In the early hours of September 30th, 1938, Hitler (Germany), Chamberlain (UK), Mussolini (Italy) and Daladier (France) in Munich signed the Munich Agreement. To this day it remains a black eye in the recent history of Europe and a dark side of what we call Western Civilization.
The signing of the agreement was the culmination of a fallacious policy pursued by Western leaders against Nazi Germany, since its inception in 1933. Despite France and Britain guaranteeing the Independence of Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of WWI, they were nonetheless set on avoiding war at any cost. So much so that they essentially sold Sudetenland off from Czechoslovakia to avoid war with Hitler. Yet, a year later this ‘lasting’ peace collapsed in the September 1939 German invasion of Poland.
As author Walter Goodman wrote in his 1988 NY Times article titled “Behind The Munich Pact“:
“The 1938 Munich Agreement, by which Britain and France gave Hitler the go-ahead to take over the Sudetenland, stands as one of the more shameful episodes leading to World War II. Nothing in ”The Peace of Paper” is designed to change that estimate, but it helps us to understand the play of forces behind what is called here ”a symbol of diplomatic naïveté and military weakness.”
“We see Chamberlain, billed as the savior of peace on his return from Munich, waving a sheet of paper signed by Hitler that the Prime Minister called a declaration of ”peace with honor.” A former German official quotes Hitler as assuring his advisers privately that the paper was ”of no importance at all.” When the French leader Edouard Daladier found himself being cheered after the British-French capitulation, he remarked, ”These people are crazy.””
Over the last 76 years there have been a myriad of interesting research papers and books written about the Munich Conference, including David Faber’s outstanding book “Munich 1938, Appeasement and WWII” (2010, Simon and Schuster publishing). In his book, Mr. Faber astutely points out that on the day the Munich Agreement was signed, most British military experts felt that it was crystal clear that Hitler was preparing for war; meanwhile Chamberlain, who was the ex Finance Minister of the UK, was more consumed thinking about the exorbitant costs of war.”
He later adds, “We see Chamberlain, billed as the savior of peace on his return from Munich, waving a sheet of paper signed by Hitler that the Prime Minister called a declaration of ”peace with honor.” A former German official quotes Hitler as assuring his advisers privately that the paper was ”of no importance at all.” When the French leader Edouard Daladier found himself being cheered after the British-French capitulation, he remarked, ”These people are crazy.””
History shows us time and again that a policy of appeasement is the wrong approach towards dictators and totalitarian regimes; this includes America’s appeasement that lead to the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Despite numerous examples of negative outcomes born from a Western policy of détente, the Munich Agreement has come to symbolize the ultimate folly of making agreements with dictators.
Yet, after 76 years, the West continues to display a lack of integrity, ideals and values by continuing to embrace a foreign policy of appeasement. In the 1990’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States invited New Russia to the ‘rich country club’ known as the G7. The result? Russia’s assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and the illegal annexation of Crimea. Once again these events demonstrate the ignorance of an appeasement vis-à-vis totalitarian regimes like Putin’s Russia.
Let’s also remember that in the early 1980’s the West was a steadfast supporter (appeaser) of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Yet, just 2 years after the Iran – Iraq ceasefire, Saddam invaded Kuwait, exactly as Hitler did to Poland in September 1939.
It appears that even in the present-day, the new generation of politicians in the West follow the footprint of their predecessors, eager to apply a policy of appeasement around the world, especially in the Middle East.
76 years ago Chamberlain proudly called the Munich Agreement the “Peace for our time” only to be later ridiculed and insulted by Hitler’s actions. Over the last 76 years a long list of dictators have both exploited and benefited from a policy of Western appeasement. Yet, history keeps repeating itself, proving that an appeasement policy toward dictators is tactically wrong and worse, morally unforgivable. Despite the repeated lessons, Western countries continue to blindly sacrifice their so-called ‘western values’, including human rights, whenever it is viewed to be in their national best interest. Sadly, they continue do so with greater hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy.