Monday, May 26, 2008

Genuine Madmen And Non-Crazy People

From The Appeasement Paradox by Matthew Yglesias:

That's all fine, but the premise of the appeasement frame is that we're dealing with hardcore irrational ideologues who'll stop at nothing to destroy us. Adolf Hitler actually was such a man and, not coincidentally, he wasn't particularly interested in acquiring the international prestige and legitimacy associated with a sit-down with English politicians -- he wanted a giant war. In general, the right wants us to believe that world history is littered with countries whose rulers, like Hitler, will stop at nothing short of world-domination but who also spend their evenings fondly dreaming of the chance at a White House photo-op. But that’s absurd. One shouldn’t, of course, strike a bad bargain with a foreign country just because you held a meeting, but to fear that the very act of holding a meeting is a blow to the national interest is silly. Genuine madmen aren’t going to care what “signal” we’re sending, and non-crazy people can be productively bargained with.
War and conflict are incredibly costly and destructive. Wise statesmen recognize the negative-sum nature of relating to foreigners primarily by blowing them up. Moreover, it's usually possible to reach agreements with even very bad people that both sides deem preferable to fighting. In refusing to even contemplate negotiations, conservatives are being flatly irrational, spurning offers of a half a loaf for no real reason.

They're acting, in short, like the demonic foreigners of their own anti-appeasement rhetoric, impervious to objective reality and hell-bent on total victory no matter what the cost or how dim the prospects of success.
Read more here.

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