afraid that if the GOP does take the presidency anytime in the future, they will just ignore this agreement and go to war because that is what they do.

  12. therling says:

    The hard-liners in Iran are just as likely complaining that the deal is “appeasement,” and with a bit more accuracy. One important aspect of the Munich Agreement was that it gave Germany those lands in which the Czechs had built defensive military fortifications, without which the German Army was able to merely march in the following year.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    The Obama regime and the United States remains committed to a neo-colonial policy in North Africa and SW Asia to promote the control of the regions oil resources. They also remain committed to a policy utilizing mass murder and state terrorism to control events and have recently done so in Iraq (again), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere.

    In addition the US is vastly expanding it’s military intervention in all of Africa and is coordinating efforts through the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM or AFRICOM).

    The US is not an appeaser. Far from it, the Obama and Netanyahu regimes are the aggressor states with Canada, England, the Saudi royals and the rest of the NATO satellite states playing a lessor role. Iran and Syria are the appeasers.

    Below: Badges of Empire.

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