This is as good a time as any for a history lesson from Barely A Blog’s resident all-rounder.
The Myth of Munich
By Myron Pauli
To some, “Munich” is identified with Oktoberfest; however, to many it refers to what I call the Myth of Munich’—that Neville Chamberlain could have merely snapped his fingers and singlehandedly destroyed the Nazis, but, rather, chose to “appease” them and thus is responsible for the 55 million dead of World War Two. That myth has been invoked to oppose the Nuclear Test Ban and all arms control treaties; rapprochement with China, Cuba and Iran; as well as to start and continue wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, etc.
Britain was exhausted by an idiotic murderous war over an obscure dead Austrian archduke; a war that netted her 1 million casualties and insurmountable debt. One so-called “principle” from World War One was that of “ethnic self-determination,” but Britain and France chose to break up the new Republic of German-Austria by giving the Sudeten Austrians to a new mélange of Austrians, Czechs, Slovaks and a few Poles and Hungarians called Czechoslovakia.
To its credit, Czechoslovakia was a democracy and its largest political party, in the 1935 elections, was the Sudetendeutsche Partei, representing 3 million pro-Nazis who clamored to join Hitler’s new hell. Having swallowed up Austria, Hitler was now demanding to “liberate” Sudetenland. The British and French agreed to a plebiscite in principle but Hitler wanted to just grab it – hence they had a meeting at Munich and a pinky “promise” by Hitler not to ask for any more territory.
Not only was British public opinion overwhelmingly against going to war to prevent Sudeten Nazis from unifying with German Nazis but the British military was skeptical. The pessimistic view was that Germany would crush Czechoslovakia overnight. The “optimistic” view was that perhaps the Czechoslovaks could hold out a few months and then the French Army would attack the Germans from the Maginot Line!
General Hastings Ismay, in charge of British Homeland Defense (London was bombed from the air during World War One), wrote that he thought war was inevitable but it should be postponed until air defenses (recently invented radar and new fighter airplanes) were in place to protect Britain. However, contemporary warmongers expect Neville Chamberlain to have rejected public opinion and that of his own military because Hitler’s “promise” to stop with Sudetenland was nonsense.
Six months later, Hitler broke his “promise” and used Poles, Hungarians and Slovaks to carve up Czechoslovakia. British public opinion moved overnight from pacifism to militarism, and issued a guarantee to Poland. Hitler responded with an agreement with Stalin. Thus, 11 months after Munich, Poland was invaded and Britain was at War with Germany. Neville never got a Nobel Peace Prize like his older brother, Austen.
The “inevitable” war did not commence well – Poland was crushed from two sides, France collapsed quickly, the puny British Army barely escaped from Dunkirk, and Chamberlain fell – but he recommended Churchill over the accommodationist Halifax as his replacement. Those silly radars and fighter airplanes that Chamberlain funded won the Battle of Britain. Britain did not fold in the year she stood alone. Having “given peace a chance” at Munich, the British kept a stiff upper lip during the bombings.
One might speculate that had Britain gone to war with shoddy air defense over the principle of keeping Sudeten Nazis apart from German Nazis, and that earlier war had its own Dunkirk (so much for the British Army!)—there might have been the equivalent of a Vichy Britain. However, for warmongers, peace (even with rearmament) is never worth a gamble and war (regardless of realistic limitations) should always be option number one.
Thus, “The Myth of Munich” lives on with Khe Sanh, Phnom Penh, Fallujah, Kandahar and Benghazi. Anything short of war, even sanctions, is “appeasement” and every two-bit thug is the “next Hitler.” America has seen the massive regional chaos and the elevation of Shiite power engendered because “The Myth of Munich” was evoked against Saddam “Hitler” Hussein. The McCains and Grahams will continue to evoke “The Myth of Munich” against anything resembling action short of war – and the warmongering media will pick it up without question. Bad wars, like bad history, leave a terrible aftertaste.
Barely a Blog (BAB) contributor Myron Pauli grew up in Sunnyside Queens, went off to college in Cleveland and then spent time in a mental institution in Cambridge MA (MIT) with Benjamin Netanyahu (did not know him), and others until he was released with the “hostages” and Jimmy Carter on January 20, 1981, having defended his dissertation in nuclear physics. Most of the time since, he has worked on infrared sensors, mainly at Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. He was NOT named after Ron Paul but is distantly related to physicist Wolftgang Pauli; unfortunately, only the “good looks” were handed down and not the brains. He writes assorted song lyrics and essays reflecting his cynicism and classical liberalism. Click on the “BAB’s A List” category to access the Pauli archive.