]]]]]]]]]]]]]]     CHAMBERLAIN'S PERSPECTIVE LIVES ON    [[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                            By Seth Cropsey,                (9/23/88)
                   Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy
        From The Wall Street Journal, 23 September 1988, p. 18:4
                [Kindly Uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   Fifty years ago next week, meeting in Munich, British Prime
Minister Neville Chamberlain [1869-1940;  PM 1937-1940] tried and
failed to  appease Hitler.  Since  then, nothing  has changed the
fact that only strength deters aggression.
   But  in  the intervening  years,  so much  criticism  has been
poured  upon   Chamberlain's  failed  policies   that  they  have
dissolved  into caricature.   Across  the political  spectrum, we
divorce   ourselves  from   Chamberlain's  mistakes;   the  stout
anti-Nazi  militarism of  his  great opposite,  Winston Churchill
[1874-1965],  is  admired even  by  the most  liberal  of today's
anti-militarists.   In   this  atmosphere,   it  is  increasingly
difficult to recognize the similarities of current opinion in the
West  to  the  views  that  plunged  Europe  into  World  War II.
Nineteen  eighty-eight  is  assuredly not  1938,  in  economic or
foreign affairs.   But the road  to war that  lead through Munich
was paved by  three specific misjudgments  that still threaten to
trip us today.
   Chamberlain's first mistake  was his belief that  a new age of
chemical  weaponry and  aerial warfare  in  the 20th  century had
changed  war so  radically that  military conflict  between great
powers was unthinkable.
   "War today ... is a different thing not only in degree, but in
kind, from what it used  to be," Chamberlain explained in October
1938.  Chemical weapons brought  the potential for indiscriminate
destruction of  civilian life  as well  as military  targets; air
warfare  erased  the  security  of  distance,  borders  and time.
Chamberlain's  was  a  harrowing   vision  of  "people  burrowing
underground, trying  to escape from  poison gas,  knowing that at
any hour  of the day  or night  death or mutilation  was ready to
come upon them."
   We should  not underestimate  the emotional  impact of  such a
view,  rooted in  1938's  still-vivid memory  of  1918's chemical
warfare.  World War I  had brought evil, and  future war would be
worse.  In  modern war,  Chamberlain argued,  "whichever side may
call  itself  the  victor,  there are  no  winners,  but  all are
   If today's  horror of  nuclear warfare  makes this perspective
familiar, there is something equally familiar about Chamberlain's
assumption that other major players  would share his views.  Like
a  moral technocrat  weighing his  adversary  in the  balance, he
finds the  scales even.  Germany  could not intend  to "demand to
dominate the world by force,"  he noted, "for the consequences of
war for  the peoples  of either  side would  be so  grave."  Thus
Chamberlain insisted, well  into 1939, that  Nazi ambitions could
be contained by negotiation, for  the new warfare would deter its
own use.
   Ironically, in  one way  he was  right --  the kind  of war he
envisioned did not occur.  But his  vision of war was wrong.  The
possession of chemical weapons and  defenses on both sides proved
an effective deterrent to a  horrific chemical war.  But horrific
conventional war did  occur, spurred by  Hitler's belief that, in
the apparent absence of  Allied preparedness and will, aggressive
military operations could gain Germany the advantage.
   Today, in the U.S., politicians question preparations to deter
conflict, including strategic defenses, as  if we had not learned
what Chamberlain failed to grasp: Not everyone may share our view
of war's  deadly disadvantages --  and absent  realistic signs of
our determination,  rulers whose regimes  are based  on force may
view our respect for law, diplomacy  and negotiation as a sign of
weakness and not of strength.
   Chamberlain was fascinated with  the personal touch, something
shared by many journalists and many politicians.  His belief that
misunderstanding, not  aggression, causes conflict  -- his second
great misjudgment -- was reflected  in the dogged devotion to the
virtues of shuttle  summitry and face-to-face  assurances of good
will and friendship:  "The message ...  from Signor Mussolini was
of  a friendly  character."  "Herr  Hitler  ... said,  again very
earnestly, that he wanted to be friends."
   As  naive  as  these  remarks now  sound,  they  are  based on
Chamberlain's belief in the utility  of trying to "understand the
mentality"  of Britain's  adversaries.   But the  outcome  of his
failed international  social work  was more  than disillusionment
and personal betrayal.  The outcome was national policy confusion
and disaster  -- and everywhere  a double  standard regarding the
international behavior the democracies had a right to expect.
   Thus,  in   February  1938,  Foreign   Minister  Anthony  Eden
[1895-1977] resigned his post after insisting that Britain should
not  engage  in talks  with  Italy until  Mussolini  took certain
specified  actions   to  prove  his   respect  for  international
agreements.  Chamberlain  disagreed: British  preconditions would
signal  "a spirit  of suspicion,"  alienating the  Italians.  "If
there is going to  be bad faith, there will  be bad faith, and no
assurances beforehand are going to alter it."
   But just seven months later,  at Munich, when the question was
how far  Britain and  its allies  should go  to meet totalitarian
demands, we  find him rising  to the bait  of Hitler's calculated
anguishings  by reassuring  Germany  of British  and  Allied good
faith.  "I  should tell the  House," Chamberlain  reported to the
Commons,  "how  deeply impressed  on  my mind  ...  is [Hitler's]
rooted  distrust  and disbelief  in  the sincerity  of  the Czech
   Chamberlain's   efforts    to   minimize    his   adversaries'
"suspicions" led  him to  renounce justified  British suspicions;
his efforts at "understanding" his adversaries' claims led him to
misunderstand their  ambitions.  Most  tragically, both attitudes
led  Hitler  to  misunderstand  Allied  determination  to resist.
Again,  we can  learn  a profitable  lesson:  However distasteful
cynicism  and  suspicion  may  be,  tough-minded  diplomacy  is a
precondition to peace.
   Chamberlain's  view  of  the  impossibility  of  general  war,
combined with  his belief  that mutual  understanding would avert
conflict,  reinforced  his  fiscal view  of  the  wastefulness of
investing in defense -- his  third mistake.  Although he believed
in the necessity  of arms as  a backup for  British diplomacy, he
frequently expressed his distaste for the "spectacle of this vast
expenditure" as "folly,"  a "senseless waste  of money," "hateful
and damnable."  Such a view slowed  the pace of rearmament in the
face  of  the  burgeoning Nazi  military  machine  --  the delays
Churchill so feared and criticized.
   Just as corrosive was Chamberlain's reluctance to use force to
halt the slow erosion of  European liberty.  "Everyone knows," he
said,  that  British  forces  "are  not  going  to  be  used  for
aggression."  That he was reluctant to  use them at all must have
seemed equally clear.  Like today's "anti-war" advocates, who say
they  support  a nuclear  deterrent  yet  seek a  U.S.  pledge to
renounce its use -- assuring any  aggressor that he need not fear
U.S.  power  --  Chamberlain repeatedly  assured  the  enemies of
freedom  of their  freedom from  British force.   By the  time of
Munich, if Hitler  had any remaining  doubts, Chamberlain removed
   Speaking  over  British  radio,   in  words  that  again  ring
familiar,  Chamberlain called  the Czech  issue  "a quarrel  in a
faraway  country between  people of  whom  we know  nothing," and
observed that "however much we may sympathize with a small nation
confronted  by a  big  and powerful  neighbor,  we cannot  in all
circumstances undertake  to involve  the whole  British Empire in
war simply on  her account.  If we  have to fight,  it must be on
larger issues than that. ... War is a fearful thing."
   In the end, of course,  Nazi aggression was understood for the
"larger issue" it was, and the "faraway" quarrels came home.  The
irony  of  Chamberlain, however,  is  not  that he  was  a failed
idealist but a failed realist.  Despite all, he did not know that
"in  any  armed  world  you must  be  armed  yourself";  as prime
minister,  he  presided  over   a  massive  peacetime  rearmament
program.   Similarly,   if  appeasement   was  later   to  become
synonymous with spineless  acquiescence to the  threats of force,
this was far from its original conception.  Instead, it was meant
as an  effort, by  the victors  of World  War I,  to end disputes
arising  from the  Treaty  of Versailles  --  thereby stabilizing
Europe as well as ensuring its peace and prosperity.
   In the turbulent decades that  have followed World War II, the
U.S., too, has sought stability, as well as peace and prosperity,
on  a global  level.  As  the  leader of  the effort  to maintain
freedom's   defense,  we   owe   ourselves  a   closer   look  at
Chamberlain's valuable lessons.  As  he properly observed, war is
a fearful thing  -- a fact  that makes it  even more important to
ensure that the enemies of liberty fear to wage it.  To know that
our adversaries  may not  share our  views --  to understand that
understanding  is  not  everything --  and  to  present  a strong
defense:  This clear-eyed  grasp  of reality  and  military power
remains essential to peace.
   As for Chamberlain,  he cannot be  dismissed like some servile
waiter in  a Monty  Python sketch,  carving up  Europe to appease
Hitler's territorial  appetites.  The  50 years  that have passed
since Munich may have fogged the looking glass, but the face that
peers out looks eerily like our own.

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