The Munich Analogy - The munich legacy




The very term "Munich" has since become synonymous with a typical example of dishonorable appeasement, that is, a situation when the vital interests of a nation are bartered away in return for minor concessions or none at all. Appeasement, according to this line of argument, may often result from national weakness or, worse, ignorance either from an inability to fight or a fundamental misconception of reality. In the case of Czechoslovakia, interests were literally given away without any concessions being extracted from Germany. This occurred because Great Britain and France were not militarily or economically prepared to fight another war, nor were they psychologically prepared to fight for causes that, although just, did not affect them personally. Prime Minister Chamberlain summarized public opinion to Parliament prior to leaving for the Munich Conference, pointing out "how horrible, fantastic, incredible that we should be digging trenches …here because of a quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing." Furthermore, Chamberlain was motivated by a belief that by conceding to the demands of a minority people who wished to be reunited with their traditional nation, he would be able to avoid war and achieve "peace with honour."

The Munich agreement soon became the archetype of failure of will in the face of moral confrontation, turning firmness into an essential virtue in the conduct of foreign policy. Statesmen, for fear of being called "Municheers," have since been encouraged to go to the brink of war in the hope that by adopting an inflexible position, the aggressor will be forced to go to retreat. This outlook has been pervasive in the American political world since World War II. As Telford Taylor points out in his seminal work Munich: The Price of Peace (p. xvi), "Munich has become a standard weapon in the dialectic of politics," but always in a pejorative sense.

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