The Appeasement Gene

Copyright Ó 2003, by Alec Rawls


KRON TV, San Francisco, 4/10/03 (Iraqi "liberation day," plus one): 2/3 of Democrats think our victory in Iraq makes terrorist attacks more likely, versus 1/4 of Republicans.

Here was an evil dictator, sitting on the world's second largest oil reserves, using that wealth to develop weapons of mass destruction that terrorists could use to kill as many millions of Americans as possible. Having him gone increases the terrorist threat?

How to account for such bizarre cognition? My theory: there is a gene for appeasement.

Regardless of sense and reason, the exercise of power seems in itself to terrify many people. They only want to shrink and lay low, as if some voice of the body tells them that this is how to be safe.

How else to account for the third of the population (the 2/3rds of the Democrat party) who love America, who love the liberty we have here, who love the liberty for other peoples that America promotes in the world, yet who hate American power?

These are the same people who are terrified by the idea of having guns in their own homes. Their own empowerment scares them. Faced with violent threats, their instinctive reaction is to disarm, in effect, to give up, in hopes of surviving by assuming a non-threatening posture. It is obvious: they are genetic cowards.

That in itself is okay. They have other contributions to make. The beauty of liberty is that it allows all of us to discover and pursue value in the world, seeking where we can make our greatest contributions and get rewarded for it. There is no imputation that genetic cowards are any less meritorious on the whole than anyone else.

The problem comes when they have power, either in government or in the media or in the universities, because in the modern world, appeasement is so dysfunctional. The calculations of individual power, which shaped our psyches, are not the calculations of state power, which we as a people are called upon to wield today.


Reality for the state

It can often make sense for an individual to respond submissively to aggression. For the most powerful nation on Earth to respond submissively to aggression is ludicrous. But such is the nature of our animal nature. It is primitive. It feels a direction--which way is safety?--and places all value there. Those who tend to feel safety in retreat, in laying low, in conflict avoidance at all costs, cannot escape that instinct, no matter how it flies in the face of reality.

Our reality, of course, is extraordinarily propitious. The great accomplishment of western society has been to establish moral government, charged to protect fundamental principles of right: the principles of individual liberty and the liberty of free peoples to choose their leaders. Limited government and democracy were the founding achievements of our Revolutionary War. The further great advance of equal protection was secured by our Civil War.

These moral achievements of American government have allowed liberty, the great engine of human progress, to flower, turning the protectors of liberty into world's greatest power. It makes no sense for an overwhelmingly superior force to appease aggression. It makes no sense morally, when that superior force is a force for liberty and right in the world, and it makes no sense in terms of national interest.

Genetic appeasers lack the mental endowment to comprehend this. It does not square with the "safe direction" that they feel in their bodies. Thus the Democrat left saw Jimmy Carter almost destroy the nation with his furious appeasement at the height of the Cold War, casting off American power like a Million Mom marcher getting rid of her guns: Iran to the Mullahs, Nicaragua to the communists, Angola to the Cubans, the Panama Canal to the Chinese, military retreat from the Soviets, etcetera ad nauseum. They also saw how Reagan's vigorous confrontation of aggression caused Stalinism to collapse in the Soviet Union and Nicaragua. Yet as Mona Charen has documented in her book Useful Idiots, they still hate American power and they are still committed to appeasement. They literally CANNOT learn from their mistakes. THEIR GENES WILL NOT ALLOW IT.

Can such a thing really be possible? Can primitive drives in effect dominate the higher faculties of practical and moral understanding? Consider the full weight that moral understanding can bring to bear.


Moral reality

Human instinct may be oriented primarily towards survival, but we have higher selves too, a something greater that we see to contribute to. For this ambition, our nation is our ark, a legacy from our ancestors into which we place our contributions to the future: our life's work, our children, our civic participation and our goodwill for our fellows.

When we find in ourselves this morality--to live for what we can contribute to--we have no choice but to trust that a God, or some god-ness in the universe, will one day take this ark from us, preserving somehow what we have spent our lives striving to create and preserve. How hard, if there should turn out to be no God to manifest in the universe at least this morality that we find in ourselves. But whether or not our prayers are answered, clearly it is given to us to do our part: to do all we can to protect our ark, carrying forward the progress that has been made in the discovery and pursuit of value.

It is not possible to even think of abandoning that charge. Life is not preserved just for its own sake. Our lives are for spending, and we must spend them here first, in defense of all, whenever there is call.

No-one who comprehends this sacred duty could be deterred from it by mere primitive emotion. Yet we seem to see it. The congenital appeasers feel no sacred duty to defend America. Primitive emotion does somehow win out. The puzzle is how?


The double bind

An instinct to submit and retreat manifests, not only on the physical plane, but also in the realm of ideas. Thus to the congenital appeasers, the very idea that America even could be moral is anathema, not because they think that America is immoral, but because they think that the idea of right and wrong, because it is assertive rather than submissive, needs to be shunned as immoral.

The Democrat left locates its defense of liberty, not in a theory of right, but in the claim that, since there is no such thing as right, no one can impose on others in the name of right. It is a perfect mirror of their physical fear. Claims to right are abjured because they are a claim to moral justification and hence to assertive action. This moral power is shunned by the congenital appeaser just as physical power is. Neither consists with their instinct to assume a submissive posture.  "Throw away your guns. Then we will be safe!"  Moral reason is shunned in favor of the less assertive moral relativity.

It is a double bind. The instinct to assume a submissive posture keeps one’s faculties of moral reason from ever achieving the understanding that in other people enables the higher faculties to rule over the primitive emotions. Thus it isn't that the higher faculties of congenital appeasers are lacking in full human potential. It is that their primitive drives keep that full human potential from being reached, unless their faculties of understanding are especially strong. Appeasers are squeamish about moral judgement and hence never allow themselves to make progress in moral understanding. They simply remain "non-judgmental," unable to grasp better and worse in the world, never mind find the principles and progress of America worth fighting and possibly dying for.

We do not give up on dyslexics and we should not give up on those who have disabilities in the area of moral learning. We just have to make sure that their moral incompetence does not prevail in the public realm. Unfortunately, they own the public school system, the media, the universities, the foundations and the Democrat party. Winning will not be easy.


Appeasement in the realm of ideas is a war issue too

KRON 4 war commentary, “liberation day,” intoned in voice over, with the most sober moral certitude: "Both experts and many Iraqi Americans agree, the best barometer for winning this war isn't how fast troops can control Baghdad, it is how quickly they can leave. Even though troops just took control of Baghdad, there are calls to get them out as quickly as possible. The longer they stay, the stronger the resentment may grow."

The appeasers tried to stop us from winning the war. Now they are trying to stop us from winning the peace. We have a huge job to do in Iraq, from establishing order, interdicting ethnic strife, exampling and fostering civic virtue, all the way up to insuring the creation of a constitution that incorporates individual liberty, limited government, equal protection, freedom of political speech, religious tolerance, and the sovereignty of the people. Instead of taking on these tasks, the appeasers want us to withdraw. The military battle being won for now, their instinct to withdraw in the realm of ideas now comes to the fore.

The entire Arab/Muslim world is submerged in a culture of lies. Thousands of young Egyptians, Jordanians and especially Syrians went to Iraq because they were told that the Americans had come to attack Islam, murder Arabs and rape women. An Iraqi civilian was shown on the news pleading with coalition troops not to kill these men. "They came here to help us. They didn't know."

The appeaser's answer to this florid evil, where the Arab masses lie to each other about which side is in the right, is to try to mollify the liars. If the liars and the haters want us out, we should get out. The appeasers will NEVER learn. Their mental equipment will not allow it, and so we must defeat THEM.

Instead of appeasing the Arab/Muslim culture of lies we need to confront and denounce Arab lies against America and Israel as the slanderous incitements to murder that they are. All who partake of them are moral criminals. We have nothing against a Muslim world that demonstrates intellectual and moral integrity, but the moral cesspool that now engulfs the Arab/Muslim center is an evil that must be named, every time it opens its ugly mouth.

To appease in the realm of public opinion is no different from military appeasement. It is the sick lies of the Arab world that spawn its murderous violence. Only when the lies are defeated can we live in peace.


This article was originally published in The Stanford Review, 4/17/03. Contact


Addendum: Behavioral genetics, appeasement and illiberalism

Of course we don't know yet how genes work, or how they work in combination. "Is there a gene?" is just shorthand for the question: is appeasement an innate and heritable predilection?

To some extent everything is heritable (the so called "first law" of behavioral genetics), but some proclivities are more heritable than others, and reactions to violent threats are, like sexual behaviors, just the kind of things that we would expect to be powerfully innate. (1)

Violent threats have been one of the constant features of the human evolutionary environment. Strategies for dealing with such threats should thus be salient features of our evolved human nature. Confronting aggressors is one strategy. Trying to accommodate and get along with them is another.

In different circumstances, either one of these strategies may be more successful, with evolution constantly selecting from this variation to shape the wide river of humanity as it goes forward through the generations.


A female proclivity?

We should expect an element of sex-differentiation to this variation. Females have less physical strength for defending themselves than men do, and they are more valuable to aggressors. When conquered males have been allowed to live at all their reproductive potential will typically have been suppressed, while the reproductive potential of conquered females will typically have been exploited. Because of these differences, appeasement will have been the reproductively more successful course of behavior for women far more often than for men. More women think that the safe course is to appease aggression because, for them, it often has been the safer course.

This sex-differentiation seems to be borne out. The Democrat party is both the party of appeasement and, by a ten percent margin, the party of women. On gun control, women are more anti-gun by a 20% margin. On terrorism, the poll watching group Public Opinion Watch has commented on what it calls the "interesting paradox" that "women are substantially more worried about being victims of a terrorist attack than men, yet appear to be substantially less supportive of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, ostensibly designed to protect American citizens from terror.” (2)

The explanation for this "paradox" is simple. Women tend much more than men to respond to threats with a submissive posture. Such female tendencies are perfectly expected. They are just not wise as national policy.


Antipathy to American power vs. anti-Americanism

The suggestion here is that many people, even though they love America, are led by their congenital cowardice to hate American power. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones who hate American power. American power is also hated by those who hate America. Thus the America loving congenital cowards end up aligned with this other evil group. Further, the instinctive hatred that cowards have for moral reason, with its claims to distinguish right from wrong, makes them sympathetic to claims that America, when it embraces claims of right, is on the side of wrong. By this route they are prone to either be sympathetic to anti-Americanism, or to become anti-American themselves.

Those who fall into unreason, by whatever route, become vulnerable to the culture of lies that is at war with America, both at home and abroad. Appeasement driven rejection of moral reason is only one of many possible routes into unreason. Another large tributary of unreason, both in Europe and America, is environmentalist lies, both about the state of the world and about the rational response to environmental concerns.

The environmental movement is dominated by socialists. They are part of the longstanding culture of lies that slandered liberty as greed for over a hundred years, though they add their own egregious mis-conceptions to the stew of Marxist error. The great evil that environmentalists see in the Iraq war is the release of Iraq's oil onto the world oil market, increasing oil supplies and lowering oil prices. To environmentalists, human lives are nothing in comparison to the horror of low oil prices.

In the Marxist/environmentalist world-view, human life and human prosperity are the great enemies of the planet. Thus economic liberty, because of its productivity, is seen as the agent, not just of injustice between people (the old Marxist canard) but of injustice against the rest of the natural world. Environmentalists see human prosperity as eating up the Earth, without regard either for the rest of the world's creatures or for the future.

In fact, human prosperity, far from being the problem, is the solution. An economy advances as people learn how to be more productive. We learn how to do more with less, increasing our power to act for all of our goals, including preservation of the natural world. Power is good, not bad, and liberty, as the great engine of economic progress, is our salvation, not a curse.

Marxist/environmentalists will never permit themselves to grasp this because Marxism has always been a slander. It is nothing but lies, and mental processes for defending lies against truth. They will always see human prosperity as the problem and the economic liberty that creates it as evil. America, being the champion of liberty, and the world’s foremost economic power, is in effect the champion of humanity prosperity, making us the agent of evil.

Interestingly, the liberty hating culture of lies, like the culture of lies that springs from the appeaser’s rejection of moral reason, also may have a genetic origin.


Illiberal instincts

Just as some people have an instinct to assume a submissive pose, and fear even their own power because it goes against that pose, so too there is reason to suspect an instinct for illiberalism. As with the instinct to appease, an illiberal instinct would also likely be sex-differentiated towards the female.

Throughout human evolutionary history, a large percentage of mankind, and especially of womankind, have occupied positions of subservience, where personal power could only be achieved indirectly, by appealing to or manipulating paternalistic power. Men also have been in subordinate positions, just not to the same extreme as women. On the other side of the coin, males have had much more scope to pursue their own power, allowing them to take a broader view of the opportunities that the world presents.

This broader view creates a love for liberty, for being able to pursue opportunities. Men and women share the same open ended faculties for seeing what is possible in the world, and hence the same potential for love of liberty, but typical male instincts are more likely to lead to that love for liberty than typical female instincts are.  

Again, the predicted sex-differentiation is evidenced in the world. The Democrats, the party of women by a substantial margin, are also the party of paternalistic government, in the form of the welfare state and the nanny state.

Again, there is nothing wrong with these instincts in themselves. The tendency of men to look outward into the world and women to look inward toward their relationships is probably a big part of what allows men and women to fit together into loving partnerships. We just need to recognize that we can expect the female instincts to be oriented more toward wielding power indirectly, by manipulating relationships with more powerful others, and less toward the direct use of power, as is wielded by a state.

Because of this contrast between the circumstances of state power and the typical circumstances of women throughout our evolutionary history, female instincts are likely to be particularly dysfunctional as guides to the use of state power. In particular, female instincts will tend to be paternalistic, or illiberal, while illiberal policies can be seen, according to a rational analysis, to in fact be highly dysfunctional. Not that we should expect men to be a lot less prone to the same innate tendencies. “Female instincts” here just means that, on average, we can expect illiberal instincts to be relatively stronger in women.

As with congenital cowardice, it is easy to see how illiberal instincts could directly unplug rationality. Instead of making sense, the goal is to manipulate. Thus instead of thinking straight, the rational faculties are given the narrower goal of making the best case for what seems to militate in favor of what one takes to be one's interests. This is in contrast to moral reason, where the rational faculties are set to a rational task rather than an instinctive one. They are set to trust in truth in the discovery and pursuit of value in the world. Manipulative instincts can unplug this full rationality. If one is looking for how to make the best case for what one presumes to be right or in one’s interest, one is not trusting in truth.


Fight it

The upshot is that substantial fractions of humanity (men as well as women) may well harbor instinctive pre-dispositions either to favor paternalism over liberty or to respond to threats with a submissive pose, both of which tend to unplug moral reason, disabling the higher faculties and creating an affinity for anti-American lies. This caustic brew is very much what we see in European politics and with the Democrat left in America.  

As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has noted, the past decade has produced a "groaning bookshelf" of documentation of relentless lying by the Democrat left in America and its flagships like the New York Times. (3) We have on the left in America and in Europe a culture of lies as mature and complete as ever seen in human history.

This is now combining with the more traditional, though uniquely virulent, culture of lies that infects the Arab/Muslim world. This Arab culture of lies is based on primitive tribal instincts to hate and if possible conquer competing groups. Of course its practitioners can be sophisticated, drawing on western hatred for liberty and western hatred for western concepts of right and wrong. The western culture of lies then returns the favor, embracing Arab/Muslim lies, leaving us facing an altogether toxic brew that we need to fight on all fronts.

We have to martially root out those who are martially at war with us, and we need to destroy two cultures of lies, one in the west and one in the east. On every front, the fundamental strategy must be the same: never appease.

This article was originally published in The Stanford Review,  4/17/03. Contact


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1.    On the three laws of behavioral genetics, see chapter 19 of Steven Pinker's book The Blank Slate, Viking, 2002.  Return

2.    Public Opinion Watch has commented twice on this phenomenon, first in its February 10th to 14th “Weekly Compendium And Commentary On Recent Polling," available at , then in its March 31-April 6, 2003, commentary on "The War and the Gender Gap," available at

3.    A short list must include, starting with the more recent: Useful Idiots by Mona Charen; Are Cops Racist? by Heather McDonald; Why the Left Hates America by Dan Flynn; Slander by Anne Coulter; Coloring the News by William McGowan; The Myths that Divide Us by John Perazzo; The Burden of Bad Ideas by Heather McDonald; The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg; The Ultimate Resource 2 by Julian Simon; Who Stole Feminism by Christina Hoff Sommers; The Myth of Male Power by Warren Farrell; Illiberal Education by Dinesh DeSousa; Heterophobia by Daphne Patai; etcetera.  Return