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July 18, 2005



Interesting post. I had a related thought yesterday concerning the benefits of hindsight while watching a documentary about the Nazis. Chamberlain was pilloried for "selling out" the Czechs in 1938 at Munich, when he accepted that the Sudeten german land in Czechoslovakia could be re-attached to the Reich.

We now know that Chamberlain was effectively conned by Hitler - once the Nazis had the Sudenten land (and thus control of the border defenses) they simply marched into the rest of Czechoslovakia. And then Poland. And so, Munich has become a byword for appeasement.

But as one interviewee in the programme pointed out, at the time the thinking was as follows: "Should we really commit to a major European war to prevent one group of ethnic germans - a majority in the Sudenten areas - from sharing a government with the German Reich?"

Recall that the carnage of WW1 ended had only 15 years before - and that there was a general sense that Versailles had been unfair to the Germans and that the Sudentens had some legitimate grievances. And suddenly you can see why Chamberlain did what he did.

In hindsight of course, he misjudged Hitler. But then I wonder how many of today's politicians would have done better without the benefit of hindsight.


Chamberlain had believed that Hitler was an ordinary nationalist and would therefore be satisfied with the German lands: first the Rhineland, then Austria, then the Sudeten lands. It was when he grabbed the rest of Czechoslovakia that it became clear that he was another Napoleon and so the guarantee was given to the Poles. Given that it would have been irrational to expect aid from either the USA or the USSR, Chamberlain's decisions are defensible. It was only well after 1938 that it became clear that Hitler was much more evil even than Napoleon.


One potential datapoint: has the Prime Minister's personal security detail increased or decreased in numbers since the Iraq invasion?

Paddy Carter

surely the definitive statement on the matter:


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