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Munich: Will we ever learn?

William Hamilton

In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and French Premier Edouard Daladier.

In Munich, Hitler demanded that the former Allies of World War I cede large portions of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany, Poland and Hungary. Oddly enough, the Czechs were not invited to attend.

So much of Czechoslovakia was given away that the Czechs who, after World War I, had one of Europe’s best armed forces, were left with terrain that was no longer militarily defensible. The Czechs called the resulting Munich Agreement the “Munich Betrayal.”

Surrounded by his kowtowing generals, Hitler, in part, justified his demand to be allowed to occupy the western portion of Czechoslovakia because, when Hitler annexed Austria to Germany in March 1938, that reconfigured the borders between Germany and Poland in such a way that the western portion of Czechoslovakia formed a bulge that pointed like a blunt arrowhead into the heartland of Germany.

Hello. Hitler’s annexation of Austria caused that border anomaly. So, that was akin to the child who murders his parents and then complains because he is an orphan.

Apparently, none of the Munich “peace-makers” took note of the irony or understood that the “democratic” façade of Munich was like two wolves and a lamb deciding what’s for dinner. Hitler and Mussolini were cast in the role of the wolves and the Czech nation as the lamb.

OK, professor. What does all this European History 101 have to do with radical Islam’s 21st century war against Western Civilization? Keep reading.

The popular notion is that Prime Minister Chamberlain, like Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg before him, caved in to the force of Hitler’s personality. Actually, the aging Chamberlain was in a game of Texas Hold ’em with Hitler in which Chamberlain had very few military cards to play.

So, the best Chamberlain could do was to fly back to London and declare “peace in our time.” But Chamberlain was also the victim of Ramsay MacDonald (Labor/Fabian Socialist) and Stanley Baldwin (Conservative), the two pro-disarmament prime ministers who preceded him in office. Yet it wasn’t that MacDonald, Baldwin and Chamberlain were not warned that the post-World War I race to disarm would only encourage Hitler to rearm.

Beginning in 1932, Sir Winston Churchill rose repeatedly before Parliament to warn the pro-disarmament members of His Majesty’s government that trying to convince France and the other nations bordering Germany to cut their armed forces in half as an inducement to Hitler not to rearm Germany was sheer folly.

Churchill’s appeals are recorded in his book While England Slept: A Survey of World Affairs, 1932-1938. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1938. Churchill, who commanded an infantry battalion in the trenches of World War I, knew the horrors of war firsthand. Reading his impassioned speeches reveals his dread that Great Britain would lose yet another generation of young men to a German war machine.

Like many who have been in actual combat, Churchill was a “realistic” pacifist.

For example, masters of the martial arts are not aggressive, just prepared to defend themselves. Ever notice the schoolyard bully doesn’t go near the kid wearing the black belt? Churchill was appealing to Great Britain to earn a black belt in self-defense before it was too late.

By 1938, it was too late. Britain had let its defenses ebb vis-à-vis Germany to the point that Hitler thought he could kick their Royal ” well, you know.

Actually, Hitler was bluffing. But in September 1938, Britain was too weak to call Hitler’s bluff. And so it was that military un-preparedness led not to peace but to World War II. Once again, Britain and America would lose another generation of their finest.

Today, America is not at war. Our military is at war. Most of America is at the mall. Go figure.

William Hamilton of Granby, a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, served as an intelligence officer in the Netherlands and Denmark and lived in Germany for almost a decade. For additional reading on this topic see: Lynne Olson’s Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England and John F. Kennedy’s Why England Slept.


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