Why The Left Can Never Be Trusted With Power

If you want a good lesson in why the left can never be trusted with political power, especially in foreign policy, look no further than Mother Jones Washington bureau chief Nick Baumann, writing in Slate this week that “Neville Chamberlain Was Right.”  What was he right about?  Ceding Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938: “The maligned British prime minister did what we would want any responsible leader to do.”

Do tell, Nick.  First, Britain was too weak to stand up to Hitler in 1938.  “In general, British generals believed the military and the nation were not ready for war.”   (And whose fault was that?)  “Chamberlain’s diplomatic options were limited as well.”  (Again, whose fault was that?  Chamberlain repeatedly declined to seek a diplomatic accommodation with the Soviet Union and Poland, or invite the diplomatic contributions of the United States, which FDR was willing to make.)  “Nor was the British public ready for war in 1938.”  Again. . . never mind.

The most egregious part of Baumann’s revisionism has to be this paragraph:

Nor is the modern view of Hitler reflective of how the Nazi dictator was seen in the late 1930s. Blitzkrieg and concentration camps were not yet part of the public imagination. The British had already been dealing with one fascist, Benito Mussolini, for years before Hitler took power, and top British diplomats and military thinkers saw Hitler the way they saw Mussolini—more bravado than substance. Moreover, many Europeans thought German complaints about the settlement of World War I were legitimate. We now see Hitler’s actions during the early and mid-1930s as part of an implacable march toward war. That was not the case at the time. German rearmament and the reoccupation of the Rhineland seemed inevitable, because keeping a big country like Germany disarmed for decades was unrealistic. Hitler’s merging of Austria and Germany seemed to be what many Austrians wanted. Even the demands for chunks of Czechoslovakia were seen, at the time, as not necessarily unreasonable—after all, many Germans lived in those areas.

The ignorance or willful self-blindness of this paragraph is stunning.  It is barely worth contesting point-by-tedious-point.  What is astonishing about this article is that it leaves out completely any acknowledgement that Churchill propounded the contrary case in real time, and persistently.  In Baumann’s account it is as if this never happened.  Above all, Churchill understood what today’s liberals fail to recognize as “regime questions.”  To suggest that Hitler’s innate aggressive designs and murderous hatred of the Jews was poorly understood in 1938 is a willful blindness of the worst kind.  Never mind Churchill’s essay about Hitler from 1935 (“Hitler and His Choice”) that nailed the likelihood of Hitler’s aggression channeling itself into another war (the British Foreign Office didn’t want Churchill to re-publish this essay in a book in 1937, so sensitive were the appeasers to “offending” Hitler).  As Churchill perceived the matter in October 1937, a full year before Munich:

Thus we are confronted with a situation in Europe abhorrent to its peoples, including the great mass of German and Italian peoples, in which bands of competent, determined men under ruthless leadership find themselves alike unable to go or to stop.  It may well be that the choice before Germany is a choice between an internal and an external explosion.  But it is not Germany that will really choose.  It is only that band of politicians who have obtained this enormous power, whose movements are guided by two or three men, who will decide the supreme issue of peace or war.  To this horrible decision they cannot come unbiased.  Economic and political ruin may stare them in the face, and the only means of escape may be victory in the field.  They have the power to make war.  They have the incentive to make war; nay, it may well be almost a compulsion.

Add to this as well Churchill’s reflections on Munich from The Gathering Storm, excerpted at length on Power Line last year, in which we learned (and had some inkling at the time) that Germany’s military leaders were ready to move against Hitler if he pushed them into war in 1938 before they, too, considered themselves ready.  Chamberlain’s sellout of Czechoslovakia made Hitler’s political position in Germany unassailable.

This is relevant for today because Baumann’s article is obviously a prelude to justifying the left’s much desired appeasement of Iran (“Now under new ‘moderate’ management!”).  What’s next on the revisionist hit parade?  Maybe that Hitler was right about the Jews after all?  Wouldn’t surprise me.

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