Neville Chamberlain or Charlie Wilson?

Recently my very own Prime Minister declared the need for “restraint” in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and Mali. According to some sources, there have been 291 terror attacks in the course of the 2015 calendar year thus far, (to the 26th November). Restraint may be seen by some to be a mature, tolerant, and decent policy to follow in the wake of the death of innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists. But there is only a small likelihood restraint will be seen as the most efficient way to counter a terror threat.

In 1938, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, signed the Munich Agreement, which ceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. Arriving home to declare “peace for our time,” Chamberlain declared;

My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.

Taking into account the circumstances surrounding Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement and the British aversion to another armed conflict, “peace for our time” would have appeared to be a calming statement at a time of uncertainty. Yet the Polish would not thank him a year later when their nation was invaded from the north, south and west by Germany.

Do you think appeasement would work today with ISIL? Diplomacy and tolerance may be the first step in any potential conflict, but what chance is there for western leaders to negotiate their way out of the existing conflict? We seem to be in ‘no-man’s land’ as far as our response to the continuing tragedies we face, almost daily, are concerned. No war, no peace, no diplomacy, no covert operations.

Associated Press reported yesterday that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said her country “would do more in the global fight against [ISIL].” Germany currently provides weapons and training for Kurds in Iraq.

Her ‘commitment’ must be anything but re-assuring to Francois Hollande, who has declared war against ISIL for their terror attack and brutal killing of 130 people in Paris on November 13th.

A poll taken five days ago by ABC-Washington Post claims that sixty percent of American respondents favoured more ground troops in the fight against ISIL and almost three in four back more military action in general. It seems the time for talking around the wood-panelled table is well and truly over.

So, are we at war?

War is defined by Merriam-Webster as;

: a state or period of fighting between countries or groups
: a situation in which people or groups compete with or fight against each other
: an organized effort by a government or other large organization to stop or defeat something that is viewed as dangerous or bad

By definition, it appears we are. But is this what’s done when western governments need their constituents to see that they are doing something to counter risk and fear? Or is this what’s done when western governments want to defeat an enemy and make the world a safer place for all?

It appears we are going to continue to get more of the same, with the French upper house having just voted 325 – 0 to continue French air strikes in Syria beyond early January 2016.

Perhaps we need a little of Charlie Wilson right about now. Charlie Wilson served twelve terms in the Congress for the Texas 2nd Congressional District. A Democrat, and a colorful representative to boot, he was responsible for promoting Operation Cyclone, which saw the Afghan rebels, known as the Mujahedeen, receive billions of dollars in military equipment used to fight off the Soviets during the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980’s.

As a member of the Defense Appropriations Sub-committee, he was able to increase the ‘budget’ from a few million dollars to over $700 million a year by the end of the decade. The movie Charlie Wilson’s War, with Tom Hanks starring as Charlie Wilson, describes the events of this time in stunning visual imagery.

Is Charlie Wilson a man of his time or a man for our time? Food for thought as the West contemplates the best way forward in a time of fear and uncertainty.

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