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Psychology of Appeasement

Reader comment on item: [Appeasement Explains] Why Europe Balks

Submitted by Richard Reay (United States), Jan 29, 2003 at 01:53

Dear Mr. Pipes:
David Gelernter made some very apt comparisons that you cited in your article in the New York Post, "Why Europe Balks". But I don't agree with the basis for his views on appeasement. While nations were organized and motivated more by nationalist feelings up to WW2, the power base for leaders since has devolved downward to individuals who share a collective sense of doubt and evasion about moral imperatives. Leaders tap into this "aversion to act decisively" to build constituencies and support for maintaining power - not for the cowardice that it is, but to mischaracterize it as the virtue it isn't, namely, a more noble alternative to the sometimes inevitable showdown with a threat, or war. With increasing democratization and higher education, populations are becoming more involved in the affairs of their states. But they have also become more prone to subjective dallying and less able to see events in their objective reality. Appeasement is no longer the domain of irresolute leaders. Indeed, it has always had a place in the general populace among parents and teachers who couldn't discipline their children, for example. But the repetition of this sentiment by the mass media has metastisized the impression that this weakness is not only a legitimate social norm, but the prevailing ethos of society and the answer to aggression, recidivism and tyranny.

Sincerely,
Richard Reay
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