Barack Obama — our appeaser in chief


President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration at the White House in Washington January 22, 2014.

As bloodshed and nuclear menace mount in the Middle East, China and North Korea flex their military and nuclear muscles in Asia, and America retreats almost everywhere, how will history judge Barack Obama? 

Is he the wise Dwight D. Eisenhower who understood the limits of American power and used military might as an instrument of peace? 

Or the appeaser Neville Chamberlain, whose naivete accelerated Hitler’s rise and led to World War II?  

Neither analogy rings true. But there are others whose choices more closely mirror Obama -- and they do not inspire optimism about where we are going.

Winston Churchill was said to have made a harsh comparison between Neville Chamberlain and his predecessor as British prime minister, Stanley Baldwin.  

Both were appeasers -- in Baldwin’s case he had allowed Hitler to march unopposed into the Rhineland in 1936, giving the dictator a huge boost in political and moral authority. But Baldwin, Churchill believed, had placated Hitler for purely cynical reasons: because he sought political benefits from a war weary England.  

Chamberlain, assigned the role of dupe in popular history, genuinely believed he had bought the “peace in our time” so acclaimed by the world in 1938 as he endorsed Hitler’s dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. 

Using Churchill’s criteria, the far more apt analogy is Obama to Baldwin, a midget of history, whose cynical pursuit of political advantage was also key to ushering in an era of war and mass extermination.

Consider Obama’s red lines for Syrian dictator Bashir al Assad, a man the president demanded step down two years ago. Those red lines laid out by our president suggested that the use of chemical weapons would prompt military action by the United States. 

But after 14 chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime, including one monstrous attack that killed 1,400 (including more than 400 children), Obama has done nothing more than reduce the number of chemical weapons available to Assad. 

As to the other tens of thousands dead at the Syrian dictator’s hands – including thousands of children deliberately tortured, according to Human Rights Watch – well, that’s just too bad. 

Consider the new agreement with Iran, which allows the Islamist extremist regime to continue enriching uranium despite violating the selfsame treaty that permitted it to build a nuclear capacity. 

Obama and his team have worked to argue for Tehran against the American Congress for several months, insisting that the representatives of the American people should accept the promises of an Iranian government which has spent the last 20 years lying about its weapons programs. Not to speak of Iranian support for terrorism, murder of Americans, and domestic abuses.

Consider Iraq, Afghanistan and the war against Al Qaeda that has raged since 9/11. Almost 8,000 civilians died in Iraq in 2013, a return to the violence of 2007-8. 

In Afghanistan, the Taliban the administration has been wooing has been on a murderous rampage. 

And, of course, there is Al Qaeda, supposedly “on its heels,” but now flourishing from Sinai to Syria to Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Mali, Somalia, Algeria and beyond. 

We have heard on numerous occasions from the big-hearted members of Team Obama how the deaths across the Middle East afflict their souls. 

Susan Rice, who watched the genocide in Rwanda but ignored it to benefit Bill Clinton, and could never, she insisted, see that happen again; Samantha Power, who condemned Rice’s indifference to Rwanda’s war, but watches Syria and ignores it to benefit Barack Obama; John Kerry, who was appalled by Vietnam but is apparently cool with Syria, Iraq, and Iran and the attendant human misery. 

Who are these people, and how do we place them in the context of history? 

We go back and look at those who ignored crimes against humanity, who cared more for their own power and less for principles of freedom, and we ask ourselves where those people led us. 

And the answer is straightforward: They led us into peril, into war and into death. 

Worse still, unlike foolish Chamberlains, they were the selfish Baldwins, who served their own domestic political aims at the expense of mankind.

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About the Author



  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.

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