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Is "appeasement" as a kind of cowardice?

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Appeasement Today we have been taught to think of "appeasement" as a kind of cowardice. Most people believe that the "appeasers" gave in to Hitler's demands, especially at Munich in 1938, and helped to bring on the war. Negotiations between countries today have become much more difficult because neither side wants to be accused of "appeasement." The truth isn't quite so simple. Hitler made many demands in the late 1930s, but the Munich agreement, which gave him parts of Czechoslovakia, was actually a British and French proposal. And it had much public support. "[F]ew causes have been more popular. Every newspaper in Britain applauded the Munich settlement with the exception of Reynolds' News." In the l9th and early 20th centuries, many great powers settled their differences by dividing up smaller powers or colonies. You may think this was very wrong, but it was common. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wasn't an advocate of nonviolence, and the partition of Czechoslovakia wasn't an example of nonviolence or the "failure" of peacemaking. It was, in many ways, a continuation of traditional diplomacy--but even more cynical than most such agreements. A Dilemma It's easy to look back and criticize Chamberlain, who proposed the Munich settlement. But at the time, Chamberlain was faced with a terrible dilemma. He couldn't have known what would happen in the future. He couldn't have known whether a "firm stand" would have stopped Hitler. We don't even know that today, though many people assume that it would have. What Chamberlain did know was that his country had been through the most bloody war in history in 1914-1918. The Munich settlement was his way of avoiding another disastrous war. ...read more.


I believe that appeasement was not justified, as I also believe that Britain and France and enough opportunities to suppress Hitler, but the politicians were so cowardly and pathetic to even try to stop Hitler in his tracks. According to Winston Churchill's later account appeasement prevailed because of the blindness of British politicians to Hitler's real intentions and because of their timidity in not standing up to successive acts of German aggression. Personal defects loom large in this explanation for, with the benefit of hindsight, it seemed so obvious what the outcome of a craven failure to stand up to Hitler's ruthless ambitions was going to be. As the Second World War has faded into history it is possible to make out a better case for those who favoured appeasement, and notably Neville Chamberlain amongst them, than Churchill would ever have allowed. `Appeasement had so few critics and aroused no massive public hostility because as a policy it was well in tune with the public mood of the thirties. It was not just a question of a few pacifists or motions at the Oxford Union or a Fulham bye-election result, but something more widespread. The horrors of the First World War were much written about and were still a bitter personal memory for many, civilian newsreels from Spain nightly revealed the future horrors of aerial bombardment of civilian targets, for it was not just Baldwin who believed the bomber would always get through. In any case the burdens of unemployment and the enormous National Debt seemed to undermine any hope of resolute action in foreign policy. There was also a general feeling that Germany might have been harshly treated at Versailles and that on certain issues, for example the re-militarisation of the Rhineland, might have quite a good case. ...read more.


Germany's weapons and armament, by 1939, were as powerful, if not more, than the British. However, accords made in the Treaty of Versailles about German rearmament were not policed. The compromise in Munich in 1938 was a political, strategic, and moral victory for Hitler. Hitler showed that he could take what he liked, and the great powers of the West, could not and would not do anything about it. Although Britain's and France's acts of appeasement to the Germans are appalling, the events that were allowed to follow are even more appalling. While some may view that these events gave the West valuable time to prepare for war, this theory holds some problems. If the appeasement and resolve in Munich gave the West valuable time to prepare for the war, why was France so easily overrun by the Germans? Should not the appeasement have given them time to prepare for war? It appears that it did not. If this idea were true, the Germans should have been defeated rather easily. What really occurred was the worst war this world has ever had and the realization of a nightmare of a megalomaniac dictator, all of which could have been prevented. Europe lay in ruins, France taken over, and sixteen million dead; due in part to the inaction of Britain and France. Could these horrible events have been avoided? The answer is yes and no. The devastating effects on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles and aftereffects of World War I set the table for another great conflict. However, if these were the seeds for the second great war, they were nurtured and raised by the neglectful actions of the British and French. Had they kept the eye on Germany as they said they would, Hitler would not have been able to amass such a destructive killing machine. ...read more.

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