In October 1940, Americans flocked to movie theaters to see Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, mocking the most powerful tyrant on the globe. In December 2014, movie theaters and then the production company cancelled the release of The Interview because of threats of terror from a tinpot, though totalitarian and evil, tyrant who rules a weak and decrepit nation.
It's not that there is (unfortunately) no precedent for this: consider the Mohammed cartoons. It's not that movie theaters don't have to be attentive to the well-being of those who attend their movies. It's not that there isn't something ridiculous about the lack of Western interest in a totalitarian dictatorship's starving millions of its people, while its attempt to prevent an American movie from being shown makes the front pages.
Still. The surrender to North Korea is a historical moment. It's far more significant than President Obama's announcement the same day of his opening toward Cuba. That is merely another sign of an administration's strategically weak and morally rudderless foreign policy. The capitulation to North Korea could be—unless we reverse course in a fundamental way—a signpost in a collapse of civilizational courage.
In his 1978 Harvard speech, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn saw it all, and said it all:
“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
“Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
“Should one point out that from ancient times declining courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”