“APPEASEMENT!” WHAT a powerful term it has become, growing evermore in strength as the decades advance. It is much stronger a form of opprobrium than even the loaded “L” word, since Liberals are (so their opponents charge) people with misguided political preferences; but talk of someone being an Appeaser brings us to a much darker meaning, that which involves cowardice, abandoning one’s friends and allies, failing to recognize evil in the world—a fool, then—or recognizing evil but then trying to buy it off—a knave. Nothing so alarms a president or prime minister in the Western world than to be accused of pursuing policies of appeasement. Better to be accused of stealing from a nunnery, or beating one’s family.
So it is a rather risky enterprise even for an academic to ask, in a scholarly way, whether acts of appeasing a rival might not sometimes be a good thing. You wanted to continue negotiations with Saddam Hussein? Appeaser. To avoid criticizing Chinese policies in Tibet? Appeaser. To wriggle out of Afghanistan? Appeaser. To give in to French air controllers’ wage demands? App . . . Well. Before such abuse of the term gets worse, perhaps we should all take a small History lesson.