The Munich Analogy

Joseph M. Siracusa

At the Munich Conference of 1938, France and England followed a policy of appeasement toward Adolf Hitler, choosing not to challenge him on his takeover of Czechoslovakia in the hope that German aggression toward neighboring states would stop there and that war in Europe could be averted. The failure of this appeasement approach in preventing the outbreak of World War II subsequently made the Munich agreement a metaphor for weakness in foreign policy, and the "lesson" of the Munich Conference has permeated the American political world ever since. The Munich analogy has not only been used consistently in American presidential and governmental rhetoric but has also affected foreign policy decisions at crucial moments in U.S. history. Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George H. W. Bush, from the 1940s to the 1980s, have used the example of Munich as a warning to the public about the inherent dangers of appeasing aggressors.


Abel, Elie. The Missiles of October: The Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962. London, 1966.

Beck, Robert J. "Munich's Lessons Reconsidered." International Security 14 (1989): 161–191. Cannon, Lou. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. New York, 1991.

Fry, Michael G., ed. History, the White House, and the Kremlin: Statesmen as Historians. London, 1991. Depicts historical knowledge as one of the basic intellectual resources used by statesmen habitually if unevenly.

Graebner, Norman A. Roosevelt and the Search for a European Policy, 1937–1939. Oxford, 1980. A realist critique of FDR's policies.

Henderson, Nevile. Failure of a Mission: Berlin, 1937–1939. London, 1940.

Immerman, Richard H. "The U.S. and the Geneva Conference of 1954: A New Look." Diplomatic History 14 (1990): 51–74.

Kennan, George F. Russia and the West under Lenin and Stalin. New York, 1962. An important American perspective.

Khong, Yuen Foong. Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965. Princeton, N.J., 1992. The best available introduction to the subject of analogizing history.

Kiewe, Amos. The Modern Presidency and Crisis Rhetoric. Westport, Conn., 1994.

Lammers, Donald N. Explaining Munich: The Search for Motive in British Policy. Stanford, Calif., 1966. Doubts that a desire to destroy Soviet Russia played a role in British calculations.

May, Ernest R. "Lessons" of the Past: The Use and Misuse of History in American Foreign Policy. New York, 1973. Argues that policymakers often use history badly.

May, Ernest R., and Philip Zelikov. The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cambridge, Mass., 1997.

Medhurst, Martin J., and H. W. Brands, eds. Critical Reflections on the Cold War: Linking Rhetoric and History. College Station, Tex., 2000. Writings by historians and communications scholars on Cold War discourse.

Neustadt, Richard E., and Ernest R. May. Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers. New York, 1986.

Noguères, Henri. Munich or the Phoney Peace. Translated from the French by Patrick O'Brien. London, 1963. Critical discussion of the French role at Munich.

Public Papers of President John F. Kennedy, 1962. Washington, D.C., 1964.

Robbins, Keith. Munich 1938. London, 1968. Argues that there are no great "lessons" to be learned from Munich.

Rostow, W. W. The American Diplomatic Revolution. Oxford, 1946.

Rystad, Göran. Prisoners of the Past? The Munich Syndrome and Makers of American Foreign Policy in the Cold War Era. Lund, 1982.

Shepardson, Donald E. "Munich Reconsidered." Midwest Quarterly 23 (1981): 78–102.

Siracusa, Joseph M. Into the Dark House: American Diplomacy and the Ideological Origins of the Cold War. Claremont, Calif., 1998. Argues that American Cold War politicians, policymakers, and diplomats were greatly influenced by the events of the interwar period.

Small, Melvin, and Otto Feinstein, eds. Appeasing Fascism. Lanham, Md., 1991.

Taylor, Andrew J., and John T. Rourke. "Historical Analogies in the Congressional Foreign Policy Process." Journal of Politics 57 (1995): 460–468. A useful survey.

Taylor, Telford. Munich: The Price of Peace. Garden City, N.Y., 1979. A defense of Chamberlain's appeasement policy.

U.S. Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1939. Washington, D.C., 1956.

Weinberg, Gerhard L. "Munich After 50 Years." Foreign Affairs 67 (1988): 165–178.

Wheeler-Bennett, John W. Munich: Prologue to Tragedy. London, 1966. Classic treatment of Munich, from a British perspective.

See also Arbitration, Mediation, and Conciliation ; Cold War Evolution and Interpretations ; Cold War Origins ; Intervention and Nonintervention ; Isolationism .

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:


The Munich Analogy forum