Contrary to the famous advice of Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union message in 1941 — “We must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal would preach the ‘ism’ of appeasement” — the United States is now effectively an appeasement power. Because it is so helplessly dependent on imported oil from unfriendly places (unlike Canada), and the American public is so cranky and churlish about paying what other countries pay for imported petroleum products, and the political class of both parties for 40 years has been so hopelessly feeble about explaining the problem and trying to persuade the country to face up to it, the U.S. tolerates the subsidization of Islamic extremism by Saudis and seems to be afraid to do anything to prevent the nuclear militarization of Iran.
Because the U.S. is so debt-ridden and the political class of both parties has generally been incapable of speaking straight to the country about public-sector debt and the related burden of the current-account deficit (half composed of oil imports), and because so much U.S. government debt is held by China, the country’s government is afraid to encourage China’s neighbors to coordinate even an unprovoking and entirely civilized response to China’s high-handed condescensions to India on the Himalayan frontier and puerile expansionism in the South China Sea, presumably for fear of China’s response as a large creditor of the U.S.
No sane person wishes abrasions with another country, especially an important country like China. And there is an argument to be made that short of atrocities on a scale between the anticipated Qaddafi bloodbath in Benghazi and the hecatombs of Rwanda and Cambodia, questions of citizens’ rights in one country are not the province of another country. But all of these responses to the Saudis, Iranians, Chinese, and other regimes, whether concealed in mundane metaphors about reset buttons or swaddled in pseudo-worldly solicitude for the sensibilities of other cultures, show what Roosevelt called “the ‘ism’ of appeasement.”
President Obama campaigned on promises to restore fiscal order and reduce imports of oil from hostile countries. He is already trying to raise a billion dollars for his reelection campaign but has delivered nothing on these absolutely vital objectives that he so clearly espoused. We are still wallowing in oil consumption, mouthing fairy tales about renewable energy and climate change, while we seem to have raised our hands like hold-up victims and surrendered on a military option to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear military power, and have scaled back Mrs. Clinton’s promised “crippling sanctions” against the ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad to porous inconveniences.
Instead of addressing the debt problem that has made discussion of default on “the faith and credit of these United States” a routine possible scenario, the U.S. has poured out $3 trillion of debt, which can be financed only by issuance of bonds to the Federal Reserve, paid for by electronic notes from the Federal Reserve. The world’s reserve currency has become virtual money; no serious arm’s-length entity will buy its debt; most of the largest states of the union are bust; there is no visible will to pay down the debt instead of just devaluing the currency in which it is denominated; the Treasury secretary is as silent as a cigar-store Indian; and Mr. Bernanke’s homilies about clearing up the central bank’s balance sheet are moonshine. The emperor not only has no clothes; in his underclad state he can be seen to be missing some important anatomical components as well.