This article was written as a summary project, but because it is related to pragmatism in foreign affairs, and coments upon an article authored by the brilliant Paul Kennedy of the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, I figured it would be worth posting here.
The original article can be found online for those who have subscription to the The National Interest magazine, and the Weekly Standard also posted a strong rebuttal you may find here.
Summary of Paul Kennedy's “A Time for Appeasement”
Writing in The National Interest Paul Kennedy suggest that the United States must re-evaluated the utility of appeasement by referring to historical context. He starts by suggesting that the definition of appeasement has been obscured and coloured by our interpretation of events leading up to the World War Two. He suggests that in order to successfully understand the relationship between appeasement and foreign affairs policy makers must look beyond just Munich and the interwar period and instead focus on the numerous examples of successful appeasement policies.
Kennedy refers the reader to Lloyd George and the peace settlement of 1919 when the term appeasement was first used in diplomatic discourse. The period between 1815 and 1914, to Kennedy, showed that appeasement could be effective, and mutual concessions was simply pragmatic. Furthermore, Kennedy suggests that the United States and Britain themselves furnished the most powerful example of the successful use of appeasement: The concessions at the Alaska boundary, the adjustment of the Venezuelan border, the surrender of claims over the isthmus of Panama serving as a handful of examples of significant concessions made by Britain to the new republic producing a rapprochement between the United States and its former colonial master.
Implicit in this analysis is that the nature of the belligerent was the key to the failure of the pre-world war two appeasement policy, but that his was only evident in hindsight; Hitler seemed sensible, until he was not, and the Japanese and Italians were operating on assumptions of colonial precedent made in the 19th century. Conversely, would it not be beneficial to placate the Japanese and Italians in order to secure a single front conflict?
Kennedy suggests that it is the curse of the Great Power that it cannot help but tie itself to a multitude of divergent and diverse investments and interests and in this way it must necessarily triage its commitments; a small place in the world, is simple not an option. A sense of exceptionalism makes this difficult however, and the global hegemon always seeks to preserve despite the inexorable tide of history pressing attempting to wash it from its perch. Kennedy, concludes that such a tide cannot be stopped, only diverted.