Appeasement Yesterday and Today: Fishman reflects on the 70th anniversary of Munich

Joel Fishman, an American-born and -trained historian living and thinking in Jerusalem and whom I am pleased to call a friend, has an excellent meditation on the 70th anniversary of the “Munich Agreement,” the prime example of the folly of appeasement in Western history. It is a sad tale of liberal cognitive egocentrism, moral arrogance, and, as Fishman puts it, “lack of imagination [for evil]” that drove Chamberlain not only to pursue a(n effectively) suicidal policy, but to silence anyone who disagreed with it and keep “his” public in the dark. The interesting thing is that not only are those who forget history condemned to repeat it, but especially those who refuse to learn from history… And therein lies our curious paradox: why are our leaders – even, here below, George Bush – so intent on denying the lesson Munich offers.

Seventy Years Since the Munich Agreement

By Joel Fishman
FrontPageMagazine.com Friday, September 26, 2008

Photographic stills and newsreels have immortalized the moment when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich and at Heston airport triumphantly waved the signed agreement in the air. The British Prime Minister proclaimed that he had brought “Peace in our Time… Peace with Honor,” and the crowds received him as a hero because he responded to their deepest hopes.

The job of the historian is not merely to look back from a sadder and wiser time – after some 50 million people died in World War II, most of them civilians – and say, “what folly!” The historian needs to recreate that time of “innocence,” before people knew it was folly, and grasp the enthusiasm, the sense of triumph that this folly inspired at the time. Only then can we begin to grasp the conditions under which it can happen again. Note the reference to an “honorable peace” in Chamberlain’s statement

    [The following is the wording of a printed statement that Neville Chamberlain waved as he stepped off the plane on 30 September, 1938 after the Munich Conference had ended the day before]:

    “We, the German Führer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.

    We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.”

    [Chamberlain read the above statement in front of 10 Downing St. and said:]

    “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour… I believe it is peace for our time… Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”.

“Peace in our time… peace with honor!” Something for everyone. Curious that someone who had so little understanding of what “honor” meant in the Nazi context would declare his concessions honorable. And behind it lurks the coming of the worst war in history and the greatest disgrace imaginable for Chamberlain. As for sleeping soundly, it was almost two years to a day that the blitz began and Londoners slept underground.

The contemporary historian and Zionist, Sir Louis Namier, described this scene which has provided one of the iconic images of the twentieth century:

When Chamberlain, stepping from the aeroplane at Heston, waved his “treaty” with Hitler, like a happy autograph hunter—”here is a paper which bears his name”—Europe was astounded. Could Chamberlain’s trust, joy, and triumph be genuine? …. He was shrewd, ignorant, and self-opinionated, and had the capacity to deceive himself as much as was required by his deeper instincts and his purpose, and also to deceive those who chose to be deceived.

As my pappy says, “sincerity is the cheapest of virtues.” To which I would add, “and those who place their faith in cheap sincerity have no one but themselves to blame.”

This year, Rosh Hashanah falls on Tuesday, 30 September, the seventieth anniversary of the Munich Agreement.

And the eighth anniversary of the Al Durah affair.

Just after midnight on Sunday, 30 September 1938, Neville Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, Eduard Daladier, and Benito Mussolini signed it. This agreement transferred to Germany the fortified frontier region, the Sudetenland which was inhabited by a German-speaking minority (as well as a good number of Czechs) whom the Nazis had incited into a state of revolt against the Czechoslovak government. This gathering took place under the threat of war, and no Czechoslovak representative was present. To make things worse, France, which had a treaty of alliance with Czechoslovakia, betrayed its junior partner.

Munich was a transaction by which the larger democratic powers of Europe, Britain and France, imposed fatal sacrifices on a smaller state in the name of peace. They forced Czechoslovakia to make “territorial concessions” in order to appease an aggressor, but the aggressor, Nazi Germany quickly violated the agreement and in March 1939 gobbled up the whole state of Czechoslovakia.

In the lingo, this is what’s known as “sharing your lunch with a polar bear.” But in this case, it’s really telling someone else to share his lunch with a polar bear. And it’s done by redefining polar bear. Would a polar bear by any other name be less of a carnivore?

After grabbing the sacrifices which England and France forced on others, Hitler went on to make fresh demands. This episode shows the high cost of politics without morality both to the large states that engaged in it and the small ones upon which they forced suicidal sacrifices.

I think Fishman understates a key element here. For Hitler, Chamberlains folly in misreading his intentions was not only useful in getting what he wanted without having to declare open hostility, it was a sign of weakness that invited further aggression. Appeasement not only did not quench Hitler’s thirst, it whet his appetite.

Frank McDonough, an historian from Manchester University, republished a citation from a document of 1926 which revealed how the policy-making elite of the Foreign Office viewed Britain’s place in the world:

    We have all we want – perhaps more. Our sole object is to keep what we want and live in peace … The fact is that war and rumours of war, quarrels and friction, in any corner of the world, spell loss and harm to British commercial interests… whatever else may be the outcome of a disturbance of the peace, we shall be the losers.

Britain, according to this outlook, was a “satisfied” power and would have been reluctant to assume a world leadership role. Considering this cautious perspective and the great interests at stake, the principle of appeasement had a distinct appeal. Not the least, those who wished to maintain the status quo hoped to achieve a policy objective through what was essentially a commercial transaction, using the territory of others to purchase of peace and quiet.

Fishman’s emphasis brings out one element of the mentality revealed in the quotation: the positive-sum mentality that prevails among those who substitute business for war as the principle of international relations. It’s profitable for everyone (win-win), even if more so for some than others (what I call closed positive sum: everyone wins, we win more than anyone), and it’s above all “rational” in the sense that Adam Smith defined economic behavior in the Wealth of Nations.

But there’s more to this than just “rational, positive-sum behavior.” To those of us who benefit from it most – educated, capitally endowed or salaried individuals – it “makes sense.” It’s the definition of rational. But to assume that everyone else shares this perspective, or at least, once offered a chance to share the perspective, will in fact do so, is liberal cognitive egocentrism. And that projection is a masterpiece of “generous” self-deception: everyone is really “like us”; they all want peace and prosperity. The end product of this kind of projection of our liberal good will – everyone is, at heart, a good person – is what I’ve called the Politically Correct Paradigm (PCPI).

But as I have argued, this kind of mutually beneficial approach to human and international relations makes important emotional demands, in particular the renunciation of everything from the thrill of defeating someone (hard zero-sum, I only win when you lose, or as some historians describe the mentality of prime-divider societies, “take not make”), to trusting others to give up that thrill too, to renouncing the quiet pleasures of Schadenfreude (delighting in the suffering of others). It takes real emotional maturity and considerable courage to do so. We who grow up in societies where we are, from an early age, encouraged to relegate such zero-sum emotions to the playing fields, have difficulty appreciating how difficult these demands really are.

Shortly after the Second World War, Sir Orme Sargent, (1884–1962), a senior member of the Foreign Office, and opponent of appeasement, stated that under certain circumstances it could be justified, but

    [Appeasement] becomes questionable as a method of negotiation only if it can be shown to be immoral; i.e. the appeaser sacrifices the rights and interests of a third party and not his own when making his concession; or if it is clearly dangerous, i.e. where the concession made seriously undermines the strength of the appeaser either internally or internationally; this is especially so when the concession has to be repeated, for appeasement then becomes nothing less than blackmail; and lastly when the whole process of appeasement is just ineffective; i.e. when the appeaser having to make his concession gets no quid pro quo in return.

Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s biographer and an historian, writing in the sixties explained that

    Appeasement was rooted in the belief that human nature could not be entirely overwhelmed by evil, that even the most dangerous looking situation could be ameliorated and that the most irascible politician could be placated, if treated with respect.

Note the use of the term “respect.” What people want most of all is to be treated with respect, and since respect is a monetarily cost-free expense, for those most concerned about counting their coins, it’s cheap at half the price… why not?

This is, of course, the high-minded version: treat your “neighbor” well and he’ll reciprocate. Especially when your neighbor has mistreated you – shown you contempt publicly, moved your boundary stones so as to shave off land, cheated you or bullied you – to be kind is not to gain his confidence and good will, but his contempt. Positive sum behavior registers as generosity to those with liberal cognitive egocentrism, to those who work from an honor-shame paradigm, it registers as weakness.

Of course, such respect and trust “invested” in people who don’t deserve it has long term costs, as the nations led by Chamberlain and Daladier were soon to learn. Because, on one level, it’s pure self-deception to think you’re being generous when in fact you’re being bullied. And the key way to know that you’re being cowardly rather than brave, is when the person you respect betrays your expectations. If you continue to show him respect, you’re a coward. Once shame on you; twice shame on me.

A businessman who possessed great self-confidence, Chamberlain did not know European history and the characteristics of its different peoples. He took firm control of Britain’s foreign policy and regulated the information which reached the public. This was particularly dangerous, because he over-estimated his own abilities and failed to recognize the danger of Hitler’s methods as well as the moral costs of submitting to blackmail. As was frequently the case, personal ignorance and complacency found expression in over-optimism.

This aggressive optimism deserves close attention. It’s the same thing that drives groups like the “J Street” initiative. we know what the problem is. We know that if only the Israelis would make enough concessions, then the Palestinians would accept and we’d have peace. Therefore any means to make Israelis make concessions is legitimate… including keeping from the public information that could undermine the picture we have drawn.

I think Joel may actually understate the problem here. Chamberlain comes off in this paragraph as an over-confident, well-intentioned fool. My impression is that Chamberlain was an enthusiastic fool, someone who not only believed in himself, but did so with a kind of enlightened zeal. And that, further, he was assisted here by a media and a world of public opinion that eagerly embraced his perception of himself and reality. As Joel noted earlier: Chamberlain “had the capacity to deceive himself as much as was required by his deeper instincts and his purpose, and also to deceive those who chose to be deceived.” Aye, there’s the rub. Why would be “choose” to be deceived, especially when the costs are so high? And if they didn’t know what was coming down the pike, what’s our excuse today?

Over the decades, revisionist historians have written that Chamberlain was “strong-willed, competent and clear-sighted.” According to them, the blame for the Second World War really dated back to the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles which the victorious Allies imposed on Germany after the conclusion of the First World War.

Historian’s note here. I’ve always found the “cause” of WW II to be most bizarre. In the canon of international post-war behavior, the conditions of Versailles were hardly egregious in their desire to humiliate a defeated foe. (After all, putting them in their place, is often the point of a war.) The Germans had done far more humiliating things to the French in 1871, including using Versailles to crown their emperor. The problem after WW I — the war to end all wars — arose because the most paranoid, shame-enraged lunatics in German culture managed to sell the Germans on a narrative that fed their grievance. The victory of the “man of resssentiment” that Neitzsche had railed against a generation earlier.

And Chamberlain’s insistence on treating Hitler like an equal, a man who could share his world view if treated with enough respect, played right into that. Still worse, as Richard Bassett has recently argued, by cutting this hasty deal with Hitler, Chamberlain actually forestalled a plot to drive Hitler from power by people who understand the catastrophe that would befall Germany if it went to war with Europe. But apparently Chamberlain felt that Hitler’s anti-communist measures (including concentration camps for CP members), made keeping him in power a good idea.

It’s a similar approach — treat the problematic figure with respect no matter what he says or does — that one sees, for example, in Obama’s reference to Putin as a “20th century dictator,” whom we can bring ‘up’ to being a “21st century leader.” Idem our MSM’s treatment of Ahmadenijad.

Despite this insight and new findings, the great historical questions relating to this serious failure of judgment still haunt the present. How could Chamberlain have failed to grasp the intentions of his enemies; how did he fail to sense the danger before him; and why did he place his trust in Hitler?

Chamberlain’s contemporaries tried to answer these questions. One of these was the First Lord of the Admiralty Duff Cooper who wrote that Chamberlain’s greatest personal shortcoming was his lack of imagination. Cooper, who was a member of Chamberlain’s cabinet and resigned after the Munich Agreement, wrote that “Chamberlain … lacked experience of the world, and he lacked also the imagination which can fill the gaps of inexperience. He had never moved in the great world of politics or of finance, and the continent of Europe was for him a closed book. He had been a successful Lord Mayor of Birmingham and for him the Dictators of Germany and of Italy were like the Lord Mayors of Liverpool and Manchester, who might belong to different political parties and have different interests, but who must desire the welfare of humanity, and be fundamentally decent men like himself. This profound misconception lay at the root of his policy and explains his mistakes.”

This is what I call “liberal cognitive egocentrism” (LCE). It’s a tendency to project his world onto the world. In more brutal terms it boils down to the liberal’s lack of an imagination for evil. “Who would choose war? War is hell! We all know that.” To someone like this, the world of zero-sum emotions are a closed book (and hence, the European continent). After all, the Europe he visited was about to get swept by an ecumenical movement of the ultimate in hard zero-sum, exterminationist anti-Semitism).

Note that one of the findings of the 9-11 Commission was that our intelligence forces “lacked imagination” — they never imagined that hijackers would commit suicide rather than negotiate. If they had, for a moment, considered that the fires that drove suicide bombers in Israel, burned among the Islamic enemies of the USA (rather than that Palestinian rage at Israel was sui generis, and probably deserved), they might have not lacked the imagination. But then, who wants to imagine they have the same enemies the Jews do?

Chamberlain viewed the world in his own image and actually believed that Hitler at heart was as decent as he was.

Substitute Larry King for Chamberlain and Ahmadinejad for Hitler.

Therefore, he hoped to look him in the eye, talk to him man-to-man, and get his personal word. Chamberlain, who viewed the problem in personal terms, was not concerned with the message of weakness he conveyed to Hitler. His efforts strengthened Hitler in Germany at a time when his own generals opposed the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Hitler, for his part, contemptuously referred to Chamberlain as a fool, to use a generous euphemism.

The perfect pair of demopath and dupe and the inevitable conclusion of their interaction: “peace” in our time.

Winston Churchill, in his speech to the House of Commons, of 5 October1938 explained what Chamberlain did not quite grasp, that the real issue at stake was one of morality and justice: “Many people, no doubt, honestly believe that they are only giving away the interests of Czechoslovakia, whereas I fear we shall find that we have deeply compromised, and perhaps fatally endangered, the safety and even the independence of Great Britain and France….We have sustained a defeat without a war….”

In contemporary terms, Churchill would be (and was) labeled an (apocalyptic) alarmist who made a mountain out of a molehill. Czechoslovakia is the acorn, and Churchill is a Chicken-Little.

A parallel with the current situation may not be politically correct, but is worthy of some attention. In his address to the Nuremberg Rally, on 12 September 1938 Hitler made an explicit comparison between the Sudeten Germans and the Palestinian Arabs: “I am in no way willing that here in the heart of Germany a second Palestine [i.e., Jewish state within a state] should be permitted to arise. The poor Arabs are defenseless and deserted. The Germans in Czechoslovakia are neither defenseless, nor are they deserted, and people should take notice of that.”

The comparison is revealing, and parallels the current Palestinian effort to claim they are the “Jews” of the conflict, the innocent victims of terrible aggression. And certainly the German inhabitants of the Sudeten had grievances. But they were far from innocent. Hitler used them as a fifth column, and when the Nazis took power, they joined the Nazi party (17+%) at more than twice the rate of Germans (7+%). The best parallel today might be the way the Palestinians who lived in Kuwait behaved when Saddam took it over.

Thus, if in today’s discussions one compares the bitter fate of the Sudeten Germans with that of the Arabs of Palestine, it is a legitimate part of the discourse. Hitler made the comparison. Today, many Sudeten Germans now live in the German state of Bavaria, and as a result of hard work have largely rebuilt their lives and achieved financial comfort. This group is well-represented in German politics and vocal in its claims for return. Nonetheless, there seems to be a tacit international appreciation of the reason that the successors of Czechoslovakia have firmly refused to permit this minority to live in their midst.

Do the Israelis have to let the Palestinians misbehave so badly (try and almost succeed in their vicious desires) in order to have the world say, “you know, Arabs, do something about those poor Palestinian refugees, but don’t expect the world community to insist that they have a right to ‘do their thing’ within a sovereign Jewish state.”?

In recent times, the proposition known as “Land for Peace,” bears some similarity to the original appeasement transaction. For example, the leading powers of the West in their desire to gain favor with the Arab world, have forced Israel to make all manner of unreciprocated sacrifices. The method is similar to that of appeasement of the thirties as well as a cycle of concessions which are met with fresh demands. However, when such a process takes place in slow motion and the absence of a direct threat of war as in 1938, it is possible to conceal what is really happening. When on 4 October 2001, Prime Minister Sharon protested against this type of appeasement in his famous Czechoslovakia Speech, the Bush administration publicly and forcefully rebuked him.

This incident, occurred shortly after 9-11, and illustrates some fascinating dynamics of international diplomacy and the media. Sharon said:

    “I call on the Western democracies, and primarily the leader of the Free World, the United States, do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938 when Europe sacrificed Czechoslovakia. Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense… Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism.”

Sharon made this remark in anger at the pressure on Israel to make further concessions to the Palestinians — this is in the run-up to the “Road Map for Peace” — while the Palestinians carried on a campaign of murderous violence against Israelis — this was in the waxing wave of suicide bombings. In short, he felt he was being asked to share his lunch with a polar bear.

Bush, through a number of spokesmen, objected vehemently to the implied comparison to Chamberlain, insisting that the US was Israel’s best friend. The indignation needs to be understood in the context of Bush’s efforts to woo Arab countries in his fight against Bin Laden, and his need for Israel to keep a low profile during that process, just as they had for his father during the first Gulf War. Later, Bush indirectly took back his indignation and echoed Sharon’s remarks in his speech to the Knesset in 2008 — piquing an outraged response from Barrak Obama and the MSM.

Sharon had stepped on a politically incorrect mine. The prevailing wisdom, for reasons beyond reason, insists that no one can be compared to Hitler, that such things are inflammatory, the equivalent of hate speech, and if applied to Muslims, signs of extreme Islamophobia. (So an exhibit in Toronto that compares Ahmadinejad to Hitler has been banned as “too controversial and inflammatory.”) So we can’t analyze the situation, nor meditate on how sacrificing Israel (intentionally or not) will only whet the appetite of Jihadis, who’s problems with the West only begin with Israel.

Although much has been written on the subject, and new sources will still emerge, we may identify some of human shortcomings which seventy years ago led to the disastrous attempt to purchase peace at Munich with the “concessions of the weak.” Some of these were: a lack of imagination, self-delusion, denial of danger, ignorance of history and exaggerated optimism.

I would say that one of the more fruitful alleys to explore would be the operation of a “politically correct” atmosphere in 1930s England, in which anyone who warned of danger got dismissed as a war- and hate-monger.

22 Responses to Appeasement Yesterday and Today: Fishman reflects on the 70th anniversary of Munich

  1. Lorenz Gude says:

    I think the need to not have the same enemies as the Jews is one cause, but not the only cause, of the new anti Semitism. When I think of the current anti Semitism in France I tend to blame it instinctively on a deep cultural atavism. Sort of like the rural Virginian taste for gambling on dog fights. But, no, something is frightening the French (and lot of other Westerners) more than the prospect of being labeled anti Semitic. Books about the Jewish control of US foreign policy issuing from Harvard have become respectable with astonishing speed. Indeed, anti Semitism has become pretty well cost free. Conversely I notice wearing Islamic clothing in the West has become a cost free form of intimidation that immigrants in Perth Western Australia use regularly. Amusingly we still have tribal Aborigines who also tend to see things in tribal terms. They sometimes dress in desert camouflage (They know who the strongest tribe is) and ride around the public transport train system intimidating those who seem to be failing to show them proper respect. They work a crowd by one good sized man getting up and saying very loudly to no one in partiulclar :”This is MY COUNTRY” some loud cutting wistles will be heard from elswhere in the train. What might happen next is left hanging – sometimes a brawl, sometimes not. I think of it as civil society at an rather earlier level of development. :-)

  2. Richard Landes says:

    response to Lorenz:

    I think the need to not have the same enemies as the Jews is one cause, but not the only cause, of the new anti Semitism.

    agreed. given how dangerous it is for europeans — it stokes the flames of global jihad — it undoubtedly has to have great emotional appeal in order to be so popular. one thing i think is clear, there’s clearly a great pleasure (Schadenfreude) in being able to say, “you jews, thousands of years you’re oppressed and no sooner do you get the chance but you turn around and do it to the poor palestinians (PCP1), and, while you’re at it, saying “you’re as bad as we were, no, come to think of it, you’re as bad as the nazis were. (PCP2)

    When I think of the current anti Semitism in France I tend to blame it instinctively on a deep cultural atavism. Sort of like the rural Virginian taste for gambling on dog fights. But, no, something is frightening the French (and lot of other Westerners) more than the prospect of being labeled anti Semitic. Books about the Jewish control of US foreign policy issuing from Harvard have become respectable with astonishing speed. Indeed, anti Semitism has become pretty well cost free.

    just like journalistic criticism of Israel.

    Conversely I notice wearing Islamic clothing in the West has become a cost free form of intimidation that immigrants in Perth Western Australia use regularly. Amusingly we still have tribal Aborigines who also tend to see things in tribal terms. They sometimes dress in desert camouflage (They know who the strongest tribe is) and ride around the public transport train system intimidating those who seem to be failing to show them proper respect. They work a crowd by one good sized man getting up and saying very loudly to no one in partiulclar :”This is MY COUNTRY” some loud cutting whistles will be heard from elswhere in the train. What might happen next is left hanging – sometimes a brawl, sometimes not. I think of it as civil society at an rather earlier level of development. :-)

    yes. and the brawls are interesting, because in terms of tribal and territorial rules, if you don’t resist, you end up encouraging further aggression, but if you brawl at every “insult” you end up regressing to a pre-civil-society state. what wd happen if when an aborigine said that, the response was, “yes, and my people brought the train system you’re using. we all have something to contribute.”?

    i think it’s impt to challenge civilly, but to challenge. silence invites aggression. of course, challenge can too, and you do have to be ready to defend your dignity if the interlocutor goes violent, as in, “you f***! who the f*** do you think you are?!” not something most of us honkeys are willing to do. (i haven’t been in a fight since 9th grade (last year of public school).

  3. Cynic says:

    This episode shows the high cost of politics without morality both to the large states that engaged in it and the small ones upon which they forced suicidal sacrifices.

    And for the past 70 years they have been trying, the British and the French at least, to continue sacrificing the remains of those who paid a heavy price for such base behaviour.

    But apparently Chamberlain felt that Hitler’s anti-communist measures (including concentration camps for CP members), made keeping him in power a good idea.

    Well, given British literature up to WW2 to go on that was a given and to some degree one could equate communist with today’s use of neo-con as a code-word.

    In contemporary terms, Churchill would be (and was) labeled an (apocalyptic) alarmist

    and McCain a maverick!

  4. Joel Fishman says:

    Thank you so much for the excellent commentary on my essay.
    I enjoyed it.
    It helped me appreciate the subject just a bit more.

    I liked the ref. to the 9-11 report.

    I plan to pursue the matter of imagination in a future publication and in this context would like to share a quotation from one of my earlier articles, “Failure of Perception and self-deception: Israel’s Quest for Peace in the Context of Related Historical Cases,” Jerusalem Letter / Viewpoints, No. 450, 20 Adar 5761 / 15 March 2001,
    http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp450.htm:

    To site another example, the case of France in World War II, Marc Bloch noted the German army’s “methodical opportunism,” particularly its capacity to move speedily over terrain, among other things, which became an unforeseen advantage:

    What drove our armies to disaster was the cumulative effect of a great number of mistakes. One glaring characteristic is, however, common to all of them. Our leaders or those who acted for them were incapable of thinking in terms of a new war. In other words, the German triumph was essentially a triumph of intellect — and it is that which makes it so particularly serious.

    [Marc Bloch, Strange Defeat, trans. Gerard Hopkins (London: Oxford University Press, 1949), p. 36.]

    Now, back to the commentary: Chamberlain was tough and cagey. He was not a fool, — and this is the problem. He was a strong man who kept his party intimidated. He was clever but not smart enough to know his limitations and the danger with which he was confronted. The problem was basically that he misjudged the situation and refused to grasp that he did not stand any chance. Essentially, the situation was over his head. Hitler wanted to conquer large areas of territory, starting with Eastern Europe and made it clear that he was not interested in border adjustments.

  5. Eliyahu says:

    Joel, have you read Aryeh Stav’s booklet on the Czechoslovak crisis and Munich?? Stav relies a great deal on Bennett’s book on the crisis. The book includes as an appendix the so-called Halifax Report or Runciman Report [I forget the exact title]. This report sounds very much like much of what is written today about Israel and Judea/Samaria. It complains about Czech colonization of the Sudetenland, oppression of Sudeten Germans, etc. Very much like what is said today about Israel. So maybe Chamberlain’s surrender at Munich was a premeditated policy, perhaps understanding the consequences but not caring or even desiring them. Maybe NC was not so naive at all but rather cynical and disingenuous.

  6. Everything is New Under the Sun…

    Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a time for reflection on the last year and the start of a 10 day period in which Jews repent for past sins and pray to be……

  7. oao says:

    cynic,

    churchill was a leader, warts and all. mccain is NOT a maverick. don’t compare them. night and day.

    there are NO leaders in the US. like in israel and most of europe (and now the east too) there is only a political/economic class catering to itself, f***ing up and then dodging responsibility. just take a look at the bailout. greed, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and cowardice.

  8. oao says:

    not something most of us honkeys are willing to do. (i haven’t been in a fight since 9th grade (last year of public school).

    there are still those who fight, but they are bullying those in our society who, like you and i, have been conditioned not to respond.

    so the west instead of responding to the jihadist threat, is riddled with insider exploitation and screwing, thus actually making the job of jihad easier.

  9. Rich Rostrom says:

    Two comments:

    1) I don’t think Chamberlain thought Hitler was decent, just not suicidally reckless. And the fact is that Hitler was extreme even among the Nazis and the German generals. Goering, for instance, didn’t want the war IIRC. Even the German public was far from eager for war in 1939 (unlike 1914).

    2) It wasn’t just Chamberlain who was desperate to avoid war, it was the whole British and French public. It’s hard to understand just how great the trauma of WW I was. If the U.S. today lost as much as France did then, it would mean over ten million dead.

    Britain suffered less, but it was still very grim. For example: earlier today, I happened to look at a short biography of Grace Crowfoot, a British woman who with her husband was a very successful archaeologist and naturalist in the early 20th century. She had four brothers: all died in the war, even the one who was a minister. Every forecast about “the next war” suggested that the fighting would just as bad, with aerial bombing of cities adding a new dimension of horror. (In pre-war planning, Home Defense Executive estimated more bombing casualties for the first week than actually happened in the entire war.)

    There is no question that Chamberlain was wrong. But it is arrogant to insist that his error was obvious at the time. We salute Churchill for being right when it was not obvious.

  10. Cynic says:

    oao,

    churchill was a leader, warts and all. mccain is NOT a maverick. don’t compare them. night and day.

    I was not comparing Them, just comparing the criticism of Them.

    Rich,
    But it is arrogant to insist that his error was obvious at the time.
    Thanks to an un-free information society (where the media could not print what they wanted for all said and done) the general population could not imagine what was going on; Today the media can print basically what they want but they are now the retainers of censorship).

  11. Eliyahu says:

    Yes, Cynic, the media censor themselves. They deliberately withhold information. Parts of the Israeli media do this in regard to Arab-Israeli peace possibilities. Tom Segev, the contemptible falsifier of history and Israeli Vichyite, recently expressed this in an NYTimes book review on a book about Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Holocaust-collaborating mufti of Jerusalem. According to a comment on his review [I believe by Noah Pollak in the Contentions blog of Commentary] Segev essentially argued that historical info about the Mufti’s and other Palestinian Arabs’ Nazi collaboration could harm “peace” prospects and the “peace process” and should therefore be suppressed. Despite Segev’s frequent dishonesty in his imposture as a “historian,” he can keep on going on his merry crooked way as long as HaAretz keeps him on the payroll and publishes his scribblings. RL mentions above that Chamberlain too suppressed untoward info.

    Now, curiously, nobody has mentioned that the Munich Pact was followed several months later by the “palestine White Paper” [Cmd 6019]. This policy effectively prevented Jewish refugees from finding refuge in the internationally designated Jewish National Home when the Jews most needed a home. It was a violation of the mandate to foster development of the Jewish National Home that the UK had received from the international community in 1920 [San Remo] and 1922 [League of Nations], as the League’s Permanent Mandates Commission determined at the time. So Chamberlain was well aware of his breach of commitment to the Jews, as well as of his betrayal of Czechoslovakia. Further, Chamberlain must have known of the tendentious nature of the Runciman Report mentioned above which served as a “moral” justification for his “appeasement” policy. So again we should ask just how naive NC was. Was he simply naive and ignorant of international politics as claimed above? Or was he disingenous? Further, there is some evidence that Daladier was well aware of the likely consequences of the Munich Pact. How foolish was NC? Didn’t he know or understand as much as Daladier did?

    Arie [Aryeh] Stav’s booklet is called: Czechoslovakia 1938 — Israel Today [Ariel/Sha`arey Tiqvah, Israel: Ariel Center for Policy Research 1997]. There was a second edition published in Sha`arey Tiqvah and available through the mail.

    What I find striking is the parallel between pro-PLO slogans uttered today and pro-Sudeten German slogans uttered before Munich. “Self-determination” has been used in both cases. Likewise “justice”. The Runciman Report reproduced in full by Bennet and from him in part in Stav’s booklet [in several quotes] elaborates the theme of Czech “colonization” of the Sudetenland and grossly exaggerates or misrepresents the situation of the Sudeten Germans. Just like today concerning the Arabs in Judea-Samaria.

    See:
    JW Bennet, Munich, Prologue to Tragedy [New York 1964].

    Runciman Report, Cmd. 5847, No. 1

    Arie Stav, Czechoslovakia 1938 — Israel Today [Ariel/Sha`arey Tiqvah, Israel: Ariel Center for Policy Research 1997].

  12. Rich Rostrom says:

    Eliyahu: “the parallel between pro-[Palestinian] slogans uttered today and pro-Sudeten German slogans…”

    One problem is that in both cases there is a valid point. “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” When a large, distinct, geographically cohesive population objects to being governed by a regime to which they never gave allegiance, they have a legitimate grievance.

    The cession of the Sudetenland to Germany was not a crime or tragedy in itself: had Germany stopped there (and had a sane government), everything would have been fine. But the German government was insane, and the Sudetenland was a step to the conquest of all Czechoslovakia and the rest of Europe.

    Likewise, granting the demands of Palestinians for self-government and even for “return” to Israel would not be a disastrous problem in itself; that is, if the political and social culture of Palestinians (and Arabs generally) was not putrescently corrupt, psychotically delusional, and murderously violent. If Arabs would behave like Swedes, or even Thais or Chileans, Israelis could live with them on the terms they ask.

    But just as Hitler used the Sudetenland to destroy Czechoslovakia, the Palestinians would use self-government and return to attack and destroy Jews there.

    That is why neither self-government or return can be conceded. Mere analogy to the Sudetenland is not sufficient.

  13. oao says:

    When a large, distinct, geographically cohesive population objects to being governed by a regime to which they never gave allegiance, they have a legitimate grievance.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this is correct.

    Every current nation sits on conquered land and has segments of population that do not give allegiance to the govt. How many of them have the history of the jews: being expelled from their land, systematically discriminated against, exterminated, and forced to return to their original land to escape? And how many of them, even without this background, are being held to the standard of returning the land and committing suicide?

    Let me more specific: Are the americans being pressured to return the land to the indians? After all, the indians are not as barbaric as the palestinians.

    You see, if the world were as sensitive to those other nations’ problems as it is to Israel’s, one could have taken it seriously. As it is, BS.

    As to legitimate grievance, my a**. I suggest people study very carefully the history of the middle east and the details of how modern Israel was created, rather than swallow lock stock and barrel the arab propaganda, based on a myth they were indoctrinated with in order to escape their shame.

  14. Cynic says:

    Now, curiously, nobody has mentioned that the Munich Pact was followed several months later by the “palestine White Paper” [Cmd 6019]. This policy effectively prevented Jewish refugees from finding refuge in the internationally designated Jewish National Home when the Jews most needed a home. It was a violation of the mandate to foster development of the Jewish National Home that the UK had received from the international community in 1920 [San Remo] and 1922 [League of Nations], as the League’s Permanent Mandates Commission determined at the time. So Chamberlain was well aware of his breach of commitment to the Jews, as well as of his betrayal of Czechoslovakia.

    And after NC came Ernest Bevin to twist the knife more and then along came Anthony Eden to torture those remnants of the camps even more.

    That’s why I don’t accept the excuses of naivety,ignorance etc., whether applied to politicians or the MSM.
    Chamberlain may have made some un-”documented” promises to der Fuhrer.
    Likewise the MSM is obeying some un-disclosed aspect of their agenda.
    Segev is not acting through ignorance or stupidity, but from some mental incapacity to admit the truth and through chicanery trying to force a result at odds with reality to save, dare I say this, his “honour”.

  15. oao says:

    Segev is not acting through ignorance or stupidity, but from some mental incapacity to admit the truth and through chicanery trying to force a result at odds with reality to save, dare I say this, his “honour”.

    Not to mention his desire to convince himself that he’s a moral better to other israelis, by “caring” about the “poor, oppressed” pals, whose barabarity he closes himself to.

  16. Eliyahu says:

    oao & cynic, consider the possibility that segev acts out of the Judeophobic tradition of most of the Left, a tradition going back in German thought to Luther and from him to Kant, Hegel, Fichte, Bauer, etc etc, and from them to Marx. Actually, this tradition of non-christological Judeophobia is also found on the “right”. [Whatever right and left mean]. So segev could very well be acting within a tradition and it may also be that he gets funding from some Judeophobic or Israelophobic source in the West, which could be the case with some other HaAretz journalists too. There is no contradiction between these two possibilities.

  17. Cynic says:

    Eliyahu,

    With the case of the Segevs, Pappes et al it is a pathological dislike of their roots which they reject to be acclaimed by the “other”; they reject what they know and wish to have no part of while the Luthers of this world want no part of what is different and which they do not “know”.
    Both of course demand that only their way is the correct way.

    Just going by Pappe’s reaction to his student’s “thesis” (forged facts) one can ascertain a certain insincerity and crookedness in his makeup.
    Segev no doubt also has had some psychotic contratemps with some aspect of Israeli (Jewish) society (just look at the behaviour of the heirs, past and present – what were they indoctrinated with in Germany? – to the NYT) and having dreamed a dream (Man of Lamancha) now wishes it to be true, trying through twisted words to make it come to life and get the better of those he holds in contempt.

    Perceiving comparable behaviour from others such as Soros and South Africa’s Kasrils I am perhaps extrapolating but then I am not a psychiatrist.

  18. Eliyahu says:

    Cynic, you are illustrating my thesis about the malign influence of most of the German philosophic tradition on both “right” and “left”, not contradicting it.

  19. Cynic says:

    Eliyahu,
    I was not trying to contradict you, but trying to put my feelings into words.
    I should have written that we must also consider what mamma and pappa brought to the table.

    Shrinkewrapped wrote:
    When people have an emotional investment in a fallacious intellectual construct, it typically serves many unconscious and conscious functions. In other words, people believe nonsense because it serves a deep psychological need. In order to loosen the hold such nonsense has on them it is necessary to unravel many of the strands of emotional investment that maintain the need for the nonsense.

    How People Change

  20. [...] as an historian of the European 20th century with its disastrous experience with appeasement in the 1930s, he should, by 2003, at least been aware that territorial concessions to the Palestinians were [...]

  21. [...] authors are now arguing the same. Joel Fishman, whose expertise on appeasement I have already highlighted here, has a review of two recent books that try and make the case. Well worth [...]

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