Monday, August 28, 2006

History muddles

The Australian misreads the history of:
the 1930s when elite wisdom in Europe held that having been hard done by at Versailles, Germany should be allowed to re-arm - despite Hitler's stated feelings about the Jews and easily discerned desire for global conquest.
Germany was hard done by at Versailles and this contributed substantially to the fall of German democracy, for democracy was seen by many as associated with national weakness and humiliation. Versailles sought to limit the size of German military forces. To impose this on a major European power was never a viable position unless as part of a general European disarmament. How once Germany began to rearm under Hitler could it be prevented from doing so except by a pre-emptive war? European public opinion, not just 'elite' opinion, was hostile to this. I don't think anybody, including Churchill, argued that a pre-emptive war should be launched against a rearming Germany. The only viable policy was to match the German military build-up. This was done but too late. 'Appeasement' as a policy was never a debate about whether Germany should be 'allowed' to re-arm. Hitler claimed throughout this period that his sole wish was to unite into one Germany Australia and the German areas of Czechoslovakia (the 'Sudetenland'). 'Appeasement' was about whether to accept this. It should not have been accepted. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Austria and Czechoslovakia should have been guaranteed. Once it became apparent with the German conquest of the rump Czechoslovakia in 1939 that Hitler’s ambitions extended beyond the incorporation of German speaking areas into Germany the line was drawn by Britain and security guarantees were extended to countries under threat from Germany. If people want to argue for a pre-emptive war against Iran they can do so but don't misuse history. Picking through the history of politicians long past is of limited value, but Menzies strongly supported appeasement. It was also the case that the reluctance of the democracies to support Czechoslovakia owed much to the fear of the Soviet Union, because Soviet troops would have required for any defence of Czechoslovakia. It would be a better, but still I think incorrect, argument to claim that Israel’s control over the West Bank and Gaza, despite the wishes of their population, is justified on the grounds of secure borders as Czechoslovakia argued about the Sudetenland.


At 10:19 PM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Geoff, that was a very muddle headed Australian editorial. I am not sure that I would agree with your historical analysis, I think that I would follow a different line, but the editorial does show how polemic labels can be used to mislead.


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