Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Appeasers by Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott

This contribution puts to rest the notion that Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax deliberately coaxed and indulged the Germans with appeasement in order to give England a chance to rearm and prepare for the war against Germany.  The authors forcefully show how from the time of the Treaty of Versailles that the English were in no mood to commit to a war and were committed to peace at a very heavy price even at the expense of Poland's sacrifice until the moral outrage and public opinion demanded that England keep their committed alliance and guarantee.

The outrageous treaty that stripped Germany of its assets and pride is seen by the British as an embarrassment.  The British seem eager to re-establish the 'Anglo/Saxon' bound and out of guilt offer appeasing policies, allocating colonies and allowing the break up Czechoslovakia and ultimate annexation of Austria to placate the Germans and blunt to impact of Versailles.

There is ample evidence that the diplomatic corp throughout the 1930's offered intelligence that suggested that Hitler's appetite was far greater that anything Chamberlain envisioned would satiate. The diplomats were concerned with the emerging brutality of the Nazi regime, its Anti-Semitism and quashing of any dissent; that it signaled the impossibility of reason.

The element of secrecy became necessary because the British public opinion would not tolerate the betrayal of its ally France.  If in secret, an agreement of peace could be reached it could be announced dramatically and heroically. Chamberlain really thought that the public waiving of the Munich agreement would stave off war.  In retrospect, Hitler exploited Chamberlain's guilt all along with continued demands.  Hitler was never interested in peace, he was interested in conquest and hegemony over the world.

All countries are committed to peace. Appeasement, however, seems likely when a country lacks the will power to fulfill obligations. Even when England had a guarantee for Poland's sovereignty, it still secretly pressed Poland to deal with Germany's demands!  The demand for peace not only can obstruct the enemy's true intentions but it also can demoralize morale.  The public moral outrage brought down the Chamberlain government and brought on Churchill as PM. It is interesting to note that as a member of the cabinet, and even one who staunchly and consistently criticized Appeasement, Churchill did not publicly demand the fall of the government, nor was responsible for it.

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