Friday, September 3, 2010
Davos Man at Munich
One of the things that galls me every time it comes up--and it does come up, often--is the right's frequent recourse to the metaphor of Chamberlain at Munich. They invariably use it to imply that nothing other than unyielding opposition and recourse to force will work when we deal with opponents on the world stage, as if the USA is as militarily weak, and with as little intelligence capacity, today as the UK was in 1938, and as if all our adversaries are Hitlers. The left should challenge their exclusive use of Munich as a metaphor. It could be used not solely to damn negotiation as appeasement and justify the use of force, but also as a cautionary tale about the consequences of delay in dealing with a problem before the fact of emergency, rather than after the emergency forces action. Delay costs lives and treasure, makes mitigation more problematical even of eventual achievement, much less in good time. The midwest's industrial catastrophe, for instance, could be cast as an economic Munich: a problem was recognized; solutions were delayed or withheld; negative consequences greater, harder to mitigate, eventually more costly, even, than timely action would have been. Another example is the delay in acting to move away from fossil fuels with urgency, or even with deliberate speed: potentially, an environmental Munich.