Was Neville Chamberlain right?
by Melvyn L. Fein
September 24, 2012 01:11 AM | 1925 views | 10 10 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When I was a boy, almost everyone was agreed on what precipitated World War II. Yes, Adolf Hitler was a bad man, but the flaccidity of the Western democracies in appeasing his aggressive appetites was equally responsible for encouraging him to ravage Europe.

Back in the 1940s, Americans could not forget the foolishness of Neville Chamberlain. When the Fuehrer demanded that the Sudetenland be ceded from Czechoslovakia to Germany, Chamberlain had travelled to Munich and signed a treaty giving Adolf what he asked.

Who then did not recall the wild cheers with which the British Prime Minister was greeted when he deplaned back home waving a piece of paper and declaring that he had saved “peace in our time?” Nor were recently demobilized American soldiers likely to overlook the bloody battles from which they barely escaped with their lives.

Today, however, those memories are no longer fresh. Likewise, appeasement is no longer a policy we fear. We do not remember that Winston Churchill was widely reviled for warning that Hitler was a danger. To the contrary, most people then believed Hitler when he declared that he did not want war.

Most people also believed the Fuehrer when he asserted that he would make no more territorial demands if given the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia. After all, he was only seeking to protect his fellow Germans from the rapacious tyranny of the Czechs.

Hitler had to mean what he said, because no one really wanted war. Surely the German people did not want it. This was madness and no one could be that mad. It therefore made sense to be nice to Hitler. If only the West refrained from being unreasonable, he would cease being belligerent.

Does any of this sound familiar? Aren’t we seeing a replay of these attitudes with respect to radical Islam? Haven’t our leaders, most notably Barack Obama, been telling us that we must play nice with the Muslim world? Aren’t we counseled that they are basically decent people who like ourselves only want peace and hence will respond favorably if we cease being aggressive?

Hitler said that he wanted to exterminate the Jewish people, but that had to be rhetoric. The Iranians say they want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, but that is mere bluster. Or is it? Is it possible that some extremists are really extremists who are prepared to do what we never would?

If we say that it is just a few leaders who are over-zealous in their language, what of those thousands in the Arab street who are chanting “Death to America?” What of the tens, if not hundreds, of millions who regard Israel as the “Little Satan” and us as the “Great Satan?” Are they kidding when they say they want to impose Sharia law on us?

Barack Obama thought that if he apologized to these people, as he did in Cairo, they would change their ways and decide to construct a Western-style democracy. Did he really believe this? Does he believe now — with violent eruptions all over the Muslim world — that this is a minor, and temporary, glitch?

Do Obama, and the reporters who castigated Mitt Romney, think that an inept video that defames the prophet Mohammed is the sole cause of this uproar or that apologizing for it will fix what is broken? Do they seriously imagine that sacrificing our dedication to free speech will open Arab eyes to our good intentions?

This is appeasement! Churchill warned that those who abandon their principles for the sake of peace, in the end have neither peace nor principles. Romney said as much — albeit not as stirringly. If we embrace weakness for the sake of not offending our enemies, they will not be grateful — and we will not be safe.

Appeasement sounds sensible when the bombs are exploding thousands of miles away. It won’t seem quite as sensible if they start exploding here.

Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is a professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Sanity Check
September 28, 2012
I always enjoy Southern Christians and their violent tendencies...

Jesus would be proud!
September 29, 2012
Sanity Check, what mental institution did you just get out of? You are babbling incoherently...go take your meds.
September 24, 2012
I am amazed that the American people seem to have more respect for a president who seemingly hasn't a real handle on anything! The speed with with which he is weakening our country, causing it to lose respect overseas, ignoring the Constitution, is terrifying. I never thought I would ever see anything like this happen. And to realize that under this feckless president, we may see Israel under deadly threat that could end her as we know it. Don't people have the intelligence to realize that our country is at stake too? I can see us being attacked time and again during the next few years. In the meantime, the Narcissist will bounce around, go out of office, leaving the cleanup to chance. I see tragedy ahead. How anyone who either remembers the dark days of WWII or has had a decent education can ignore this is just beyond my capability to understand.
Outer Perimeter
September 24, 2012
Too many voters are more interested in if their President is cool.
Jim Stoll
September 24, 2012
I am another of those who lived through the permissiness of Neville Chamberlain in his granting Hitler "just a little bit more" to appease him. All that my father, a German American could say was: "No Gonads". Two years later my two older brothers were fighting in foreign lands to same the free world from another mad dog. What few people realize these days is that Hitler was taking his cues from another mad dog in hiding, who had been practicing the "just a little bit more" retoric on the world since the sixth century. That mad dog is called Islam. Islam has been waiting patiently for America to weaken its resolve and consider appeasment to pounce. Obama's recent activities in that arena have convinced Islam that the time is now. It's time to stand up to defeat the "Great Satan while there is still hope. This election may well be the last chance for American voters to discard the Chamberlain attitude of appeasment and save America as a place where their decendants can live free and prosper to whatever extent their individual efforts will allow them to achieve.
@ Mr. Fein
September 24, 2012
Your commentary is right on target.

You're undoubtedly familiar with Harry Truman's quote that; "The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know."

This country, this world, is fulfilling the prophecy that if you don't know history, you are doomed to repeat it.

We've been down this horrible, horrific road before. Many correctly fear, and I agree with you, that we are on that same road again.

To any aggressor, pacifists are weak and their weaknesses are to be exploited. You do not have to be a rocket-scientist to figure that out and you would only need to witness a school yard bully's actions to know that the best remedy for the bully is when the bully receives their due.

Thank you for your article and the critically important warning.
Kevin Foley
September 24, 2012
They already exploded here, Dr. Fein, on 9-11 after the Bush administration ignored warnings they would. Remember?

Security experts agree al Quaeda is decimated thanks to the strikes Obama ordered that have taken out scores of its leaders around the world.

Iran is economically crippled thanks to U.S.-led sanctions. It can't sell its oil on any major market. In Libya, the people have gone after the militias that attacked the consulate, remembering it was the U.S. that helped take out Qudaffi.

Do you not know any of this? Surprising for someone who purports to be an acamedician.
September 29, 2012
Foley (whoever you are) you throw out your comments as if they somehow counter/impugn the veracity of Melvin Feins assertions. Incoherent nonsense may dazzle the people you hang out with, but it sure doesn't work well on the MDJ comment boards.

Please give us the cite(s) to your security experts report(s) on the decimation of al Quaeda. And be sure to send it to Hillary Clinton,too--- since silly her thinks al Quaeda had something to do with the recent murder of our Ambassador in Bengazi.
September 24, 2012

I await the onslaught from Foley.

Appeasement has never worked and never will. Believe it or not, I have a soft spot in my heart for Chamberlain. That is because I believe that he, in his heart, thought he had avoided military confrontation with Germany. He felt he had reached an agreement that Britain could live with and not go to war.

Britain could live with it, but could Czechoslovakia? It is a case of appeasement for one at the expense of the freedom of others. And as everyone SHOULD know, but in modern day America, I doubt, does know, it only allows time for the bullies to build a bigger, stronger army or party to spread their will.

But, what can one expect when there are actually people who, for example, deny the Holocaust, even though film exists that shows the truth.

It seems the older readers of the MDJ, having lived through those times, or having attended school before the PC folks changed the history books, are the folks who may save this country.

Under Obama and the DNC we will appease and wait for the next affront. The striped pants of Uncle Sam have a big "Kick ME" sign pinned on them by the Obama administration.

J Marks
September 29, 2012
"No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies."

Dean Acheson (1893-1971)
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