None dare call it “appeasment”

The problem is that everybody’s calling it appeasement, without, it seems, taking the time to learn what it means.

munich_office.jpgChris Matthews recently took right-wing radio host Kevin James to task on this point — for foaming “appeasement” at the mouth but not knowing who Neville Chamberlain was [transcript]. But even Matthews didn’t get it quite right (he had said that appeasement was not talking with Hitler but giving away a piece of Czechoslovakia).

The problem with this argument is that the Munich Agreement was signed on September 30, 1938, and World War II started on September 1, 1939. What Chamberlain actually did was buy England a year that she badly needed.

Pat Buchanan lays this out in a new piece on Because we have not heard the end of this “appeasement” talk, I recommend you research this issue and reading Buchanan’s article would be a good start.

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Filed in Uncategorized | 15 responses so far

15 Responses to “None dare call it “appeasment””

  1. Maxon 20 May 2008 at 12:12 pm 1

    Interesting, I HAVE been following that story for the last
    few days.

    I know a thing or two about real appeasment, and the meaning.

    Being of the English speaking minority in Quebec who were
    sold out, politicaly, lock stock and barrel to ‘appease” Quebec French
    seperatist/nationalist aspirations.

    A sacrfice, and the Canadian soultion to mitigate thier own
    domestric 4th generational warfare scenario.

    It worked, to varing degrees, but not without sacrifice to
    which I can personely attest through fairly bitter experience.

    The self serving shallow minded definition floated by the likes of popularist right wing talk radio and TV commentators does not fit my experience.

    Apart from all that though, as ususal, thier right on target (Big sarc).

    With thier dis-information, they do a collosal dis-service to the
    American population.

    The hard line being promted in Isreal, has done more to threaten
    that countries longer term viability than it’s worst sworn enemies
    could pray for.

    Unfortunately a good measure of that mind set influences
    Washington DC these days.

    I could go on,, and on, and on, but time is too short.

    I look forward to inputs from others.


  2. Dr_Vomacton 20 May 2008 at 1:06 pm 2

    Gadzooks! Thank you Chet, for bringing up one of my top 5 pet peeves. Words do not exist that aptly describe the apoplectic state that seizes me whenever I hear the phrase “another Munich”—so I won’t go into it.

    Santayana remarked on the perils of failing to learn from history (lest it repeat itself), but he neglected to mention the propensity of fools to repeat themselves. To learn from history, one must first understand it, but those fools who govern us seem to have have neither the inclination to study history, nor a willingness to listen to those who who have.
    It shouldn’t be necessary to elaborate on the sheer stupidity of the idea that it’s wrong to negotiate with someone you don’t like. Why else does one negotiate, except to get something one wants or needs from someone whom one doesn’t like or trust? If you got along well with the other party, a quiet conversation and a handshake would be enough.

    There’s no doubt that Chamberlain failed to understand Hitler’s character; but Hitler’s misunderstanding of the character of the English democracy and institutions was equally profound. Unwittingly, Chamberlain put Hitler into a position into a position that caused Hitler to make what was, perhaps, the single most fatal mistake of his career: he revealed to the British that he was not a gentleman

    Had Hitler abided by the Munich agreement, Chamberlain would have gone down in history as a great peacemaker—and Hitler as one of the greatest German statesmen of history. But when Hitler broke the Munich accord by seizing the Czechoslovak rump state, he utterly demolished the position of the “peace party” in Britain. He made crystal clear that he could not be trusted to keep any agreement. And that is what tipped the balance against him: the British peace party was discredited, the Chamberlain government issued the Polish “guarantee”, and then gave way to Churchill the war leader.

    One could argue that had Chamberlain not flown to Munich, there would have been no clear threshold for Hitler to cross, and Britain might never have intervened on the Continent at all.

  3. Fabius Maximuson 20 May 2008 at 10:23 pm 3

    Is this the “Comedy” section of DNI, citing Pat Buchanan as an authority on the war against the NAZI regime in WWII?

    Given his views about WWII, stated many times but at length in “Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World”, I suspect a better source could be found for this view of Chamberlain’s brilliance at Munich.

    [CR: As Pat Lang notes, in analysis, it’s important to evaluate sources and information separately — he even manages to find a use for Debkafile. ]

  4. Duncan Kinderon 20 May 2008 at 11:34 pm 4

    It has been a long time since I last read A. J. P. Taylor, but – as I recall – he essentially asserts that England’s ( and France’s? ) prewar policy was to encourage Hitler to expand to the east in the hope that Germany would thereby collide with Stalin’s Russia. Then two dictators would wipe each other out while the West would stand by and watch.

    Unfortunately, the Ribbentrop Molotov non-aggression pact gutted these hopes; so England and France were left with no recourse but to declare war once Poland was attacked.

    Not very gentlemanly indeed.

  5. Mycophagiston 21 May 2008 at 12:21 pm 5

    The context of this discussion are the ongoing attacks on Obama, suggesting that “meeting” with the enemy is the same as appeasing the enemy. The undefined word, “Munich” being the trigger that is used to end discussion.

    Going back 46 years to be being a part of my High School debating club, one of our sessions included a debate on meeting with Red China. Hauntingly similar to todays discussion. Same arguments as well. Indeed, identical arguments, including the use of “munich” as a substitute for discussion.

    Much like we use the word, “Hitler” to shut off discussion. I’m sure everyone on this board knows how foolish this all is. Even so, it can be used as a yardstick to measure the intellectual honesty of those who use these kinds of tactics. There might very well be a good reason for avoiding diplomatic exchanges with another country. If so, that should be what is debated, not the rather fourth grade response that we are getting from some quarters.

    And once again the media can take credit for this phony issue. Once again they are failing in their duty to inform the public as to the real issues.


  6. Dr_Vomacton 21 May 2008 at 12:55 pm 6

    Is this the “Comedy” section of DNI, citing Pat Buchanan as an authority on the war against the NAZI regime in WWII?

    I had expected better than a crude ad hominem from the great Delayer. I have not read many things by Buchanan, but those that I have read made sense to me. He seems to be an intelligent man with idiosyncratic opinions. As in this particular column, Buchanan says some things that are wrong or arguable, but also some that appear to be right, or at least worthy of consideration. He certainly makes much more sense than the President of the United States.

    At least Buchanan is not drawn in by the stereotypical American view of 20th Century European history. If he overreacts against that shallow picture of history, that’s forgiveable—and far preferable, in my opinion, to just repeating the same tired old “lessons of history”.

    I invite you to be more specific in your criticisms of Mr. Buchanan’s column, Fabius Maximus; kindly deliver yourself of an argument. C’mon—make my day…interesting!

  7. Fabius Maximuson 21 May 2008 at 7:00 pm 7

    I have zero interest in debating counterfactuals. What if Lincoln had let the south go? What if Ben Franklin invented the laser? Who cares?

    My protest was over the source Chet cited. Since I was so foolish as to raise the question, I will mention a few of the many excellent works in this debate. Too many for a decent list and these are just from memory (supported by the invaluable Google).

    Rather than – or in addition to – Buchanan’s book, consider the path-breaking work by the brilliant, provocative AJP Taylor: The Origins of the Second World War.

    Far more controversial – due to his theories about the holocaust – is David Irving “Churchill’s War”

    On the other side, which I find far more convincing:

    Walter Goerlitzes, “A History of the German General Staff.” The wehrmacht was in no condition to fight the UK and France in 1938.

    Adam Tooze, “The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy” — describes how Germany’s economic and industrial infrastructure was not prepared for war in 1938.

    More important, I cannot imagine Churchill buying the Empire’s continuation at the cost of allying with Churchill. Some things are wonderful, but not worth preserving at any price.

    Specifying difficult. Saying “What if Churchill made a deal with Hitler” makes little sense, as it assumes Churchill was a “two buck Chuck” politico like Chamberlain.

    Asking what if the Brits picked someone else has the same problem. They picked Churchill knowing what they were getting, for what seemed to them good reasons. Picking some drone, like most of our politicos – checking the polls and weather before speaking, consulting the advisors about going to the bathroom (Not “Can I?” but the far worse “Do I want to?”) – would have meant that they were less than they actually were.

    [CR: Can we get back on topic? The subject of this thread is “appeasement,” what, if anything, it means and how it is being used in the 2008 campaign. I’m afraid that alternative histories (“The wehrmacht was in no condition to fight the UK and France in 1938.”) do not add much to the substance of the debate. For those interested in that genre, however, a far superior example would be Len Deighton’s SS-GB, which proves conclusively that Germany would have lost WW II.]

  8. Dr_Vomacton 22 May 2008 at 12:59 pm 8

    Sorry if I was responsible for derailing the discussion. I had hoped to provoke F. Maximus into discussing some of the controversial points raised by Buchanan about appeasement. Somehow, I failed to make myself clear, and The Procrastinator (whose native language is, of course, classical Latin), perceived in me a desire to argue “counterfactuals”. I don’t believe that identifying a key event in history and saying “here is a key turning point, a mistake on which everything turned” is talking about acounterfactual. Unless we are rigid determinists of one sort or another, we have to recognize that things could have gone the other way.
    My belief is (and I took Buchanan to be saying something similar) that history has judged Chamberlain too harshly. He was mistaken about Hitler’s character, but he wasn’t necessarily a dolt. If you put yourself in his shoes, and forget that you know what happened afterward, Chamberlain’s actions are understandable. It was not totally unreasonable to cede the Sudetenland to Hitler. It was not even necessarily immoral. Why should it have been? Czechoslovakia was a synthetic state created by the Versailles treaty—which took into account the desires of just about every ethnic group except for the Germans. The Sudetenland had an ethnic German majority; why should they have been governed from Prague and not Berlin?
    Yes, knowing Hitler’s character, it was a mistake to give him anything; but the British had yet to come to understand just how perfidious that character was. Meanwhile, Chamberlain bought them a year of peace, during which they could arm and prefer for the war they knew must come the moment Hitler seized Prague.
    No, of course Churchill would never have made peace. He was the archetypical War Leader, and one of the four great individuals who proved, during what is called the Second World War, that individuals—and not the masses, or abstract “historical forces” —make history.
    I’ve read Taylor and Irving (though I esteem the latter little, except that occasionally he is irritatingly right.) What do you think of John Lukacs, by the way? I’m just reading his The Historical Hitler, and so far it appears to be well-written and insightful.

  9. Matt Lon 23 May 2008 at 12:10 pm 9

    Appeasement wasn’t just giving away a piece of Czechoslovakia, it was the unwillingness to confront Hitler over a longer period of time and a series of issues. Appeasement was not simply Neville Chamberlain’s mistake in 1938, but rather the whole range of flawed policies pursued by politicians in both Western and Eastern Europe before 1939.

    The French, British and Polish governments were reluctant to confront the Nazi regime when they violated the Versailles treaty by reintroducing conscription in 1935. The same governments were reluctant to confront the German re militarization of the Rhineland in 1936. The French and British governments refused to involve themselves in the Spanish Civil War, while the Nazis and Fascists supported Franco. None of them did anything to prevent the forced unification of Austria and Germany in March 1938.

    Appeasement was a retrospective judgment, applied to policies that governments wanted to distance themselves from after WWII began. Before 1939 all European countries were profoundly reluctant to go to war, including the Germans! The British public believed that the Versailles Treaty had been unduly harsh. The petite entente in Eastern Europe failed to provide any semblance of collective security. The French Third Republic was immobilized by its own domestic ideological squabbles. Given the circumstances, its hard to see how anyone could have opposed Hitler before the fall of 1939.

  10. Maxon 23 May 2008 at 6:01 pm 10

    Matt Lon 23 May 2008 at 12:10 pm 9

    “Appeasement wasn’t just giving away a piece of Czechoslovakia, ”

    That’s a rather well written summary of the standard opinion most of us grew up with.

    What this thread started out as, was, does meetings and discussions amoung our elected leadership and their appointed representatives, with the roughly equivalent, heads of state, of countries who’s apparent interests go against the USA and it’s closest allies constitute “appeasement ?”

    The vaugeries of so called “state sponsored terrorism” reduced to the eye of the beholder, and not with standing.
    Your terrorists, maybe the next schmucks freedom fighter.

    Is that the same as negotiations directly with terrorists, like McCain
    sitting down to discussions with Bin laden ?

    This comes down to what many here might agree suggests the cavalier, and demonstrably reckless pre-disposition towards military conflict that prevaides US forgien policy.

    Rather and given the reality of the current situation and events that lead up to this, Ask yourselves, If it makes sense to sneak around yet again, finding and probably also fabricating a lot of circumstantial evidience, coupled with questionable intelligence ?

    It also comes down to due diligence and common sense.

    To agree that it is all one and same, is to demote the standard of the US position to the imbicilic, as characterised in the attitude that coined the phrase, those ” Evil Doers.”

    If that’s the departure point of what now passes as the mainstream conservative consensus in America, then I don’t see much hope for any improvement at all just the continuation of the painfull and slow decline.


  11. Matt Lon 24 May 2008 at 4:12 am 11

    MaX, thanks for the compliment, if I were smarter, the summary of conventional wisdom would have been shorter. You are right, mainstream conservatives, or at least the ones on TV and mass media, do not seem to make a distinction between talking with Ahmadinejad, the president of an important state in the region and terrorists like Hamas, Hizbullah, al Queda, etc. Nobody on the left or right has advocated talking with al-Queda, but certainly the time is coming where the US will have to extend diplomatic recognition to Iran.

    I would say that recent American govm’t policy in the middle east has been based on a broad misreading of history. Every confrontation with Iran is not March 1938. There was a similar misreading of history in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Chenney said we would be liberators and clearly had 1989 in Eastern Europe when he said that. We were even treated to the TV spectacle of Sadam’s statue being toppled like Stalin’s in Budapest in 1956.

    We are trapped by our own historical narratives and this is not just a problem for american conservatives. This was the problem of Europe in the interwar years. Each nation had a narrative about why World War One happened. They were so anxious not to “repeat history” that they backed themselves into a new war with a series of diplomatic half steps and outright blunders.

  12. Maxon 24 May 2008 at 6:06 am 12

    Thank you Matt,
    and welcome to the forum.

    You’re insights come across as
    well reasoned, and informed.

  13. Maxon 25 May 2008 at 7:43 am 13

    Matt L
    on 24 May 2008 at 4:12 am

    “mainstream conservatives, or at least the ones on TV and mass media, do not seem to make a distinction between talking with Ahmadinejad, the president of an important state in the region and terrorists like Hamas, Hizbullah, al Queda, etc. Nobody on the left or right has advocated talking with al-Queda, but certainly the time is coming where the US will have to extend diplomatic recognition to Iran. ”

    That’s an interesting thought. However as
    4GW elements evolve, they grow, they survive,
    IF thier cause has legitimacy, they accumulate
    some measure of legitimacy.

    You can argue from that position (your quote) to some degree from the perspective of self interests, but from the postion of moral high ground, or the claim to always being “the good guys” that’s becoming extreamly tenuous.

    Good articles;

    Worthy opinion to be considered and included
    in the study of 4GW and our arsenal of ideas.
    Even if these do not change your opinion, in order
    to learn and grow these should be studied and considered.
    Negotiating with ‘Terrorists
    “the long war falicy”

    Fabius Maximus has explored in depth.
    Why is democracy perpetualy at war ?


  14. Fabius Maximuson 16 Jun 2008 at 10:27 am 14

    Here is an interesting exchange between Victor Davis Hanson and Patrick Buchanan, about Buchanan’s book.

    “Patrick J. Buchanan—Pseudo-Historian, Very Real Dissimulator”, 13 June 2008

  15. Maxon 16 Jun 2008 at 11:09 am 15

    FM Writes;

    “Here is an interesting exchange between Victor Davis Hanson and Patrick Buchanan, about Buchanan’s book.”

    Quite intense. Not having read Buchanan’s book but having fairly recently become a casual follower of his editorials.

    I have a built in instict to distrust historical revisionisim.

    Drudging up old wounds can be equally destructive.

    From what I can gather the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    In as much, and to a miniscule degree, as we’re re-living the same today, I can relate to Buchanan’s assertion that the lofty moral postion of western interests was over sold, and had tarnished somewhat
    by wars end.