The Wages of Appeasement explores the reasons why a powerful state gives in to aggressors. It tells the story of three historical examples of appeasement: the Greek city-states of the fourth century B.C., which lost their freedom to Philip II of Macedon; England’s failure to stop Germany’s aggression in the 1920s and 1930s, which resulted in World War II; and the tentative American response to the ongoing Islamic jihad, along with thirty years of timidity in the face of Iran’s attacks on the United States.
The inherent weaknesses of democracies and their bad habit of pursuing short-term interests at the expense of long-term security play a role in fostering appeasement. But more important are the faulty ideas that people indulge, from idealized views of human nature to utopian notions like pacifism or disarmament. Especially important is the belief that diplomatic engagement and international institutions such as the United Nations can resolve conflict and deter aggressors—the delusion currently driving the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
The Wages of Appeasement combines narrative history and cultural analysis to illustrate how ideas can have dangerous and deadly consequences.