Sunday 25 Sep 2022 | 23:10 | SYDNEY
Sunday 25 Sep 2022 | 23:10 | SYDNEY

Korea and the 'A' word


Sam Roggeveen


30 November 2010 14:58

SMH columnist Gerard Henderson today accuses former US president Jimmy Carter of favouring 'appeasement' of North Korea. In the lexicon of international relations, there's hardly a more serious charge to throw at anyone. As Paul Kennedy wrote: of someone being an Appeaser brings us to a much darker meaning, that which involves cowardice, abandoning one’s friends and allies, failing to recognize evil in the world—a fool, then—or recognizing evil but then trying to buy it off—a knave.

Yet read Kennedy's essay, and you'll find a sober and realistic defence of the strategy of appeasement. And Kennedy doesn't even invoke this, perhaps the weightiest defence of appeasement, since it comes from none other than Winston Churchill:

“The word ‘appeasement’ is not popular, but appeasement has its place in all policy,” he said in 1950. “Make sure you put it in the right place. Appease the weak, defy the strong.” He argued that “appeasement from strength is magnanimous and noble and might be the surest and perhaps the only path to world peace.” And he remarked on the painful irony: “When nations or individuals get strong they are often truculent and bullying, but when they are weak they become better-mannered. But this is the reverse of what is healthy and wise.”

Henderson applauds the Obama Administration's decision to send an aircraft carrier battle group to the Korean Peninsula for war games. But as Henderson also points out, North Korea has threatened more shelling in response to these exercises. Let's say Pyongyang makes good on that threat and, in the coming days, we hear of more South Korean casualties at the hands of the North Korean People's Army. What then'

It's hard to see how escalation of this conflict serves America's interests. And it is so much more powerful than North Korea that it can easily afford to be magnanimous and noble.