Look at their shoes

Matthew Yglesias recommends Jeffrey Record’s monograph, “Appeasement Reconsidered: Investigating the Mythology of the 1930s.”

I realize no one is going to read that and think, “Ooooh, a monograph! How exciting!” But if you’ve got a crazy uncle/co-worker/president who makes a habit of invoking Neville Chamberlain to dismiss any hesitation to invade Iraq/bomb Iran/annihilate Fredonia, then Record’s thoughtful separation of reality and myth may come in handy. Record can’t be dismissed as a dirty hippy, and his paper was published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College — so he’s got the kind of hawkish credentials to which your crazy uncle/co-worker/president likes to pay lip service.

Much of the monograph is remedial history — an explanation of why what he calls the “Munich Analogy” isn’t really applicable even to Munich. But let’s jump ahead to Record’s conclusion:

Invocations of the Munich Analogy to Justify Use of Force Should Be Closely Examined.

Such invocations have more often than not been misleading because security threats to the United States genuinely Hitlerian in scope and nature have not been replicated since 1945. Though the Munich analogy’s power as a tool of opinion mobilization is undeniable, no enemy since Hitler has, in fact, possessed Nazi Germany’s combination of military might and willingness — indeed, eagerness — to employ it for unlimited conquest. This does not mean the United States should withhold resort to force against lesser threats. Nor does it mean that Hitlerian threats are a phenomenon of the past; an al-Qaida armed with deliverable nuclear weapons or usable biological weapons would pose a direct and much more lethal threat to the United States than Nazi Germany ever did.

The problem with seeing Hitler in Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and Saddam Hussein is that it reinforces the presidential tendency since 1945 to overstate threats for the purpose of rallying public and congressional opinion, and overstated threats in turn encourage resort to force in circumstances where deterrence, containment, even negotiation (from strength) might better serve long-term U.S. security interests. Threats that are, in fact, limited tend to be portrayed in Manichaean terms, thus skewing the policy choice toward military action, a policy choice hardly constrained by possession of global conventional military primacy and an inadequate understanding of the limits of that primacy.

If the 1930s reveal the danger of underestimating a security threat, the post-World War II decades contain examples of the danger of overestimating a security threat.

That’s all quite thoughtful, reasonable and factually sound. The problem here, though, is that the people Record is responding to don’t give a damn about thought, reason or facts. They are not arguing in good faith.

No one who invokes Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Analogy is arguing in good faith. That goes for your crazy uncle, your co-worker, President Bush and John McCain. Just look at their shoes. Are the laces tied? No one smart enough to be capable of tying their own shoelaces is stupid enough to really believe what they’re saying when they invoke this analogy.

The one-size-fits-all Munich template requires that we pretend that all diplomacy is capitulation. It requires that we pretend that containment, deterrence, isolation, sanctions, international pressure, inspections, soft power, summit meetings, aid, withholding aid, trade and every other form of possible influence whether political, economical or cultural are all just cowardly euphemisms for surrender.

To really believe that, one would have to be sublimely ignorant of history, geography, politics and the basic vocabulary of the English language. That level of perfect ignorance takes too much effort to achieve and sustain for anyone to master it accidentally.

It is simply not possible that these people are sincere. They do not — they cannot — believe what they are saying.

So there’s no point in responding to them by patiently attempting to explain that diplomacy does not equal capitulation. Anyone who really required such an explanation wouldn’t be capable of understanding it.

Discussions of civility often focus on the superficial, such as avoiding name-calling and not using dirty words. But those minor transgressions against civility are nothing compared to the fundamental duplicity of the sort practiced by those crying “appeasement” and “Chamberlain” at every turn. Such duplicity and dishonesty precludes civility, it makes honest conversation and dialogue impossible.

When confronted with such disingenuousness, then, the only way to defend civility is to put those lying mofos on notice by calling bullshit. That’s not a dirty word, it’s a precisely accurate and appropriate response.

  • Jeff

    Please to note that as Bush and McSame were falsely accusing Obama of “appeaserment”, Bush actually was attempting to appease one of the enemies of the United States. Unfortunately, he was as bad at it as he is at everything else, so the Saudis laughed at his efforts. I think further appeasement was made, to get the Saudis to agree.

  • David

    I don’t usually like Chris Matthews, but anyone who has not yet seen this video must must must watch it. It is the most astonishing slam dunk obliteration of the “appeasement” argument I’ve ever seen. (All due respect to fred :-P)
    Radio Host Kevin James Walks into a Smackdown

  • Karen

    I’ve always thought that the fact that WWII was the lone example in history of a necessary war. All the others, and I do mean all, should have been avoided. It makes us feel good, so even though there can be no lesson learned from a unique and unrepeated event, we keep trying to find one. If we tried to learn the “lesson of 1914,” we’d be much better off.

  • Karen

    Ursula L, you have a point.

  • http://doctorscience.blogspot.com Doctor Science

    It is simply not possible that these people are sincere
    I must respectfully disagree, Fred.
    IMHO they *are* sincere. It’s not so much that they are ignorant of history, etc., as that they are filtering everything through a narrative. They are telling themselves a story, and I think our own Praline has most accurately nailed it: Macho Sue:

    The essential story structure of a Macho Sue tends to revolve around untouchable pride. If love means never having to say you’re sorry, being Macho Sue means the whole of reality loves you. Typically, Macho Sue’s storyline follows a certain trajectory: he begins by acting egregiously, picking or provoking fights and causing problems. However much the ensuing difficulties can be laid at his door, Macho Sue is not about to apologise, in any way. So the problems continue – only to be salvaged by some immense reversals that give the impression that he was right all along. The man he insulted turns out, suddenly, to be a bad guy. The woman who dislikes him falls into his strong arms when he solves a problem that is not the same problem he caused for her. People change their personalities, storylines shift and flip like a mechanical maze popping up new paths and lowering old gates in order to keep Macho Sue from ever, ever having to backtrack. As John Wayne says, ‘Never say sorry – it’s a sign of weakness.’

    Your crazy uncle/co-worker/President is telling himself a Macho Sue story, he’s invoking Munich because he’s re-imagined Winston Churchill as the Macho Sue star of WWII, the unshakable fighter who was right all along.
    IMHO the parallels to “Left Behind” are exact. It doesn’t matter to their fans that LaHaye & Jenkins have re-written or tossed out great swaths of the Bible — “Left Behind” is a more satisfying, simple narrative for them, so when they do go to the Bible they will read it through the filter of “Left Behind”.
    I’m starting to think that what we need isn’t logic, history, thought, or knowledge; what we need is better *stories*.

  • Salamanda

    David, thank you for that.
    “HEY! HEY! CHRIS! HEY CHRIS! HEY—WHADDAYA MEAN ‘BLANK SLATE’??”
    I LOL’d. ^.^

  • Kevin James

    It’s the EXACT SAME THING! It’s the EXACT SAME THING!

  • Reynard

    No one who invokes Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Analogy is arguing in good faith(…)
    The one-size-fits-all Munich template requires that we pretend that all diplomacy is capitulation. It requires that we pretend that containment, deterrence, isolation, sanctions, international pressure, inspections, soft power, summit meetings, aid, withholding aid, trade and every other form of possible influence whether political, economical or cultural are all just cowardly euphemisms for surrender.
    To really believe that, one would have to be sublimely ignorant of history, geography, politics and the basic vocabulary of the English language. That level of perfect ignorance takes too much effort to achieve and sustain for anyone to master it accidentally.
    It is simply not possible that these people are sincere. They do not — they cannot — believe what they are saying.

    Sorry, but they Sincerely, Passionately believe what they’re saying. Doctor Science is quite correct in his assessment, but I think it goes a bit further than that. I think that one of the aims behind the Chamberlain/Appeasement argument is to do nothing less than rewrite history — make it look, as you imply above, as if *ALL* non-military interaction with “unfriendly” foreign powers is “surrender”. Bush and his PNAC posse wanted to go to war with Iraq in order to have a (potentially) reliable source of relatively cheap oil. In order to do this, they had to bend every rule of sound diplomacy to the breaking point. One of the ways that they did this, of course, was to magnify the size of the so-called “threat” that Saddam Hussein posed to us all out of proportion to actual reality. And since it worked once, they’re trying it again — only this time, their target is Barack Obama and the Dems. By painting all forms of diplomacy (summit meetings, aid, trade, etc.) and any other sanctions short of war (containment, deterrence, isolation, etc.) as ” appeasement”, and anyone who advocates anything-short-of-Total-War as “appeasers”, they can paint themselves as the Sincere, Passionate, Churchillian Macho Sues; saving the World from the Forces of Evil and fact-based history.

  • Technomad

    The thing is—Neville Chamberlain was not just bending over and greasing up. He was playing for time—the UK in the 1930s was by no means ready for another war (they were still recovering from the last one, and the Depression hadn’t helped any) and if they’d gone to war over Czechoslovakia, they’d have made a sorry spectacle of themselves.
    Also, blaming him for not realizing that Hitler was crazy strikes me as a little unfair—the Germans had a lot closer look and could understand what he said (I studied German in HS and college but can’t follow any of the recorded Hitler speeches I’ve ever heard; I can’t pick out one word) and they didn’t see it until it was way too late.

  • alfgifu

    The thing is—Neville Chamberlain was not just bending over and greasing up. He was playing for time—the UK in the 1930s was by no means ready for another war (they were still recovering from the last one, and the Depression hadn’t helped any) and if they’d gone to war over Czechoslovakia, they’d have made a sorry spectacle of themselves.
    Exactly.
    Chamberlain is one of my personal heroes. After WWI, was a huge eternal peace movement in favour of avoiding all wars ever after. Understandably, really. Britain disarmed and concentrated all energies on administration of the Empire and desperately trying to work out what to do about this Gandhi geezer. Even as Hitler began to reject all the treaties he had made, there was a certain amount of sympathy for him from the British public – after all, the Treaty of Versailles had been very rough on Germany and the country was in a shambles. It seemed only fair to give the man who was saving Germany some rope. There were a few voices around in the public sphere who recognised the growing danger – Churchill, G. K. Chesterton – but most of the country was so determined never to go to war again that they convinced themselves that war was not an option.
    Chamberlain had the impossible job of trying to stay out of a war with Hitler. That was what the country elected him to do. That was his mandate from the people. He made mistakes, yes, especially at Munich, but he bought time and did begin the process of rearmament which was so necessary. Unlike various other members of the Cabinet at that time, he never considered surrender. Then he died of bowel, six months after leaving office and without having time to really impact the war government, in which he remained a key figure. Churchill said:
    It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart-the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour. Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.
    Alas, the verdict of history is shriller and less understanding that Churchill hoped.

  • Caravelle

    But, absent Chamberlain’s attempts to negotiate and compromise, WWII would not have been the “good war” from the Allied perspective – the war of last resort, uncontrovertibly necessary and justified. Rather, it would have been another WWI, a mad rush to war, which, now, we’d be looking back at and wondering if it, and all the associated horrors, could have been averted.
    If Europe had negotiated in the aftermath of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, perhaps we’d now be looking back, and saying that the Serbs were betrayed, and that it was a wrong attempt to avoid another, later, war. Or perhaps, both WWI and WWII might have been averted. We can’t know.

    That’s an interesting point, and the funny thing is I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all. Before WWI some parts of Europe wanted to go to war. A bit like the US with the pre-Iraq maskerade really. So whether they jumped at the assassination as a convenient pretext, or whether they were so prejudiced that they didn’t consider for a second there might be a problem, either way negociation would have been pointless.
    And on the other hand, Neville Chamberlain’s “appeasement” probably came from the very awareness you describe in wanting to avert another WWI.

  • Rosina

    Before WWI some parts of Europe wanted to go to war.
    This is undoubtedly true, but the story of the days between the assassination and the declarations of war reads like a multiple train crash, with every driver looking in his manual to find out how to stop it, how to divert, what to do next. Messages were not instantaneous, and with all the links and alliances, and military contingency plans, you had to be sure you were not caught on the hop by your friend’s enemy’s friend. So if country A, which had a treaty with Country B, which had just failed to meet the deadline on the last message you sent them about their relationship with D, sent out letters suggesting that its soldiers start packing their over-night bags, you had better book the trains to take you to the border, just in case they intend to invade. So A goes back and orders their troops to the border to repel the invasion that’s actually intended as a defence force, and then the generals think – let’s use the Schlieffen Plan. And you’re at war. Even if country B was just getting the message onto a train to you.

  • Tonio

    Neville Chamberlain was not just bending over and greasing up. He was playing for time…
    Did Chamberlain have a prissy personality that would have served as a subtext for the Munich Analogy? Or have I heard too many American homophobes claim that Tom Cruise and Jeff Gordon are gay?

  • http://michellegalo.blogspot.com Michelle

    Above, I guess I should have clarified also that in my experience, a single person is capable of being remarkably reasonable about one matter while wearing tremendous blinders as to another. I have met religious people who were extremely intelligent and rational about anything until you asked why they believed something, at which point they would retreat behind “faith” as if reason didn’t matter.

  • Lurker

    Michelle,
    I’d like to note that Hitler’s rise of power was not by no means determined by the result of WWI. You might say that Weimar Republic was doomed from the start, but the rise of Hitler was more of a quirk of history. After all, almost all Central and Eastern European countries (excepting Chechoslovakia and Finland) stooped to different types of right-wing dictatorships. This was quite bound to happen in Germany, too. This is why Hitler was a respectable negotiation partner: most national leaders in Europe were dictators. However, the other dictators were not nearly as aggressive as Hitler. Even the Soviet Union, headed by madman Stalin, was playing by the rules of traditional diplomacy in 1930′s.
    After all, with better luck, it might have been the Stahlhelm or some other right-wing extremist block instead of NSDAP that got the power in Germany. Then, Germany would have had a usual run-of-the-mill dictator like Pilsudski, Päts or Horthy. With such a man, negotiation would have been possible. Chamberlain had no way of knowing Hitler was a madman.

  • Don

    Having — finally — finished reading the last book I recall you recommending (War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning), I have a better understanding of the risk of an overstated threat. Once things have reached a point where there is a them, it is much easier to view them as a threat. If the threat is already accepted, it’s ever so much easier to overstate it.

  • Tonio

    The difference between a person irrationally arguing for a war that will kill thousands or millions of people and a person who just can’t put into words where their faith comes from are really two different things.
    The first person probably doesn’t know that his stance is irrational one. His stance may be driven from a belief about humanity or an emotional issue, and he may not be aware of this or he simply refuses to question the basis for the belief or issue.
    For the second person, I can only guess from looking at the outside. Maybe the distinction between believers like Fred and believers like James Dobson is simply one of self-awareness – perhaps the former recognize that they cannot explain where their faith comes from. Would that be accurate or fair?

  • hapax

    an analogy between irrationality about war and supposed irrationality about faith.
    As both a pacifist and an irrational faith-monger, I didn’t read Michelle’s comment that way at all. Just as I can accept that a person can rationally support the necessity of organized armed violence, so long as they begin with different premises than I do, so I must sadly recognize many devoutly religious people will blindly support conclusions that contradict the premises of their sincere faith, because they have a greater emotional investment in those conclusions than in the premises.

  • Ian

    Technomad, Ursula, I have to disagree — Chamberlain’s policy was very unwise, even without the benefit of hindsight.
    First, it seems quite possible, IMHO, that Chamberlain really did think that he had secured “peace in our time.” At least, at the end of that round of negotiations he was publicly very proud of the peace deal he’d hammered out, a rather silly and reputation destroying thing to do if he secretly expected a war.
    Second, if Chamberlain was playing for time, he did so quite badly. As Tonio was saying, even if Britain was ill prepared, its ally France had its big, clumsy military together while at the same time Germany was quite weak — remember that Germany’d been demilitarized not long prior to the war. Once Hitler’d gobbled up the rest of Czechoslovakia in violation of his agreement with Chamberlain, he was able to rearm Germany much faster than he otherwise could have. The Czechs had a very strong munitions industry, including the Krupp Arms Works which was deservingly famous for making both the best artillery in the world and cutting-edge tanks…
    “Peace in our time” also accelerated Germany’s preparations for war by getting the competent little Czech army out of the way. Who knows, simultaneously fighting on three fronts (Western, Polish, Czech) might have slowed down the blitz, reduced the fear of German invincibility, and maybe ameliorated the panic which led to the collapse of the French military.
    /war nerd
    The problem with Chamberlain is not that he was an appeaser but that he was a credulous appeaser — he gave up a huge military concession in exchange for empty words. He might rightly have expected Germany to behave like other, saner dictatorships, but he should not have given away the store. Chamberlain gave a very good diplomatic strategy a bad name.
    —————————
    Note: “peace in our time” is a phrase from the Anglican liturgy: “give peace in our time O Lord, and evermore mightily defend us.”

  • Tonio

    The Czechs had a very strong munitions industry
    I didn’t know that. I wondered for a second if Hitler’s talk about unifying the German peoples was really a pretense for seizing the munitions industry. But that would presume that Hitler wasn’t a madman.

  • Ursula L

    Thoughts I forgot to add to the last post:
    The French army was not Chamberlain’s to commit. I’m not sure it would have been possible to persuade the French to start a war at that time – and without their willingness, any agressive inclination by Britain towards Germany was impossible.
    There was no way for Britain, alone, to engage Germany without going through another nation. A focused, narrow war, just to protect Czechoslovakia, may have been politically feasible, and morally justified, at that point, but it would have been utterly impossible for Britain to, on its own, reach it. (The equivalent of driving Iraq out of Kuwait.) General war with Germany was both politically more difficult to swallow, and harder to morally justify.

  • Lauren

    That would have been me @ 12:40

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    Oh and something else: If we’re going to talk about Hitler, may I humbly offer the resource I have been helping, as an employee of the Cornell University Law Library, to build for the past couple of months: the Donovan Nuremburg Trials Collection: Digital scans, indexed, of General William Donovan’s papers during his stint as prosecutor at Nuremburg.

  • Caravelle

    As for the French army breaking down – that had as much or more to do with the legacy of WWI, with its insane charges over the top, the years of trench warfare, etc. There is no reason to believe that the memory of that horror would have been less powerful several years closer to the fact.
    From what I understood, a big big problem with the French army was (as usual I want to say) being very prepared for the previous war. Which in this case meant heavily fortifying the Franco-German border. Except that the Germans completely bypassed that by going through Belgium.
    I don’t know what that implies for a what-if situation where France and Britain had attacked a few years earlier, but it’s possible that if they had been on the offensive this kind of manoeuver wouldn’t have been possible, or as surprising.

  • jamoche

    Czechoslovakia also had the most convenient uranium mines, which contributed to the worry that the Germans might have a viable nuclear program even though they’d driven off most of the top scientists.

  • The Navigator

    One thing to remember in debates with knee-jerk pro-war interlocutors is that with “appeasement,” just as with abortion, gay rights, any number of issues, it’s not a question of heading down a slippery slope to a bad end – we’re (almost) always on the slippery slope already. We’re currently “appeasing” North Korea, for instance. Utterly unlike Iraq, North Korea has been actively and recently engaged in a serious way in global nuclear proliferation, e.g. A. Q. Khan’s network in Pakistan, the Syrian plant that Israel attacked. North Korea is, in just about every way, the evil nation AND global threat that Bush tried to argue Saddam was. Yet, we have not invaded North Korea – in fact, we’re negotiating with them.
    Likewise, we have not invaded Saudi Arabia, or Sudan, or Burma, or China, or Syria, or Pakistan, or any other nation that has caused us problems. Rather, we have tried to deal with those nations by talking, and in several cases, have explicitly refrained from taking a maximalist position and thus either directly or indirectly allowed those countries to do things we would like them not to do. Thus, if appeasement has any of the meaning that the right is trying to ascribe to it, we are presently appeasing a whole host of countries.
    Apologies if this point was made above – I didn’t have time to read the whole thread.

  • Anonymous

    “Madman” isn’t a synonym for “idiot”…the choice to go after the Sudetenland first and the Polish corridor later may have been motivated by a desire to capture the munitions industry.
    I agree. My point about Hitler’s madness had to do with his goal of unification, not with the logic of his strategy for trying to achieve it. I was suggesting that if Hitler wasn’t mad, he may have pursued the munitions for their own sake and used the unification idea as a propaganda tool, in an almost Bismarckian approach.

  • Caravelle

    @Hawker Hurricane : hey, it seems you’re right. Funny that my high school teachers got that wrong, unless I got that idea somewhere else.

  • Technomad

    Part of the problem Czechoslovakia had was that its army, while very well-equipped, wasn’t necessarily all that good. Keep in mind—the country had been kludged together out of four different nationalities, and only the Czechs themselves were really happy with it. The Slovaks felt that they were sucking hind tit all the time, the Ukranians in the far east didn’t like the deal they’d received, and do any of you expect the Sudeten Germans to fight for Czechoslovakia against Germany?

  • Hawker Hurricane

    My high school teachers taught it to me as well… I learned the ‘truth’ reading translated French materials…
    (To which I am grateful to the author of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Republic’ to pointing out both the reasons for the Maginot Line AND the original documents)

  • danAlwyn

    By some accounts, the Maginot Line was one of the most successful fortifications in history. They were so powerful that nobody dared attack them. That didn’t save France, but this is more of an issue for the strategists than the architects…

  • Tonio

    the country had been kludged together out of four different nationalities
    The same was true of Yugoslavia and Iraq, suggesting that Britain treated its nation-building like a jigsaw puzzle.

  • Jeff

    Messages were not instantaneous, and with all the links and alliances, and military contingency plans, you had to be sure you were not caught on the hop by your friend’s enemy’s friend.
    A hat-tip to the game of Diplomacy seems called for, at this point.
    ====================
    If WWI was avoidable, then WWII was likewise avoidable; when we failed to avoid I, II became inevitable.
    Not really. If the Americans and British had been allowed to set the terms for the Germans, they wouldn’t have been crippled as badly as they were. Leave Germany with a good, functioning economy and Hitler has no platform on which to base his appeals.
    =========================
    I wondered for a second if Hitler’s talk about unifying the German peoples was really a pretense for seizing the munitions industry. But that would presume that Hitler wasn’t a madman.
    At the start of the war, Hitler had fairly smart war strategies. (By the end of the war, not so much.) That had nothing to do with whether he was a “madman”.
    ============================
    the Bf 109, had already entered service before the Munich crisis, and had seen action in the Spanish Civil War
    I’ll have to go back to a the War Stories comic that deals with the Spanish Civil War so I can air some of the claims Ellis makes, since I don’t want to do it from memory.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Well, while the French military was 1st rate at the lower levels (say, Major and below) it suffered from to many politicians pretending to be Generals and vice versa. The real disadvantage the French had was they had lost too many young men between 1914 and 1920. The men who died in the trenches (and from the misnamed Spainish Flu) didn’t have any sons to take thier place in 1938. France was outnumbered by the Germans; they had to have the Belgians and British on thier side to make up the numbers. In a similar fasion, the French economy was still in a shambles from “The Great War”; they couldn’t afford everything they needed. They were defensive oriented by nescessity, as being offensive minded in the last war had bankrupted them and slaughtered thier young men.
    French soldiers fought bravely enough… but thier leadership was inept (or senile… take your pick). Germany had been forced by the Versaille Treaty to reduce thier military to a token force; they used this to purge thier officer corps of the deadwood. France had taken the deadwood and put them in charge of the Army…

  • Jeff

    You can’t write one of the major combatants out of a peace process.
    I’m not saying they should have written the French out, but the British suffered a fair amount as well (I agree that the US should have had very little or no say in the agreements). Just having the French dial it back a little would have helped. There were punishments that could have been inflicted without wrecking the German economy.
    (The French suffered more than a little during WW2, but the PTB were smart enough to keep Germany afloat that time.)

  • Froborr

    The same was true of Yugoslavia and Iraq, suggesting that Britain treated its nation-building like a jigsaw puzzle.
    Not to mention the Israel-Lebanon-Jordan clusterfuck we all know and love.
    ‘course, France did much the same in Africa, hence all the civil wars there…

  • http://mmcirvin.livejournal.com/ Matt McIrvin

    Did Chamberlain have a prissy personality that would have served as a subtext for the Munich Analogy?
    I don’t know and have never heard any indication that he did, but this actually brings up an interesting point I’d never thought of before: to an American steeped in our cultural stereotypes, “Neville Chamberlain” is a sissy-sounding name. That’s probably a large part of the reason the attack is so effective: comparing someone to Neville Chamberlain isn’t a historical analogy at all, it’s an acceptable way of saying “Wimpy McPrissypants”.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/ngowen/ dr ngo

    “Neville Chamberlain” is a sissy-sounding name. That’s probably a large part of the reason the attack is so effective: comparing someone to Neville Chamberlain isn’t a historical analogy at all, it’s an acceptable way of saying “Wimpy McPrissypants”.
    True enough, and a nice point, but if you stop to think about it, and try to abstract your actual historical consciousness, “Winston Churchill” is just as sissy-sounding a name, to my (American) ear. The difference is that WC didn’t look sissified – the bulldog growl, the cigar, &c. – and had spent his whole life since hacking around in the Boer War as a young man proving that he was *not* the wuss his name might otherwise have employed. Which goes to show: but what?
    On an earlier point, about the coming of WWI and the complications of communications and alliances and mustering or mobilizing troops, someone has suggested a hat-tip to the game Diplomacy, but for those of my generation – and all subsequent, I suspect – the source chiefly responsible for popularizing, if not inventing, this interpretation is Barbara Tuchman, in The Guns of August (1962), which was enormously popular and influential among anyone who thought anything about the situation.
    And continuing my theme of unrelated and probably pointless observations: I went to college with Jeff Record, during the era in which The Guns of August came out. I’m just saying . . .

  • Caravelle

    However, after all that France had been through in WWI, there was no chance that they’d be willing to take the back seat in planning the peace, and let Britain and the US set the terms. Particularly the US, which suffered the least in WWI (having joined so late), it would have been political death for a French leader to say to their people, “sorry, you’ve lost almost all your sons and brothers of a certain age, but we’re going to let others set an easy peace for the enemy that killed them.”
    Hey, if they’d done that maybe some other country would have a “stabbed in the back by Versailles” mythology to cling to… Some people say if Hitler hadn’t turned out in Germany he’d have turned out in France; that’s probably wrong because anti-semitism and economic problems aren’t the only things that made Hitler, but your scenario might make it more likely.
    (The French suffered more than a little during WW2, but the PTB were smart enough to keep Germany afloat that time.)
    Well, it depends on how you define “suffered”. They were occupied, Jews other minorities and many resistance fighters (aka terrorists) were deported and/or tortured and/or killed, but as far as number of deaths goes there is no comparing to WWI.
    Also, the Powers That Be presumably remembered the great results of breaking Germany last time. They didn’t have that hindsight in 1914.

  • http://blogs.scienceforums.net/swansont/ Tom

    “No one smart enough to be capable of tying their own shoelaces is stupid enough to really believe what they’re saying when they invoke this analogy.”
    Bush, McCain, et. al, tie their own shoelaces? They have people to do that for them.

  • Michael Llaneza

    Chamberlain did buy a year to re-arm, and the RAF was in a much better position in 1939 than in 1938. But the year wasn’t to the overall gain of the Allies. When I make a Munich reference I mean that a known aggressor got what they wanted without being confronted. Ask the Kuwaitis how well we’ve learned from that. Very few Chamberlain supporters acknowledge that the threat of war could have been effective, that’s not just hindsight. Taking a stand against Hitler was obviously necessary after Austria.
    The extra year or so helped the Germans just as much as the British, probably more so. By absorbing Czechoslovakia they prevented a war on two fronts. Even worse, they acquired 219 Czech tanks which doubled their inventory of medium tanks (by 1939 standards anyway, the 206 Mk IIIs and the 35ts both had 47mm guns, the 141 Mk IVs had short 75s). The air threat against Britain only materialized when France collapsed and the Luftwaffe got bases within escort range of London. The Spitfire and Hurricane would have come into production during the war, with some Hurricane squadrons available at the start.
    The big problem was the Eastern front would be in existence from the start. The generals hated the idea of going to war over Czechoslovakia, they thought they’d get whipped and they were quite likely right. A smaller German army facing a strong French army and a Czech one would have been in serious trouble even with the French army as it was in 1938.
    The extra year got the French army about 800 light and medium tanks. It didn’t help, since the Germans had vastly more strength available in 1940. Air power is the wildcard in the numbers I have, but the Luftwaffe wasn’t as strong in 1938 as it was in 1939 – 260 Stukas instead of 600+.
    This was the reverse of WWI, Germany was gaining strength relative to the Allies instead of losing it. And they had been for years. The reoccupation of the Rhineland would have been ideal. It was allowed by treaty and a good idea.


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