Monday, February 20

The history of appeasement

More and more people (okay, bloggers, but that's almost the same thing) are beginning to see disturbing similarities between the growing pressure to appease Islamic terrorists, and the attempts in the 1930s to avoid war by trying to appease Adolf Hitler.

If you're under 40 or so and weren't a history or poli-sci major, you almost certainly weren't taught much about the events leading up to WW2. And it's a particularly good bet that none of your teachers ever told you about the near-catastrophic results of the policy of "appeasement."

This is no accident: It's hardly a secret that war sucks, but the so-called "progressive" forces in the U.S.--which include virtually everyone in the U.S. education establishment--have always taught their students that
1) war is never necessary;
2) it can always be avoided, if only one isn't stuck in the primitive mind-set of (gasp!) patriotism;
3) there's no such thing as "evil," and if some foreign group kills a few thousand Americans then we probably deserved it and should put more effort into understanding their grievances--the "root causes" of their actions;
4) no foreign group really wants to kill Americans, and if any American claims otherwise, the speaker must be not only wrong, but actually dim-witted.
If any of these ideas sound familiar to you, you get points for learning what they were teaching.

Unfortunately, every one of the above points is false. In seeking to prevent future wars, so-called "progressive" educators have simply made up points that they wished were true.

In teaching you these things that were totally false, your teachers weren't being malicious (most of 'em, anyway): most adults agree that if children are taught the seamy or scary details of real life, they get traumatized. It's generally agreed that kids are happier and better adjusted if we let 'em believe the world isn't as threatening or grim as it really is.

(Ironically, this is one of the reasons society was so slow to recognize and develop defenses to child sexual abuse: very few adults wanted to let children know such threats to them even existed.)

But when one becomes an adult, most people are able to release the comforting myths of childhood. In fact, one of the hallmarks of being a "responsible adult" is that you deal with the world as it actually is, instead of as you wished it were.

So for you under-40 non-history majors, that's why you probably never heard about how the foolish strategy of "appeasement" almost resulted in Nazi Germany winning World War 2 and taking over the world. Here's how it happened:

The first World War (1914-1918) had seen the slaughter of millions of young men in a horribly efficient killing machine called "trench warfare." So many died that writers began calling them "the lost generation." By 1935--only 17 years after that ghastly war ended--the memory was still fresh. Moreover, the technology that had killed so many millions in the Great War had gotten even more deadly.

As a result, everyone was scared witless about the possibility of starting another war between the same nations.

This aversion was particularly strong in Britain, which had lost almost as many men as Germany. British universities--always centers of idealism untempered by reality--quickly became centers of radical pacifism, with young men formally signing pledges refusing to "die for king and country."

Not surprisingly, political parties in Britain that were the most vocal in renouncing war--regardless of provocation--won the most seats in Parliament and thus ran the government.

Unfortunately for the pacifists, reality intervened: Adolf Hitler had been a corporal in the German army in the Great War, and believed the real reason Germany had lost that war was because of Germany's king had surrendered even though the German army could eventually have turned the tide and won.

Hitler also believed the German race was genetically superior to others, and should logically rule the world. Finally, he claimed--with some justification--that the provisions of the treaty that ended the Great War were unreasonably harsh on Germany, and that they had intentionally been made that way because France and Britain wanted revenge against Germany for starting the war.

These three factors alone would probably have been enough to trigger a second world war. When set against the overriding British sentiment of "no war for any reason", the stage was set for disaster.

The extreme anti-war feelings in Britain--especially among young men of draft age--were well known throughout Europe, and Hitler correctly calculated that Britain would agree to virtually any demand he might make rather than risk war by opposing him.

Compounding the problem was an American president who was convinced that all problems between nations could be solved by negotiations. A bare majority in Congress agreed, which led Hitler and his advisors to conclude that America wouldn't intervene if war started in Europe. And in any case, in 1935 few analysts regarded America as a significant military power.

So with all Europe trying not to notice, Hitler proceeded to re-arm Germany and to move troops into a part of the country it was barred from by terms of the treaty ending the Great War. Internal German memos would later show that Hitler was worried that each of these acts would trigger military action against him, and was prepared to back down. But when other nations did nothing but talk, he concluded that the world would continue to avoid significant action against Germany regardless of what he did.

Convinced that the rest of the world would tolerate any provocation, Hitler became even more bold: He demanded that half of the nation that bordered Germany to the south--then called Czechoslovakia--be ceded to Germany. Not surprisingly, the Czech government objected. Hitler ordered his troops into Czechoslovakia and waited for the world's reaction.

This was the moment of truth: If the world would permit him to take possession of a large part of Czechoslovakia without firing a shot, Hitler knew he could probably continue the process indefinitely.

It was at this crucial moment that the Prime Minister of Britain--Neville Chamberlain--flew to Germany to meet with Hitler about this brazen provocation.

Hitler knew, both from Chamberlain's speeches in Britain and from the fact that Britain had made no preparations for war, that Chamberlain couldn't do anything more than talk. But the details of that talk were crucial: If the British PM threw down an ultimatum--withdraw your troops or we'll fight--Germany would have to choose between an embarrassing retreat and fighting before it was quite ready.

Accordingly, Hitler put on the appearance of being concessionary, promising Chamberlain that this would be Germany's last demand--and Chamberlain apparently believed him. On returning to Britain after the talks, Chamberlain was filmed stepping off the plane waving a piece of paper over his head and proudly proclaiming to the assembled crowds that he had achieved "peace in our time."

It would turn out to be one of the worst predictions ever: The second world war started barely a year after Chamberlain's fateful words.

Seven years and over 20 million dead later, the absurdity of the phrase--and the amazing degree of self-deception needed to utter it--was still sinking in. The phrase would later be used as a scathing metaphor for any politician who willfully ignored reality by trying to appease a tyrant whose demands were actually insatiable.

When children ignore reality, adults think it's cute. But when adults--and particularly the leaders of nations--do the same, the results are often disastrous. The extent to which Chamberlain ignored reality can be clearly seen in a speech he made to the House of Commons on his return from Munich, explaining what he had negotiated:
To those who dislike an ultimatum but who were anxious for a reasonable and orderly procedure, every one of [the] modifications [of the Godesberg Memorandum by the Munich Agreement] is a step in the right direction. It is no longer an ultimatum, but is a method which is carried out largely under the supervision of an international body.
Here the self-delusion is clear: In consecutive sentences an "ultimatum"--a demand that correctly describes Hitler's actions--becomes "no longer an ultimatum." It becomes acceptable--at least in Chamberlain's woefully naive view--because it is carried out "under the supervision of an international body."

Remind you of a recent American politician?

Chamberlain went on to make excuses for the "difficulty" of Hitler's position, and to praise him for making "a real and a substantial contribution" to the situation--by agreeing to take the meeting with Chamberlain.
I do feel that the House ought to recognise the difficulty for a man in that position to take back such emphatic declarations as he had already made amidst the enthusiastic cheers of his supporters, and to recognise that in discuss with the representatives of other Powers those things which he had declared he had already decided...was a real and a substantial contribution on his part.
Chamberlain went on to complete this demonstration of naivete by praising the fascist Italian dicatator Mussolini, who sided with Germany in WW2:
With regard to Signor Mussolini, . . . I think that Europe and the world have reason to be grateful to the head of the Italian government for his work in contributing to a peaceful solution.
Rarely are delusion and naivete so openly demonstrated. In hindsight it's hard to consider Chamberlain anything other than a complete fool--a naif totally gulled by the two fascist dictators, Hitler and Mussolini.

Today the American Left resolutely denies that radical Islamists want to impose their laws and rule on the world. By insisting that we make concession after concession to their demands, and by seeking to block any military action against them, they may be setting the stage for the inevitable war.

As has often been said, those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

[H/t Wretchard at Belmont Club]

Wednesday, February 15

An astonishing letter from Iraq

The following letter--purportedly from the mayor of Tal'Afar, Iraq--appeared on a "milblog" (The Mudville Gazette) on Feb 13th, 2006:
In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful

To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tal'Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner.

Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young.

This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi's followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.

I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.

The leaders of this Regiment--COL McMaster, COL Armstrong, LTC Hickey, LTC Gibson, and LTC Reilly--embody courage, strength, vision and wisdom. Officers and soldiers alike bristle with the confidence and character of knights in a bygone era. The mission they have accomplished, by means of a unique military operation, stands among the finest military feats to date in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and truly deserves to be studied in military science. This military operation was clean, with little collateral damage, despite the ferocity of the enemy. With the skill and precision of surgeons they dealt with the terrorist cancers in the city without causing unnecessary damage.

God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women. From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget. To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones.

Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hover around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land. Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.

Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven't the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families.

Mayor of Tal'Afar, Ninewa, Iraq
If the letter is authentic, we thank the mayor not only for writing a beautiful and touching letter, but also for having the raw courage to stand so openly in a country where terrorists are still killing an average of a dozen Iraqi civilians each and every day.

The letter says what those of us with military experience (including parents of those in the U.S. armed forces) know is true: American servicemen (and women) are absolutely the best. We are constantly awed by their heroic behavior and self-sacrifice.

Truly, these people are America's best and most noble. And that's a truth that the Leftists and Dems will fight fiercely to hide, because it totally demolishes the core of their theme.

Which leads to the question, Have you heard even the *slightest* mention of this moving, beautiful letter in the mainstream media? Of course you haven't--for the reason cited in the preceding paragraph.

The American media is eager to trumpet every single bit of bad news from Iraq, while good news or even praise from Iraqis is never mentioned.

If you want to have some fun, write a letter to the editor of your local paper and ask if they know this story. Since they typically only know what comes in on the AP wire, they've probably never heard about it. Accordingly, they'll either ignore you or claim you're making it up. They may even claim it's a hoax (a standard response to information one would like to bury).

Ask them to investigate. They won't, of course, but the request may get them to recognize (even if unconsciously) that the AP wire often doesn't represent the truth