January 16, 2010

Quote of the Day

Appeasement is much harder to accomplish than it seems. It is not just a matter of saying to the stronger side, There you go, have what you want, it’s all yours, just sign on the dotted line. The appeaser much accomplish two crucial tasks.

First, the appeaser must, to the greatest extent possible, disguise the fact that he is appeasing. He must portray himself as a peacemaker, as a man who has prevented or ended a war on decent terms. That is why, for example, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, returning from Munich after handing a chunk of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, said in an address from Downing Street on the evening of September 30, 1938, that he had achieved “peace with honor,” and that, as a thankful result, everyone should “go home and get a nice quiet sleep.” He had not appeased; he had kept the peace. Now go to sleep, go to sleep…

Second, the appeaser much persuade the victim to cooperate. Chamberlain was fortunate in this case, because Edvard Benes, the president of Czechoslovakia, had no visible alternative to surrendering the Sudetenland; his small country could not resist a German blitzkrieg, especially if Britain was on Germany’s side. As a result, Chamberlain was able to present the carve-up of Czechoslovakia as a sort of diplomatic euthanasia that the victim agreed to. He was lucky. If the victim resists, the appeaser is in a bind, because euthanasia turns into murder, and, instead of being a benevolent guide, soothing the victim as it is put to sleep, the appeaser must hold down the screaming victim as the terminal injection is administered. It is a very nasty business.

From Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maass.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 16, 2010 12:30 AM
Comments
[...] From Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maass. via the excellent Michael Totten [...]
Posted by: Appeasement « A Disorganised Mind at January 16, 2010 3:30 am
Michael,

This is not on topic, but do you have any thoughts as to who assassinated the Iranian physicist Massoud Ali-Mohammedi?
Posted by: Max at January 16, 2010 3:17 pm
Max: Do you have any thoughts as to who assassinated the Iranian physicist Massoud Ali-Mohammedi?

I don't know, but some think the government did it. Apparently he was on the side of the green revolution.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 16, 2010 5:08 pm
"the German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course."

Winston Churchill
House of Commons
5 October 1938

Substitute (fill in the blank) for "German."

Only a fool would refuse such an offer, and fools constitute less threatening enemies to the vigilant.
Posted by: Paul S. at January 16, 2010 10:50 pm
Essay question - Knowing only what people knew in 1938 - explain how Hitler's desire to protect the German population of the Sudetenland, living on the same land where their ancestors had lived for literally thousands of years, was a threat to world peace. Consider what legitimacy the Czechoslovak state, carved out of three Austrian provinces only 20 years earlier, really had. What was that legitimacy based on? If you knew that a majority of the Sudetenlanders wanted to join Germany, on what basis should the UK and the Prague governments decide that these people had no right to self determination?
Posted by: Ivan N at January 18, 2010 8:41 am
Ivan,

I believe Churchill answered that question for you.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 18, 2010 10:24 am
"on what basis should the UK and the Prague governments decide that these people had no right to self determination?"


UK and France were terrified of a united Germany. They couldn't care less about the brutal treatment ethnic Germans received by the majority Czech state.
Posted by: tg at January 18, 2010 10:44 am
The reason why Munich isn't really a symbol of anything is that the real appeasement happened in 1936 when Hitler marched into the Rhineland. That, not Munich, was where England and France really lost their nerve. At that point Hitler could have really been stopped with minimal loss of life, and probably would have faced significant domestic unrest had his gamble failed.

And at the same time Chamberlain was declaring "Peace in our time", both the British and French were indulging in unprecedented spending on arms and munitions, and kept on spending and building right through to Sep 1, 1939. It's an odd sort of "appeasement" that sees you preparing full bore for war. Chamberlain was not as feckless as later historians liked to portray him.
Posted by: Ivan N at January 18, 2010 12:41 pm
Watching "Why We Fight" was educational because Frank Capra used excerpts of Hitler's speeches, in which he insisted the Reich had no claims on territories that Germany wanted only good relations with, all of which were subsequently invaded.

Addressing threats sooner creates the possibility of confronting them at a lesser cost with a greater probability of prevailing. Realistic assessments and courage are required. However, even ultimately accurate foresight is always a guess, so courage is the key; it has to override understandable apprehension.
Posted by: Paul S. at January 18, 2010 6:42 pm
Actually, I believe George Kennan said something to the effect that Czechoslovakia made a mistake in not attempting to resist the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland after Munich. For one thing, the German generals were not confident of their ability to break through the very strong Czech mountain defenses.
Posted by: Ken B at January 18, 2010 8:37 pm
"brutal treatment ethnic Germans received by the majority Czech state."

Give me a break. The Germans in the first CS republic were not treated "brutally". The Czechoslovak state was a lawful one - a huge exception in the central Europe of 1930s.
Posted by: Marian Kechlibar at January 19, 2010 1:27 am
Yes, but that is precisely the power of propaganda.

Those awful Czechs, you see....

Hence, the German takeover is/was more than justified.

The Palestinians are doing the same thing. Rather well, in fact, with the help of their many friends. They haven't yet managed succeeded to destroy the Zionist Entity. And so they're suffering mightily. Those poor, poor people.

At least that's what they say. (And is there any reason why one shouldn't believe them?)
Posted by: Barry Meislin at January 19, 2010 7:27 am
Propaganda, as a window into the minds of both propagandist and audience, probably doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. A classic like "Triumph of the Will" depicts the subject exactly as he wanted to be depicted and, in the process, reveals some of his assumptions and expectations about its audience.
Posted by: Paul S. at January 19, 2010 1:21 pm
Consider what legitimacy the Czechoslovak state, carved out of three Austrian provinces only 20 years earlier, really had.
Posted by: china flowers at January 19, 2010 7:34 pm
china flowers, Ivan N,

Howzabout you answer your own essay questions and directives first. Then others (may)get back to you.
Posted by: del at January 19, 2010 9:35 pm
Far more relevant than Czechoslovakia's "legitimacy" or how many Sudeten Germans lived there was the fact that Hitler was a dangerous, evil madman. Churchill saw this. Chamberlain did not.
Posted by: Gary Rosen at January 19, 2010 11:23 pm
I watched "Triumph of the Will" again tonight. If you've never seen it, try to; Cinematographer Leni Riefenstahl's use of 1934 technology alone is stunning. The more we know about evil the better we can confront it, and defeat it.
Posted by: Paul S. at January 20, 2010 1:17 am
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