Hitler, Churchill and Chamberlain
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg
Matt Duss makes a great observation about the recent dust up on appeasement:
For conservative national security policy to function properly, it must always be 1938, the storm must always be gathering. There must always be new Hitlers to confront: Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein again, and now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are among the various new Adolf Hitlers against whom America has faced off during my lifetime. And, of course, with new Hitlers always come new Neville Chamberlains who refuse to see the dangers. Naturally, the right always get to play Winston Churchill, who is, in their colouring book version of history, the paragon of manly manliness, knocking assorted Chamberlains aside as they brusquely sign declaration of war, and then reach for the brandy and cigars.
This reminds me of a final exam question I once had in graduate school. "World War II and World War I yield exactly opposite lessons on how foreign policy should be conducted. So what can we actually learn from this paradox about the nature of war and peace?" After all, World War I was a war that no side wanted to fight and that all expected would be over quickly. Posturing and a willingness to too casually jump to the use of force without thinking through the consequences played a significant role. Poor communication between the Germans and the British who misunderstood each other's intentions was also critical. And of course there were the German generals who felt that they had no choice but to attack first before they were attacked.
But conservatives tend to ignore that little war that killed millions in Europe. Doesn't fit the narrative and the world view.