Scott versus Scott

Welcome to our blog. Here we will debate the days most serious topics and allow users the chance to discuss the topics as well. The range of topics will vary, but one thing will remain certain, the debate will rage on. Scott Lesinski is a proud conservative and Scott Jones is a proud liberal. However, the roles will switch on some topics. Stay tuned.

Scott Lesinski is currently an actuarial associate for a large human resources and insurance consulting firm in Saint Louis. He is also an avid student of US history and enjoys following current events, with an eye to their contextual relationship to the past. He is also, in fact, a former student of Mr. Scott Jones. Scott is working toward his FSA credentials, which is akin to earning a PHD in Actuarial Science.

Scott Jones is currently a high school social studies teacher at a high school in suburban St. Louis, MO. He teaches World History, AP American Government and Senior American Foreign Policy. He has a BS. Ed. (Secondary Social Studies) from the University of Missouri - Columbia and a M.A. (History) from Southeast Missouri State University. He is currently working on a dissertation in character education to earn a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Appeasement? I Hardly Think So

Turns out Republican concerns about the foreign policy of the Obama Administration were totally and completely unfounded.

If I remember the story correctly, President Obama’s willingness to engage Iran on the nuclear issue tantamount to appeasement, which they assumed to be a wrong strategy. When Defense Secretary Gates announced the United States would be giving up efforts on building an ICBM missile shield in Eastern Europe, conservatives screamed we were giving up our national security and appeasing Russia. Hmmmm…

Let’s first look at the premises of these two attacks before moving on to the facts of the last few days.

Appeasement…Since Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in March 1939 and exclaiming the he has achieved peace for our time, the word appeasement has been used as a attack to the weakness of an opponent. While I wrote a paper on Neville Chamberlain ( and examined the practical issues facing England and France as they also tried to deal with the return of German power, this is not the place to discuss Chamberlain in a positive or negative light.

Quite frankly, it is always preferable to seek peaceful alternatives to war. War should always be a last result, which is why Carl von Clausewitz called war “diplomacy by another name.” Its funny how conservatives forget some of the biggest acts of appeasement since the end of the world wars.

Richard Nixon’s normalizations of relations with Communist China…China has always been a close ally of the United States as China dealt with the problems of European involvement in their affairs. The United States and China worked closely together against the Japanese from 1933-1945. In fact, the sorry state of the Japanese army was largely due to the brave fighting of Chinese soldiers, which allowed the United States the power to bring the war to an end on our terms. In 1949, however, China’s Communist Party gained control of the mainland and the traditional capital of Beijing. At that time, Harry Truman refused to recognize the communist government in Beijing. Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson continued the policy.

Hoping to seize on a possible breakdown in relations between the Soviet Union and China, Nixon worked to move Communist China out of the hegemony of the Soviet Union and into the sphere of the Western World. China on our side was better than China on their side, despite the communist nature of its government…APPEASEMENT

Ronald Reagan’s military support of the Afghan “freedom fighters…Despite the obvious anti-Western rhetoric and demands for a worldwide Islamic State, Ronald Reagan began militarily supporting the rebels in Afghanistan in their attempts to defend Afghanistan from Soviet takeover. The main leader of the Afghan resistance movement…Osama bin Laden.

Ronald Reagan’s selling of weapons to release American hostages in Lebanon…If you can’t see how this is APPEASEMENT, then you are too close-minded or partisan to talk to.

Missile-Defense…This was never going to work. Since 1987, the United States has spent over $500 billion on developing this ability to shoot down ICMBs. While technology has allowed us to do marvelous things, this is not one that is not ready, nor is it needed. The purpose of the defense shield was to intimidate Russia. President Obama, as well as the National Security Administration and Defense Secretary Gates (a Bush appointment), realize this missile shield was the only thing between the United States and Russia, especially on the Iran issue. How would defending against a non-threat in Russia while not moving to protect ourselves against a possible threat from Iran be a threat to our national security?

Unbelievably, according to the conservative train of thought, Russia has moved to the United States' position concerning Iran.

Yesterday, after Russia threatened to vote with the U.N. Security Council in condemning Iran and a possible use of force to shut down the underground nuclear facility, Iran announced it would stop the enrichment of Uranium in their country and allow Russia to enrich to “electricity-grade” uranium. In addition, Iran agreed to set a hard date deadline to allow the International Atomic Energy Commission inspectors into the country. Furthermore, President Obama’s ability to guide American foreign policy has allowed the voice of the United States to be joined in equal force with the voices of Great Britain and France. Together, these three are much stronger,

It seems to this observer, President Obama’s strategy of engaging Iran and negotiating common ground seems to moving American foreign policy towards a non-war settlement of the Iranian nuclear question. Is this appeasement? I don’t know, but it is effective.

The alternative…The United States is not in a military position to invade Iran. A nuclear attack against Iran could provoke an equal response from Russia.

Another alternative…Israel launching a major military offensive (with nuclear weapons a possibility) against Iran and sending the entire region into a third world war.

I don’t think the word appeasement should be applied to President Obama’s foreign policy. Pragmatism is a better word. Especially viewed with the pragmatism of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Without a doubt, conservative hawks lost this one. And for the better.


  1. I don't have a lot of time but I have a few questions.

    Why would Russia be opposed to us having a missile defense system?

    Why do you put any faith whatsoever in the word of Ahmandenijad, a man whose expressed goal is the elimination of the jewish state of Israel?

    Why, with Vladimir Putin back in the KGB (essentially) running Russia do you consider them a non-threat?

    Have you considered the possibility that Russia is playing nice with Iran because they ought to for their own foreign policy, but that Obama may have dumped our missile shield as a favor to Russia so that when Israel bombs Iran's nuclear facilities, Russia will sit on its hands?

    Consider this whole situation from Netanyahu's point of view. He is the leader of the only free state in the middle east and a lunatic dictator is trying to develop nuclear weapons. This same dictator denies the holocaust took place and has said on multiple occasions that he wants to annihilate the Jews. What actions would you consider on the table to protect your own interests? Surely you wouldn't believe any truce or treaty you may sign with such a character?

    Look, I'm not over here cheerleading a war with Iran, I'm just saying lets realize with whom we are dealing. I don't trust Putin or Ahmadenijad. We need an ace in the hole for us. If this whole engagement strategy does work, I'll come on this blog and commend Obama, because I agree that war ought to be the last resort...but it still must be A resort.

  2. Here's another Reaganism for ya,

    "Trust, but verify."

  3. I think both Scott's have made wonderful points on this issue. I do not trust Ahmandenijad as far as I can throw him. He is a crazy person who is trying to convice people that the Haulocast never happened when there are piles of evidence that it did. This man is definately capable of lying in order to buy himself more time to hide or sell the uranium. I am glad Obama is tying a different strategy however I am sure this will have some kind of repercussion as well.

  4. As for Ahmandenijad, I can not speak for his motives. He seems to be struggling to keep power as the people of his country are demanding to for a more moderate view and demanding Iran become part of the international community. As for its history, I know that they are Persians in a dominat Arab part of the world. As it extends beyond that, I don't know. I do know they desperately need the help of outsiders to survive in their land. Russia has been a major ally since the Cold War in helping Iran meet basic needs like food, which is a natural resource the plateau lacks.

    Russia, however, I do know something about it (it is one of my minor emphasis in my Master's Degree in history - that's right. I did not go the easy route in my Master's program. No education classes...All history).

    Since Peter the Great, Russia has always had a condundrum on their hands. They desperately want to be part of the Western world (see Peter the Great's 1697 tour of Western Europe). At the same time, they seek to remain pure to their Slavic origins and the Orthodox Church. They want to be like the Germanic Christians (mainly Roman Catholic), but Slavic Orthodox in practice.

    This is the great problem with Russia. Every time the seek to become part of the Western world, they end up violating some basic beliefs of the West and alienate themselves to the West. Russia had a strong alliance from the time of Catherine the Great with Prussia and Austria, but then decided to join France and England against the Prussians and Austrians in WWI.

    Many Americans, see the fall of the Czar and the rise of the Bolsheviks as a major change to the Russian way of life. However,it was not. One royal family was removed and another royal group (the Bolsheviks) took over. The Soviet leaders acted more like the former Russian Czars than anything else.

  5. The Russians have always been sensitive to perceived threats from the West (Berlin Wall, Cuban Missile Crisis, Nixon in China) and have always over-reacted to these perceived threats, which has then alienated their attempts to join the West. One of the reasons the Western European countries did join with their Eastern brethren is the fact they did not trust Russia because of past issues.

    As the fall of the Soviet Union brought in a Russia that has been more like the West in terms of economy and government, the Russians have had trouble dealing with the evils of these systems and have been plagues with mafia corruption and other issues. Putin has been able to coordinate these groups (the mafia, the army, the government, big business) so that they work for the betterment of Russia. This is why Putin is so popular in Russia. He is the anti-Yeltsin who allowed these competing interests to overcome Russian politics and economics.

    So what does Putin want? I think he wants security for Russia so that it may maintain its Orthodox Christian beliefs and remain the power of the Slavic world. Whenever, that is threatened, Putin (like the Russian rulers before him) will overreact (see the missile shield). At the same time, the Russians want to be more active in the Western world and want to be respected as a legitimate power interest.

    In my opinion, President Obama has handled the situation brilliantly. He has gotten what he wants from Russia - the condemnation of the Iranian nuclear program - while understanding the respect Russia wishes to recieve from the West. For that, he has been able to engage Russia in a way that no other American President has been able to except for President Reagan and his work with Premier Gorbechev.

    As for the role that Ahmandenijad will play in this, that is the $25 million question.

    Will he continue to isolate himself from the rest of the world? Will he move to a more moderate position to keep his control over an increasinbly influential moderate public?

    Noone has the answers to this. I hope Obama's position forced Ahmandenijad into a more moderate stance. The early indications are positive.

    I can't help but think the world united against Ahmandenijad will force him to bow to the pressure. With Russia on board, the world just got a little stronger.

  6. Another issue on Obama's foreign policy plate is Afghanistan.

    General McChystal leaked his own report and request for more troops. He has, in this way, directly challenged Obama to do the right thing. Lets recall, for 8 years (well, more like 7.5 years) we were constantly told by the left that Iraq was a distraction and that the real war was Afghanistan. But Obama has said that he's not sure if he wants to win in Afghanistan. In fact, the idea of victory makes him uncomfortable, reminding him of Emperor Hirohito walking out to the USS Missouri at the end of WWII to sign the surrender.

    What brilliant move is Obama planning for this situation?

  7. Yeah...Afghanistan...Hmmm...Is it actually winnable?...Is the goverment we're currently supporting any better than the Taliban (see recent election issues)?...Are there more important issues to be ready for (see Iran)?...Would this situation be better if President Bush, 43, would've actually committed to it completely at the beginning instead of reserving troops for his already planned war with Hussein?...Hmmm...Afghanistan...If we guard against al-Queada, is Afghanistan an important outpost of national interest of the United States...I don't know...

  8. Okay,

    While I just posted this entry about how I see some of President Obama's foreign policy tactics as effective, this morning comes as a complete surprise.

    While I commend him for his willingness to avoid war through diplomatic measures as well as his ability to bring together former allies of the United States (i.e. France, Germany and Russia), the Nobel Peace Prize is undeserving.

    While the Nobel Peace committee has made some interesting choices in the past, this was baffling. In fact, baffling is an understatement.

    Nine months into the job and no clear foreign policy victories (if it would even be possible to have a major victory in such a short time), President Obama is undeserving.

    The only rational thing I can think of (and this is a stretch) is President Obama won the award simply because he is not President Bush (43). The committee seems to believe that President Bush's isolationists tendencies harmed world peace and since the President following has brought America more into the world community as it concerns international policy, he deserves cudos.

    According to this logic, any President that has engaged in the process of building allies should win the Nobel Peace Prize...This would include, as it concerns the 20th Century...

    Woodrow Wilson
    Warren Harding
    Harry Truman
    Dwight Eisenhower
    Richard Nixon
    Jimmy Carter (who won a Nobel Peace Prize)
    Ronald Reagan
    George H.W. Bush
    Bill Clinton

    Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize, but would not under the new criteria. LBJ went it alone in Vietnam like W. did with Iraq, which means no prize for them. Taft was, well, Taft. Coolidge was, well, Silent Cal for a reason. Hoover ended alliances during the economic crisism, which helped create the conditions that allowed Hitler to rise to power in Germany (definitely no peace prize for that one).

    The Nobel committees in the area of science and literature seem to still be in touch with some reality. The members of the peace committee need to reach out and touch some reality.


  9. I would like to point that while I think President Obama is undeserving of the of the prize, I don't have the fury that the right has had.

    Interestingly enough, the right opposes the president's prize as does the Taliban and al-Quada.


    This, of course, came directly after the right's jubilant celebration of Chicago losing out on the 2016 summer olympics.

    So let's see, the right jeers a significant award won by a prominent American and cheers when the United States loses out in a significant competition.

    And the right claims that the left is un-American.

  10. Ok, on the Chicago front. I'm not happy that the Olympics aren't going to be here in 2016. Why would I be? We would have almost certainly had Olympic trials here in St. Louis and maybe even a chance to see an event or two in person. Some of these conclusions you draw...geez! Un-American? Wow.

    Honestly, my best guess is these people they have video of cheering Chicago not getting the Olympics isn't about, "Hooray! The Olympics aren't going to be in the United States!" It's that Obama went over there like this thing was in the bag thinking everybody loves Barack and I'll be able to charm whoever I want whenever I want and he didn't. It WAS an embarrassment and the media went right to work trying to put a positive spin on it because the Messiah failed.

    The Nobel Peace Prize...

    Significant award??? HA!

    They vote on who wins the Nobel Peace Prize...IN FEBRUARY! That's right, just a couple weeks after Obama is elected president! So he's getting this award based on campaign rhetoric. This award is meaningless and calculated.

    "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

    They knew all that in two weeks?! Again, HA!

    "Interestingly enough, the right opposes the president's prize as does the Taliban and al-Quada."

    My God man! You honestly think it's for the same reason?!?! I don't "oppose" it just based on the fact that he's an American (as al-Qaeda does). You think the Taliban and al-Qaeda wouldn't oppose it if Bush won the Nobel Prize? You'd oppose that. You must be al-Qaeda! BAD comparison, horrible comparison.

    I mean, for someone who always claims "LOGICAL FALLACY!!!" comon!

  11. Calm down Wardo. When Limbaugh says things like that, you claim sense of humor. However, when I say it tongue-in-cheek you get outraged.

    I thought maybe my Hmmmm indicated tongue in cheek. I guess conservatives can only dish sarcastic references, but they can't take them.