Summit Conferences - The munich conference

Perhaps because of the contradictory results of Versailles, national leaders resisted the temptation to participate directly in the important diplomatic conferences of the interwar years. When they did attend, their role was formal and ceremonial. It required the emergence of personalities who recognized the propaganda benefits to be derived from dramatic confrontations with their political opposite numbers to revivify the practice. Adolf Hitler was one such personality. It is now the accepted wisdom to characterize Munich, the infamous summit meeting of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain with the posturing, saber-rattling Hitler in April 1938, as a great blunder, the more tragic because Western diplomats should have recognized such efforts were futile and thus unnecessary. This ignores the climate that prevailed and the conviction (which Hitler, a dedicated advocate of personal diplomacy, cleverly fostered) that only direct discussions between political leaders could break through the paper barriers erected by professional diplomats. Hitler perceived that the summit conference preeminently offered an opportunity for publicity, the reiteration in dramatic circumstances of one's position, rather than serious negotiation. He was undoubtedly a master of the technique termed "spin doctoring" by a later generation.

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