February 4, 2008

A page-turner, a thriller...

I give my highest recommendation to Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England, by Lynne Olson

It is about the small and exceedingly motley group of MP's who rebelled against Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement. The odds against them were far greater than I had realized. The story is utterly gripping. And every bit of it is applicable to right now.

We see the psychology of that time, the desperate wish to ignore or argue-away the growing menace, every day. As an example, I noticed that thebook's amazon.com page quotes this book review, by David Cannadine, in the WaPo. And Cannadine is obviously far less interested in the book itself than in applying it to the presidency of George W Bush, using the story, by twisted logic, as an argument in favor of appeasement!

...He gathered around him a coterie of tight-lipped conservative advisers who were as like-minded and narrow-minded as he was. He scorned his critics in the legislature, branding them foolish, ignorant and unpatriotic. He had no time for members of any party but his own, and he treated the opposition with contempt. He cowed and coerced the media, and he authorized telephone tapping on an unprecedented scale... ...George W. Bush? No, Neville Chamberlain...

As applied to Bush, these are simply lies. I could fisk all of them, and already have many times. Bush's wiretapping, for instance, is of foreign communications, which we have done, without warrants, in every big war since Lincoln massively tapped telegraph lines. But Chamberlain was wire-tapping his fellow MP's! There's no similarity at all.

...One problem (which Olson does not address) is that the opponents of appeasement had no effective alternative policy. In the 1930s, Britain's empire and military commitments were overextended, especially as regards Europe and the Far East. That meant that waging war on two continents was a nightmare prospect, to which appeasement seemed for a time the only option...

NO, it was appeasement that caused that problem--if France and Britain had confronted Germany earlier, their forces would probably have been more than adequate. And part of Chamberlain's policy was to not prepare for war, to resist all calls to build up the British military--because that would be "provocative." Which had of course, exactly the opposite effect. (Wilson got America into WWI by the exact same fallacy; that not preparing for war makes war less likely.) Then, as now, every hesitation and cringe is being watched by cold eyes, and assessed Hitler knew that Chamberlain would not defend Czechoslovakia (which was far more defensible than Poland), just as bin Laden knew that America was weak when he saw Clinton flinch in Somalia.

And Chamberlain had immense power over the press, and used it to keep his opponents from communicating with the Bristish people. (Nowadays our journalists and academics carry little Chamberlains inside, and do the same.) We see the same see-no-evil psychology all around us now, for instance in the Canadian Human Rights Commission's proceedings against Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn.

..."Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last," Olson rightly notes, "the lessons of Munich and appeasement were wrongly applied to a later international crisis [Suez]." President Bush and his fellow neocons should take note....

Bullshit. It is the lesson of Suez that is being wilfully misapplied. Posted by John Weidner at February 4, 2008 8:30 AM

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