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File:Nevillechamberlain.jpg
My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.
They were given a choice between dishonour and war. They chose dishonour. They will have war.

A new Big Bad is on the march. Time for the forces of good to stand up and fight. Unfortunately for the heroes, the man in charge of their particular political organization has Head-in-The-Sand Management, and sees no reason to do this. Perhaps he literally doesn't see the threat. Perhaps he doesn't think that the threat is a problem for their specific country. In any event, he's going to do his best to get in the way of doing anything productive to fight the villain. Head-in-The-Sand Management is usually not portrayed as himself a bad guy, just willfully blind to the problem.

May also be an Obstructive Bureaucrat. Frequently used by the villain for their Evil Plan, in which case, expect a Heel Realization when they recognize the threat and their role in it. Compare with The Quisling, a leader who is literally in the employ of the villain. Opposite number to the Reasonable Authority Figure. See also Divided We Fall and What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

No Real Life Examples, Please


Examples:

Comics

  • The Guardians of the Universe in the Green Lantern mythos frequently fill this role, most recently in the "Blackest Night" event, where all save two refuse to believe in the prophecy and the coming of the War of Light until it is too late.

Film

  • In a non-military example, the President and Vice President (who are clearly not George Bush and Dick Cheney) in The Day After Tomorrow, particularly the latter. Neither is ready to accept (perhaps with some good reason) the scientific predictions of instant doom for half the world.
  • The Jedi Council in the Star Wars prequels, particularly the first one. Even after they recognize the problem, they are hard-pressed to not act like idiots.
    • Count Dooku leaves the Jedi because of this, among other reasons. When he later turns up as the leader of an enemy movement, the Jedi and Chancellor Palpatine STILL sit on their butts until the very last second. Palpatine has an excuse (he's secretly bossing Dooku around). The Jedi don't.
    • Chancellor Valorum is this too.

  Amidala: I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!

    • YMMV, but Padme as well. She leads a cadre of senators who want to defeat the proposed Republic bill to create a standing army. It really isn't her pacifism, but the fact that, given who the Republic is dealing with, she should know better. The Trade Federation quickly curbstomped her planet only ten years before and they're the ones bankrolling Dooku, along with a dozen other similar organizations.
      • When Anakin confesses his genocidal ways to Padmé, she consoles him, telling him he's not as bad as he thinks he is.
  • Mayor Phlegmming in Osmosis Jones.
  • The Prime Minister in Quatermass and the Pit.
  • King Theoden flirts with being this briefly in the film version of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, initially refusing to help Gondor, but he is quickly persuaded to help.
  • The Archon in Immortals is sure that he can negotiate with King Hyperion, right until the moment where Hyperion kills him.


Literature

  • David Weber: The liberal and pro-peace political parties in any of his novels are written as naïve people who believe in the “peace at any cost” philosophy.
  • Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter books and films. He ended up getting the sack after the true nature of the threat became apparent, lingering, like Chamberlain, as an advisor to his successor.
    • Considering that Voldemort and the Death Eaters are somewhat of a metaphor for Hitler and the Nazis, Fudge may have actually been intended to sit in for Chamberlain. Of course, we won't know until someone thinks to ask Rowling the question in her next interview...
    • Brilliantly parodied in A Very Potter Musical when Voldemort breaks into Fudge's office to take over the Ministry of Magic:

 Voldemort: Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic!

Fudge: I still don't believe you're back.

Voldemort: Believe this, Fudge! Avada Kedavra!

Fudge: Oh, heart attack... surely. [dies]

    • Another example is found in Lego Harry Potter: The whole stance of the guy is summarized by him putting his hands over his ears and going "bla bla bla"
  • None of the Trojan leadership in The Iliad ever listens to poor Cassandra (though that was divinely ordained).
  • Prince (later King) Meurig of Gwent in The Warlord Chronicles. He starts out by convincing his fellow Gwentians to back out of the war with Powys, which any realist would see would quickly lead to Dumnonia becoming a Powysian puppet-state, thus surrounding Gwent on three sides. In the second book, while king, refuses to intervene in a civil war in Dumnonia in support of Arthur, potentially leaving governance in the hands of a group of Saxon-backed conspirators. In the third, he refuses to join with the other British nations in resisting the Saxon invasion of Dumnonia, which proves a bridge too far: his father Tewdric returns to the throne briefly to resist the invasion. The series' framing device makes clear that Meurig's kingdom was within his lifetime mostly conquered by the Saxons.
  • Mr. Desjardins, the Chief Lector of the House of Life in The Kane Chronicles, spends most of the first book either ignoring or seeming not to care that Set is about to destroy the world, being more concerned with killing the god-hosting heroes. He eventually graduates to Divided We Fall.
  • The Star Trek book "Before Dishonor" features a character who negotiates with the all powerful Borg which has assimilated Janeway and has Earth by the balls. Who then literally quotes Chamberlain...and is promptly blasted to smithereens.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe gives us the Fallanassi, who are such pacifists that, even when billions of people are dying, they refuse to take up arms.
  • Lord Darlington in The Remains of the Day is one of the proponents of appeasement in the 1930s.
  • The Pre War Presidential Administration in World War Z, who ignored the solutions to preventing the looming global zombie outbreak, instead performing a few token solutions that ranged from unhelpful to genuinely harmful (Ie: Allowing a bogus vaccine to pass through the FCCC) . When interviewing the former Chief of Staff, Grover Carlson, Max Brooks calls him out on this.
  • Every. Single. Character with access to military resources in A Song of Ice and Fire. After thousands of years, the Others have returned and are raising an army of the dead beyond the Wall? What imaginations the men of the Night's Watch have. Zombies or not, there's definitely an invasion underway and the Wall is hopelessly underdefended? Great, that should keep the King in the North busy and out of the fighting for the Iron Throne.


Live Action TV

  • President David Palmer on Twenty Four is accused of being this in-story by his Vice President in season two, though he turns out to be right.
  • Used many times in all incarnations of Star Trek. Chamberlains can be found liberally sprinkled among Starfleet's admiralty, the Federation's civilian leadership, and the councils of many alien worlds.
  • SeaQuest DSV: Secretary General Arthur Mc Gath of the United Earth Oceans Organization (UEO) refuses to consider military action regardless of the threat.
  • Babylon 5 drops a pretty big anvil using one of these: in the second-season finale, as the station is gearing up for possible conflict with the newly (re-)military expansionist Centauri, a high-level diplomat comes to the station from Earth...and reveals that he's there to make a nonaggression treaty with the Centauri. He even says "peace in our time." [1], [2], [3], [4]
    • Another example from Babylon Five: early in the fourth season, the Drazi and Hyach ambassadors who want to prevent Delenn and her few remaining supporters from continuing attacks on the Shadows. They believe that if the Army of Light doesn't antagonize the Shadows, they might well go back to sleep for another thousand years, but if Delenn and company press on, it will drag everyone down into the abyss. As is usual with this trope, the Drazi and Hyach ambassadors aren't antagonists...they're just wrong.
  • Happens a few times in Stargate SG-1, notably Kinsey and Woolsey (though the latter got character development). Repeatedly, when there is an Obstructive Bureaucrat, their problem is that they don't think that the enemy of the season is a real threat.
  • In the original Battlestar Galactica, the President worries about offending the Cylons, brushing off some very concerning warnings, only to lead his people into an ambush that nearly accomplishes the genocide of his entire people. The chief peace broker was working for the Cylons the whole time.


Video Games

  • Referenced in Civilization IV, where after meeting a rival civilization for the first time and you don't immediately declare war on them, your response is "There shall be peace in our time!" It's a very rare game indeed when such optimism isn't proven to be misplaced.
  • Much like the later council in the Star Wars prequels, the plot of the Knights of the Old Republic series is kick-started by the Jedi Council being content to sit and wait as Mandalorian armies ravage the Republic, with a number of Jedi going against their wishes and following Revan off to war. What's left of the council continues this sort of behavior in the second game - when you find them on your own, they're reasonable enough, but bring them all back together on Dantooine and, simply because it's a little difficult to understand just what happened to you after the war, they're declaring you a Sith (lumping you together with the guy who regularly eats planets) and threatening to kill you.
  • Mass Effect: All throughout the three games and novels, despite compelling evidence that an imminent threat is coming to the Milky Way the Council refuses to take action. Even when the enemy is at their very doors they refuse to form a united front due to their petty political squabbles and pride.

Western Animation

  • An alarming number of examples to be found within the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Long Feng, the Evil Chancellor of Ba-Sing-Se, has elements of this. While he's clearly aware of the war with the Fire Nation, he seems more interested in keeping in under wraps than actually doing anything about them, and he spends far more time scheming against the Avatar, the world's last realistic hope, than against his enemies.
      • Though he's not a completely straight example, as he is portrayed as outright evil, and he's very ruthless in enforcing his own power- he just doesn't want to jeopardize it.
    • The leadership of the Northern Water Tribe also falls under this, having spent 85 years of a 100-year world war doing absolutely nothing following an earlier skirmish with the Fire Nation. They only rouse themselves to fight off a second invasion of their fortress-city, and after that they resume doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the series (contributing no forces to the last-chance invasion on the day of Black Sun, for example), although quite a few of them, including their greatest waterbender, were busy rebuilding the Southern Water Tribe.
    • On a much smaller scale than the above, the leader of the village in "Avatar Dayâ" seems more interested in executing the Avatar for crimes committed in a past life than in helping the Avatar save the world, until Fire Nation soldiers arrive on his doorstep.
    • All in all, the reason the Two Nations were losing the war became increasingly clear over the course of the series.
    • A Subverted example from "Return to Omashu" would be King Bumi who when Fire Nation troops attacked immediatley surrendered and simply cackled about doing nothing,but subverted in that he was simply waiting for another moment to strike


Webcomics

  • In Sluggy Freelance the leaders of the Dimension of Lame jump head-on into this trope when they're attacked by Demonic Invaders. Their entire defense strategy consists of two phases: first, ask the demons to stop killing them really nicely; second, if the first phase doesn't work, ask the demons to stop killing them really nicely a few million times. Sending them fruit baskets is optional, but a plus.
    • Of course, this is somewhat justified by it being an entire dimension of Actual Pacifists, to the point where the most violently psychotic person in the entire dimension is horrified when he stubs a demon's toe.
  • The Trenches: Mr Credenza.

 Credenza: What you're telling me is incredibly frustrating and I don't like hearing it.

Isaac: That's why I brought it to your attention, sir.

Credenza: No, this is what's frustrating. That you are bringing it to my attention.

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