Back in 2006, I proposed the following corollary to Godwin's law in a column for Time.com:
A well-known rule of Internet discourse is Godwin's law, which states that, as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.
Let me propose Nyhan's corollary: As a foreign policy debate with conservatives grows longer, the probability of a comparison with the appeasement of Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.
As Sam Roggeveen notes, my prediction came true yesterday. Within hours of President Obama's decision to cancel an antiballistic missile system in Eastern Europe, the Hudson's Institute Seth Cropsey was already driving the talking point into the ground in a Weekly Standard article:
The likely harm that results from the administration's surrender on missile defense goes far beyond Europe.
The Obama administration chose an historic month to appease the Russians by reneging on the U.S. proposal to place ballistic missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. September 1st of 2009 was the 70th anniversary of the Nazis' unprovoked attack on Poland. In the middle of the same month the Red Army invaded Poland--70 years ago to the day. At the end of this month is the 71st anniversary of the Munich agreement in which England and France agreed to allow Hitler to annex large portions of western Czechoslovakia...
Obama's appeasement of the Russians in the same two countries is an eerie recapitulation of Western weakness...
As with Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler, appeasing the Russians is not likely to produce any positive results...
This decision is the clearest and most definitive evidence yet that what the Obama administration means by a "reset" of our relations with Russia is simple appeasement...
In Central Europe the decision is a pointed reminder that U.S. policy has thrown the Central Europeans under the Russian bus once since the end of World War II...
This capitulation is all the more inexcusable because, unlike the situation that Chamberlain faced at Munich in 1938, Russia, unlike Nazi Germany, is still a relatively weak power. The Obama administration has as little to fear from Russia's military as it has to expect that Russian goodwill or self-interest will have a moderating effect on Iran's plans to become a nuclear power.
This sort of argument by analogy is a substitute for rational thought. (Who cares if it's almost the 71st anniversary of Munich?) People may disagree about the merits of Obama's decision, but it's absurd to say that it's comparable to the appeasement of Hitler.
Update 9/18 2:19 PM: Mike Pence gets in on the action:
Republican Congressman Mike Pence (IN) harkened to the days of the Cold War and warned the administration against bowing to a burgeoning powerhouse, Russia, "The Obama administration is continuing a policy of appeasement at the expense of our allies. History teaches that weakness and appeasement invite aggression against peaceful nations."
Update 9/18 3:02 PM: And here's Roy Blunt:
One Republican, Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, went as far as to accuse Obama of appeasement, noting that yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland. “Appeasement of dangerous nations does not inspire peace,’’ Blunt said in a statement.