Respectful Insolence

This is too hilarious for words. It’s priceless.

It’s Chris Matthews applying a little history smackdown–I mean lesson–to an ignorant right wing talk radio host named Kevin James, who was overjoyed at President Bush’s use of the Neville Chamberlain gambit the other day and wanted to take the opportunity to throw the same gambit around too about the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular. Bad idea:

My only complaint is that Matthews didn’t deliver what would have been the perfect coup de grĂ¢ce. That would have been to ask (1) what did Neville Chamberlain do in March 1939 after Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich agreement of 1938 and (2) who was Prime Minister when Hitler invaded Poland and what did he do in response? Answers: (1) Chamberlain, realizing he had been betrayed, put the British military on a war footing, accelerated rearmament, and took a much harder line with Germany thereafter; and (2) Neville Chamberlain (not, as many think, Winston Churchill) was Prime Minister on September 1, 1939. He asked for and got a declaration of war against Germany on September 3 in response, even though some argued that England wasn’t absolutely bound to go to war for Poland. I’d also quibble with Matthews’ definition of “appeasement” as “giving something away to the enemy.” We give stuff away to the enemy all the time; it’s called negotiations. The difference between negotiation and appeasement is that we get something substantive in return for what we give away. A better definition of appeasement is giving something away to the enemy and not getting anything near the value of what was given away in the hopes that the enemy will be bought off. Chamberlain basically gave Hitler his assurance that he would accept his annexation of the Sudetenland. All he got in return was Hitler’s pledge that that was the end of his territorial ambitions, which was worth no more than the piece of paper it was written on.

If you can’t stand watching a historically ignorant idiot twist in the wind while Matthews cranks up a wind machine (and after a while it does become painful to watch), the transcript is here.

(Hat tip to Jason Rosenhouse. I’ve also written about other fallacious uses of the Neville Chamberlain gambit in other contexts, and Glenn Greenwald has written one of the best deconstructions ever of this particular bit of idiocy. This particular misuse of history is a pet peeve of mine, in case regular readers hadn’t noticed…)

Comments

  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 16, 2008

    I’ve been laughing at this all day.

  2. #2 Mike Saelim
    May 16, 2008

    Great video! However, it only became painful to watch because Kevin wouldn’t stop shouting the same things again and again over the other people.

  3. #3 Infophile
    May 16, 2008

    Methinks the Hitler Zombie was recently hungry…

  4. #4 Chris Jeans
    May 16, 2008

    I’ll have to save the video until I’m home, but wow, that transcript. Who is this Chris Matthews? Does he often call people out like this? He seems like the sort of interviewer I like.

  5. #5 Ahistoricality
    May 16, 2008

    I saw it yesterday at work, and I nearly fell off my chair. Showed it to my spouse, who giggled and giggled. I’m not sure the guy even watched or read the actual speech, which contained some real history — Poland, at least, he could have said.

  6. #6 Who Cares
    May 16, 2008

    I’m a bit impressed that you knew about Chamberlin being the person who put G.B. on war footing and declared war.

    What people where I live are talking about though is the fact that who ever wrote that speech was so incompetent to miss the link between the invasion of Iraq (by the US) based on lies and the invasion of Poland by the 3rd Reich based on lies.

  7. #7 Tyler DiPietro
    May 16, 2008

    According to his Wikipedia bio he is trained as a lawyer, which I assume requires some ability to analyze complex issues and offer a coherent argument. After seeing that video I can say for certain that I would not be eager to employ his services.

  8. #8 Shay
    May 16, 2008

    To paraphrase Santayana, “”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to make fools of themselves on television.”

  9. #9 DLC
    May 16, 2008

    Mr. Bush has violated a long-standing unwritten rule that you don’t go into domestic politics in a foreign forum.
    And anyone trying to excuse or cover him for it deserves to be slapped down, as Matthews did last night.
    I happened to see the clip — it was classic Matthews smack-down, and I enjoyed seeing it.
    While not exactly the Hitler-Zombie, it’s something closely akin to it. Is there a Neville Chamberlain zombie out there?

  10. #10 MBA
    May 16, 2008

    Interesting that he never let the guy from Air America try to answer. In fact, he never asked the guy from Air America anything. The Air America guy sit quietly like the interviewer’s lap dog, basking in softball questions, knowing he would never be asked to prove himself. Why is someone from Air America being interviewed on national television again? Didn’t that George Soros debacle go under yet? After all, why do we need another National Socialist…er Public Radio station? I’m all for giving people a good roasting when they screw up history, but it’s interesting how carefully the targets were selected and how one sided this roasting was.

  11. #11 Markus
    May 16, 2008

    MBA,
    Are you talking about Chris or Kevin? Kevin didn’t even let Chris to talk, much less give a straight answer.

    And are you honestly upset that they let a *gasp* liberal on the air along side a right-wing conservative?

    Maybe you can go troll elsewhere.

  12. #12 wolfwalker
    May 16, 2008

    (1) Chamberlain, realizing he had been betrayed, put the British military on a war footing, accelerated rearmament,

    True, Chamberlain did, in fact, have the brains to recognize a fact when it walked up to him, spit in his eye, and kicked him in the balls. Puts him head and shoulders above most politicians.

    and took a much harder line with Germany thereafter;

    Too bad it was already too late. In 1939 Britain and France could not send any meaningful aid to any Eastern European nation, because they had no usable supply route and nothing to send anyway.

    Orac, Chamberlain isn’t condemned by history because he failed to act against Nazi Germany. Chamberlain is condemned by history — as he was by many British citizens at the time, incidentally — because he failed to act against Nazi Germany in time. Chamberlain’s surrender at Munich, and his subsequent speech about “peace in our time,” are held up by simplistic histories of the Time Between the Wars simply because that image is the perfect symbol of the colossal blindness of the Allied Powers to the Darkness that was rising in Germany. It’s accepted fact among historians that Hitler never made any real secret of his intention to rearm Germany and build a new German Empire. It’s also accepted fact that if Britain and France had stood firm against Hitler at any time between 1934 and 1938, Hitler would have stopped his expansion program. But they didn’t do that. By the time they did make a stand in support of Poland, Hitler was convinced they were effete cowards who would never really enforce their demands.

  13. #13 Lucas McCarty
    May 16, 2008

    There isn’t a Chamberlain zombie unfortunately. The Hitler zombie is possibly driven by the greater purpose of making Hitler seem not so bad by causing vulnerable public figures to idiotically make poor comparisons of living person’s with Hitler. A Chamberlain zombie would have nothing to gain from causing people to make comparisons of Chamberlain; it would simply further propagate the myth that Chamberlain not only appeased but absolutely resisted all calls to war.

    The prime suspect would be a Churchill zombie making Churchill look better by making Chamberlain look worse with bad Chamberlain comparisons. The only problem though is that the Hitler zomb would surely sense the presence of his third nemesis(Hitler had more to fear from Stalin and Roosevelt than Churchill) and set out to destroy him. I sense an apocalyptic battle is coming.

  14. #14 Orac
    May 16, 2008

    I’m a bit impressed that you knew about Chamberlin being the person who put G.B. on war footing and declared war.

    Nothing to be impressed about. I’m a bit of a World War II buff and have been since I was in junior high.

  15. #15 Orac
    May 16, 2008

    Orac, Chamberlain isn’t condemned by history because he failed to act against Nazi Germany. Chamberlain is condemned by history — as he was by many British citizens at the time, incidentally — because he failed to act against Nazi Germany in time.

    I’d hardly call it “many.” Actually, Chamberlain’s agreement with Hitler was wildly popular among the British public and enjoyed broad support in Parliament. Pressures for a confrontation had been building up several months before, thanks to Hitler’s provocative rhetoric and actions. There was a widespread belief among the British public that war was becoming inevitable, and, because World War I had only been 20 years before, people were terrified of another large European war. Consequently, Chamberlain’s treaty was greated with great relief. Incidentally, a similar dynamic was going on in Nazi Germany, believe it or not. The German people were no more eager for war than the British, and Hitler’s increasingly war-like rhetoric leading up to the crisis had convinced many of them that war was inevitable at that time. The Germans were quite relieved as well when news of the agreement broke. Hitler, on the other hand, although jubilant at having the Sudetenland, was in a way disappointed that he did not have his war. One thing people don’t realize about Nazi Germany is that the average German had little thirst for war, as William Shirer’s Berlin Diary made clear, particularly in its stark description of the depressed mood in Berlin after the announcement of the invasion of Poland.

    In any case, although it is true that Chamberlain has become inextricably associated with appeasement, he was in a very difficult position. The Baldwin government, which preceded Chamberlain, had repeatedly failed to deal with Hitler, and Britain’s finances had been devastated by the Depression, making rearming difficult. Couple that with a public mood that didn’t want war, and he was in a difficult position. Arguably, he didn’t handle it all that well at times and in retrospect the Munich accords were a huge mistake, but to some extent history gave him a raw deal.

    Be that as it may, though, even if Chamberlain is correctly viewed as the arch-appeaser of dictators, if someone’s going to use him as an example, they should at least know, as Matthews repeatedly asked James, what exactly it was that Chamberlain did to earn that label. Therein lies the humor in watching James hem and haw and just in general look like the ignorant dolt he clearly is.

  16. #16 MBA
    May 16, 2008

    Markus,

    I’m frankly surprised at how easily you call a comment “trolling”. I am not objecting to putting a conservative against a liberal…I was merely surprised at how easily the Air America guy got off. This is Air America. I mean really, where did they dig this guy up? At least right wing talk radio can support itself (not that I listen to it) and doesn’t need to be propped up by a billionaire with a political agenda or by the government (NPR). It is not the liberal that is objectionable, but the quality of the liberal. Certainly there are more apt liberals out there to be Matthews lap dog. Anyone from NPR would be more creditable. But then, why would they come on this show. Kevin didn’t let Mark Talk, but Matthews didn’t let him talk either. You can’t call it “Hardball” if you keep changing balls.

  17. #17 decrepitoldfool
    May 17, 2008

    Wait – Soros has money and uses it to express himself politically, and that’s bad? How… Oh never mind. Look at the millions that funnel through AFA and various other conservative groups.

    This whole ‘Neville Chamberlain’ and ‘appeasement’ meme is getting pretty old too. Three words for our neighborhood Reaganites; “Arms For Hostages” If that isn’t appeasement, what is?

  18. #18 gwangung
    May 17, 2008

    .I was merely surprised at how easily the Air America guy got off.

    If you don’t say something mindnumbingly stupid, you do get off easy.

    Now, quick changing the subject.

  19. #19 PennyBright
    May 17, 2008

    FYI – I got today from a link on the NY Times website. Tres cool.

  20. #20 MBA
    May 17, 2008

    gwangung,

    Good point. I suppose the subject is, BOTH of these guys are so minor league, why on earth does MSNBC invite either of them on the show? They dug up both of these guys out from under a rock. Who cares what either of them have to say?

    And decrepitoldfool,

    I didn’t say it was “bad” that Soros spends his money to prop up Air America. You have to be aware of who your sources of information are. Isn’t that the broader point anyway? This Kevin James right wing talk show host guy is being accused of parroting his sources without understanding what he is saying. I don’t disagree, but Air America makes a point of parroting George Soros every day. As the Bestie Boys have aptly said, “Where do you get your information from, hu?” It’s always a relevant question, whatever your political persuasion.

  21. #21 DLC
    May 17, 2008

    It is also a good idea to remember that the nazis had their share of fellow travellers in pre-war britain, and also in the United States. These groups, although a minority, were a factor. Further, there was also a significant minority who not only did not want to defend Poland, but who did not want any war at all. However, Chamberlain is rightfully condemned for giving away things that weren’t his to give, and for doing so in order to preserve peace in our time.
    However, I would also point out that Hitler had designs on all of Western Europe, and probably would not have responded to a hard line taken against him, were it not backed up with the credible threat of force.
    Force which Britain didn’t really have, except perhaps for her navy.

  22. #22 Orac
    May 17, 2008

    Good point. Part of the reason Chamberlain was so horrified at the prospect of war was: (1) he remembered WWI and didn’t want to see the mass slaughter again and (2) the British military had not sufficiently rearmed yet after the massive disarmament that had occurred between the wars. In other words, he had no credible “stick” with which to back up a harder line other than the British Navy.

    I’m not sure I agree that Hitler had designs on all of Western Europe, at least not in 1938. At that time main designs were on the East to provide Lebensraum for the German people, to crush Russian Bolshevism once and for all, and to bring all the regions that had been in the old German Reich in the past or that had significant German populations in them (like the Sudetenland) into his new Reich. In particular, Hitler wanted to reclaim territories that Germany had to relinquish in the Treaty of Versailles. Also, he actually respected and admired the British Empire and wanted to remain on friendly terms with it, and I don’t know that conquering France actually occurred to him until after war was declared.

  23. #23 colmcq
    May 17, 2008

    “I’ll have to save the video until I’m home, but wow, that transcript. Who is this Chris Matthews? Does he often call people out like this? He seems like the sort of interviewer I like.”

    hoho, indeed. Watch him slay Michelle Malkin here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoM90bAsr1M

    (this is probably even funnier than the one Orac posted)

  24. #24 Lucas McCarty
    May 17, 2008

    And so often those that use the Chamberlain gambit follow up with the Churchill gambit where their favoured politician is compared to Winston Churchill.

    This would be the same Churchill that in parliament voted against measures to spend more on re-arming in the early 30s.

  25. #25 wolfwalker
    May 17, 2008

    I didn’t say “all” or even “most;” I said “many.” I know I’ve read accounts of people who thought the Munich Accords were a complete balls-up. Applying the old adage that for every person who says something there are ten or twenty — or more — who only think it, I conclude there was a significant faction in Britain that expected war with Germany and saw Munich for what it was: an attempt at appeasement that was guaranteed to fail.

    Orac, I’ll agree that Chamberlain was in a difficult position — but I don’t think that that somehow absolves him, or even mitigates his blunders. It’s entirely possible that Hitler could have been stopped prior to 1938 using nonmilitary methods, namely diplomatic moves and economic sanctions. But neither Baldwin nor Chamberlain made any attempt to do so. Again: Chamberlain is known and reviled in grade-school history (which is probably all that either Matthews or James knows) not because he failed to act, but because he failed to act in time.

    In any case, Matthews’s harping on “what did Chamberlain actually do?” was a cheap attempt to score points rather than take the issue seriously. Everyone who knows any history at all knows exactly what action of Chamberlain’s was being referred to: his surrender to Hitler at Munich. Why Chamberlain did what he did is irrelevant. Whether or not he tried later to make up for it is irrelevant. The point is that we, today, can see that it was a mistake, and we, today, can learn from it. Appeasing aggressors does not work.

  26. #26 Orac
    May 17, 2008

    Give me a break.

    Of course it matters what Neville Chamberlain actually did. Even if he was indeed the very epitome of an arch-appeaser, don’t you think it’s important for someone holding him up as an example of appeasement to know even a little bit about what he did to earn that title? Matthews was correct to call him on it and demonstrated without a doubt that James is an ignorant boob.

  27. #27 SLC
    May 17, 2008

    Chamberlains’ appeasement at Munich was not only immoral, it was stupid.

    1. Czechoslovakia had the most modern armaments industry on the continent and a modern well equipped armed forces. By selling out Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain also deprived himself of a valuable ally on the continent. The combination of Britain, France, and Czechoslovakia vs Germany in 1938 was a more formidable alliance then the combination of Britain, France, and Poland vs Germany in 1939. The Polish armed forces opposed the German panzers with horsed cavalry.

    2. The German armed forces were in no condition to conduct a European war in 1938. In particular, the panzer divisions which were crucial in defeating the French Army in 1940 barely existed in 1938.

    3. The German General Staff, appalled at Hitlers’ brinkmanship and knowing fully well the limitations of the Wehrmacht in 1938 were planning a coup to remove him from power. Chamberlains’ capitulation at Munich cut the legs from under them.

    4. The Chamberlain apologists who defend him by claiming that he bought time for Britain to rearm are grasping at straws. The Germans made better use of the time between 1938 and 1940 then did Britain and France in the business of building up their armed forces.

  28. #28 Woobegone
    May 17, 2008

    I hope we all realise that it’s silly to blame Chamberlain himself for all of “his” failures, given that had there been a strong opposition to his policies amongst MPs, he would never have been a position to make such decisions.

    When Hitler or Stalin made mistakes, they alone were responsible for them, because no-one could overrule them. The responsibility for Chamberlain’s errors however is shared by the Cabinet of the time, and to a lesser extent, Parliament as a whole. It’s true that there were those who disagreed with Chamberlain and in hindsight they may have been right, but clearly there were more who agreed with him, because they appointed him. If Chamberlain really were some kind of exceptionally naive fool, as some seem to believe, how much more foolish were the rest of the British government to make him their leader? (And what about the British people who voted for such fools?)

    (Incidentally this is why I don’t like the tendency to personally revile Bush and Blair for the Iraq war – it lets everyone else, and ultimately ourselves the voters, off the hook, which misses the whole point of democratic government.)

    Now, as for wolfwalker:

    “Everyone who knows any history at all knows exactly what action of Chamberlain’s was being referred to: his surrender to Hitler at Munich.”

    Correct – therefore by your own logic Kevin James knows no history at all and I presume you’d agree that people who know nothing of history shouldn’t be commenting on it (or praising people who do). However what Kevin James knows or doesn’t know is of no real importance (given that the man himself is of no real importance) – what matters is whether it is right to compare talking to ones enemies to appeasement.

    Quite clearly it isn’t, and in fact this is an incredibly dangerous idea which tars any diplomatic effort to resolve conflicts by agreement with the brush of cowardice and weakness (not to mention implicitly branding advocates of diplomacy as either foolish or unpatriotic).

    Were the same logic to be applied by, say, either India or Pakistan with respect to the Kashmir, mushroom clouds would rapidly follow. A much closer analogy however is with Northern Ireland where, contrary to the predictions of many, talking to and (to an extent) “appeasing” the terrorist IRA, did in fact work and brought peace after a conflict in which over 3,500 died. It would be a huge leap to decide that the same approach would necessarily work in the case of Israel-Palestine of course but no less of a leap than suggesting that what happened in 1938 proves that it wouldn’t…

  29. #29 blf
    May 17, 2008

    South Africa during the apartheid days would be another example where talking worked.

  30. #30 Marcus Ranum
    May 17, 2008

    That was delightful to read! What a brutal slapping-around, so richly deserved, and well-delivered!

  31. #31 Marcus Ranum
    May 17, 2008

    Chamberlain is condemned by history — as he was by many British citizens at the time, incidentally — because he failed to act against Nazi Germany in time.

    I thought that the reason Chamberlain and many other European leaders were criticized for appeasement was because several European powers ignored standing mutual defense treaties with Poland. As Poland was crumbling, there was a diplomatic scramble so that the red-faced powers could see if it was possible to achieve separate treaties with Germany, effectively shrugging off what had happened to Poland in return for the chance of being left alone themselves.

  32. #32 Uncle Dave
    May 18, 2008

    Love it, Love it, love it!!!!!!!!

    This needs to be done far more often on these boondoggle political talk shows. I remember, I believe it was the history channel that would play a war movie or historical picture which they would then stop at a few commercial breaks to discuss the historical authenticity of many scenes portrayed in the film with history experts.

    Hell the kid was probably not born until the late 1970′s and he’s got his own political talk radio show??????

    Also probably thinks that G Gordon Liddy is an All American patriot.

    Sieg Heil Kevin, Seig Heil!!!

    Das History!! Das Kaput!!!

  33. #33 DLC
    May 18, 2008

    Orac:

    I’m not sure I agree that Hitler had designs on all of Western Europe, at least not in 1938. At that time main designs were on the East to provide Lebensraum for the German people, to crush Russian Bolshevism once and for all, and to bring all the regions that had been in the old German Reich in the past or that had significant German populations in them (like the Sudetenland) into his new Reich. In particular, Hitler wanted to reclaim territories that Germany had to relinquish in the Treaty of Versailles. Also, he actually respected and admired the British Empire and wanted to remain on friendly terms with it, and I don’t know that conquering France actually occurred to him until after war was declared.

    I’ve seen it discussed that Hitler had a long-term plan for
    conquest of the whole of Europe, but my memory isn’t cooperating with me right now and I can’t think of the source. Dimly, I think it might have been something in Speer’s diaries. Oh well. I’ve been wrong before.
    Perhaps I’ll look into it if I have some time over the coming week.

  34. #34 SLC
    May 18, 2008

    Re Orac

    Hitler may not initially had designs on Western Europe but there is no question that he would eventually demanded that France turn over Alsace and Lorraine which Germany lost after WW 1.

  35. #35 Orac
    May 18, 2008

    Which of course goes along perfectly with what I said:

    “In particular, Hitler wanted to reclaim territories that Germany had to relinquish in the Treaty of Versailles.”

    Right? ;-)

  36. #36 Dr. T
    May 18, 2008

    Orac and others have omitted the other major act of appeasement by Neville Chamberlain that had terrible consequences: the breaking of agreements with the jews in Palestine in order to appease the arabs. Prior to WW II, the British controlled most of the lands now known as Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq; they controlled the Suez canal, and they had strong influence in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The British were afraid that if they honored their previous agreements with the jews, then the arabs would revolt and the British would lose access to oil. So, Chamberlain stopped all jewish immigration to Palestine at a time when jews were desperate to escape Germany, Poland, the Ukraine, and other areas where persecutions and pogroms were worsening. I read estimates that over 100,000 jews could have been saved from being sent to concentration camps or death camps if jewish immigration to Palestine had not been stopped.

  37. #37 Andrew Dodds
    May 19, 2008

    Dr. T -

    Bear in mind that not only did the Death camps not exist at the time, and concentration camps were on nothing like the scale they later became, the degree of Nazi antisemitism was not as well known. And the British Navy was dependant on Gulf oil, so we had to be nice to the Arabs in the region (Sound familiar?).

    There is another (slightly unfair) issue here – had the US made promises to stand behind France in any confrontation with Germany, the French would have taken a much stronger line with Germany; France was even more scarred by WWI than the UK. Isolationism in the US was certainly understandable, but was a major factor behind the failure to stop Hitler in 1935-38.

    The only quibble I’d have with Orac on this is over rearmament of the UK – Germany was far less ready for war even in 1938 then 1939, when it had large numbers of Czech tanks (Better than the Panzer Mk II), which did a major part of the job in the French campaign. In 1938, it’s hard to see how Germany could have quickly beaten Czecholvakia in a mountain campaign even with passive French/UK forces.

  38. #38 Harry Eagar
    May 19, 2008

    I am always happy to throw sand in the gears of the booming industry in rehabbing Chamberlain. I have at least 6 volumes of such tripe on my shelves, and since 2001 have been unable to keep up — all or most intended to draw, more or less subtly, invidious comparisons with Bush II.

    Wolfwalker gets it, and Andrew Dodds’ last paragraph is also on point.

    Besides, Orac’s definition of appeasement does not apply to what Chamberlain did: he did not give up something of Britain’s to appease Germany; he turned over “a distant people of whom we know nothing” (rather as if, say, Obama had written off Florida because people in Chicago never heard of it) and, even more to the point, because in a few days of abject bootlicking he tossed out the police of maintaining the balance of power that had been the foundation of British European policy for nearly 200 years.

    When Britain had had more clear-eyed leaders, she had found it worthwhile to ally herself with powers much weaker than Czechoslovakia (Portugal, Naples) and to fight at longer odds than she faced in 1938 for longer periods — 20 years! — not to maintain Portugal and Naples but to maintain England.

    Churchill had, as chancellor of the exchequer in 1926, inaugurated the policy that ‘there would be no general European war for 10 years’ and in consequence deferred modernization and rebuilding of the UK armed forces. He was right. There was no threat of general war before 1936.

    People who would like to tar Bush with the brush of Chamberlain have their history upside down. As commander of a powerful military, Bush was in a position to go it alone against the real enemy (Islam) and his fault was not in going to war but (like his father 10 years before), in pulling his punches.

    Had he knocked over the regimes in Syria (where we would have found Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction) and Iran, his war would shortly have reached a meaningful denouement, and the Moslems would have — as they had after the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798 and Omdurman in 1898 — behaved themselves for a generation or three.

  39. #39 Andrew Dodds
    May 19, 2008

    Harry –

    Just remember that UK/French policy was as coloured by WWI in 1938 as US policy was by vietnam for the next couple of decades.

    But as far as Islam goes, it’s not so much Islam per se – the vast majority of muslims wanting the same as anyone else – but a specific strain of Wahhabism which espouses a lot of nasties. Invading Iraq was not the best way to go about combatting that, since the source is Saudi Arabia.

    The strategic response of the US to this should have been a domestic campaign to reduce oil imports to zero (perfectly feasable without lifestyle changes, given the budget available for Iraq), targetted spec ops against the cells that existed, and a resolution of the Palestinian problem (using mass bribery if appropriate).

    Look at the history of the British empire; main force is rarely a useful option, and always a draining one. Removing the finance and rationale behind the nutters whilst eliminating those cells that exist would have been a far better strategy.

  40. #40 Harry Eagar
    May 19, 2008

    I cannot agree that Islam is not the enemy. True, most Muslims are willing to defer the day, as were many Germans, but virtually all accept the doctrine that god has promised an eventual victory of Islam over all the world.

    It is not one of the 5 pillars, but it is as integral a part of the religion as anything. Until that view changes/is changed, Islam will continue to be the enemy of all mankind.

    Shrug.

    The big problem in 1938 was the first question of grand strategy: who is my enemy?

    Many, including Chamberlain, thought it was communism not naziism.

    Bush is an ignorant fool. The best that can be said of him is that he sorta, vaguely understands that the US has an enemy. He just hasn’t quite identified who it is.

    That puts him miles ahead of almost all his critics, who either think we have no enemies or deserve whatever we get.

    I happen to think that careful study of Chamberlainism would pay dividends today and agree with Orac that talking heads don’t have anything useful to say about it. But there are other people who do have useful things to say about it.

  41. #41 Boris
    May 19, 2008

    Nobody seems to have mentioned another motivating factor that pushed Chamberlain to gamble for peace in the way he did. He perceived the Soviets to be the real threat to Europe and so sought a united Europe to counter that threat.
    It’s very easy with hindsight to criticize this decision, but was the extent of Hitler’s madness really that transparent at the time? Especially when compared to the Soviet behemoth at the time which had already publicly codified it’s plan to export communist revolution to the rest of the world?

  42. #42 Uncle Dave
    May 19, 2008

    Basically the whole 1938-39 period for Britain is merely given a footnote in history for most people. That is to say the if you bring up Neville Chamberlain to most people that have a coarse understanding of that time in history (I am one that re-learned a lot by this Chamberlain reference being brought up by our knucklehead Commander in Chief and reading a bit more about it – by the way does he not have a proof reader for international speeches?) at the moment of the comment all I could remember was the film reel of chamberlain stepping off of the airplane after the conference and holding up a peice of paper and saying “peace in our time”.

  43. #43 Troy
    May 19, 2008

    “where we would have found Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction”

    The ever illusive WMD, surely those dastardly Syrians must have them. It couldn’t have been just an excuse for war…
    http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0210-02.htm

    “his fault was not in going to war but (like his father 10 years before), in pulling his punches.”

    Bush “pulling punches” on them terrorists:
    http://bp3.blogger.com/_MnYI3_FRbbQ/SBzCIjFzqNI/AAAAAAAAArc/epN2I-sUDfI/s1600-h/iraq.png

    But I suppose you’d say he would have just grown up to be terrorist obsessed with destroying the “West” eh Harry? Orac, this was a good post, particularly your comments about the history of Chamberlain’s dealings with Hitler. Like most Americans I don’t know much about the diplomacy during Europe’s inter war years.

  44. #44 Woobegone
    May 19, 2008

    The US military is just barely holding the line against total anarchy in Iraq and Afghanistan, while running at essentially 100% capacity. It would simply not have been possible to succesfully occupy Syria and Iran for the past 5 years in addition, no matter how much anyone might desire that – short of a draft (which would be politically impossible), the US simply doesn’t have the manpower. It couldn’t be done. It was never an option.

  45. #45 Harry Eagar
    May 19, 2008

    The US certainly needs a bigger army and some real infantry — our ‘infantry’ divisions have more tanks than a World War II armored division — and there was a candidate who recognized this — Romney. He also got the enemy right

    I don’t know exactly how big an army we need, depends on the missions. But today’s army is barely larger, in proportion to population, than the 1938, no draft army. It could be made usefully bigger without a draft.

    I dunno, Troy, what do YOU think was in those semis rolling from Baghdad to Damascus just before war started? Furniture?

    It would not have been possible to occupy Syria and Iran with the present army but regime change would have been worth a lot. Eventually we’ll have to take them out anyway, it would have been cheaper in 2003 than it would be in 2008 and cheaper today than sometime in the future.

    And occupation would not have been necessary had we been willing to engage in asymmetrical warfare. We bombed Cologne Cathedral but won’t even send a raid into a cheesy mosque being used as a bomb factory.

    This is not serious warfare.

    I expect we will get serious one of these days. Chamberlain never did. He was still looking for a way out when the British woke up and realized they were in for a real fight. That was the day Belgium was invaded and Churchill replaced Chamberlain and promised “blood sweat toil and tears.” Despite all the lefty hysteria about Chimpy McBushitler, Bush II has never been serious about war.

    Fortunately, he had medieval enemies, for now.

  46. #46 Troy
    May 20, 2008

    Let me say this simply for you Harry, there were NO nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in Iraq in 2003. How do I know this? No evidence has ever turned up that there were weapons in Iraq in 2003 and conjectures from pundits and advocates of this War of Terror don’t count as evidence. I can’t find your “semis rolling from Baghdad to Damascus just before war started” story so I’m not going to speculate exactly what was in them.

    Your suggestion to “get serious” about this war is equally inaccurate. There have air strikes in cities throughout the Iraq War (most of the casualties have civilians too). Are you just not happy that entire cities haven’t been razed completely the ground with everyone in them? The U.S. military tried to destroy Fallujah but the city does still exist, however disappointing that may be for you.

    Also your overall premise that if we “get serious”, in other words regard the lives of the people in the Middle East even less than we do now, we will achieve victory. I found your reference to the World War II bombings most telling since those bombings only unified the Germans and didn’t lead to the overthrow of the Nazis. But I’m sure this time will be different if we slaughter more of them.

    One more note Harry, the many of today’s enemies were allies of the U.S. within the past few decades (and not because they changed, only because U.S. “interests” changed):
    http://www.upi.com/International_Intelligence/Analysis/2003/04/10/exclusive_saddam_key_in_early_cia_plot/6557/
    http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/08/31/the_true_iraq_appeasers/
    http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/16/Perspective/How_Iraq_built_its_we.shtml
    http://globalresearch.ca/articles/ZER403A.html
    http://www.upi.com/International_Intelligence/Analysis/2002/06/18/analysis_hamas_history_tied_to_israel/8272/

  47. #47 Harry Eagar
    May 20, 2008

    It was in all the papers at the time, you must not have been paying attention.

  48. #48 Troy
    May 21, 2008

    An interesting argument Harry, even though there was no evidence he ever had the weapons and no actual reason for him to ship them to Syria if he did, given that he was a “madman bent on destroying America”, the mere fact that the trucks left Baghdad MUST mean he really had them along. I’ll bet Sadaam even switched minds with Bashar al-Assad, so that he could continue his evil deeds! Makes sense as far as your logic is concerned.

  49. #49 Harry Eagar
    May 21, 2008

    He not only had them, he was hanged for using them.

    You really haven’t been paying attention.

  50. #50 Troy
    May 22, 2008

    Sadaam was hung for having using chemical weapons on his people in the 1980s and early 1990s. He did not have them in 2003 because he got rid of them due to the weapons inspectors. You have not been paying attention and have yet to show any evidence whatsoever that he did (namely because there is none).

  51. #51 Harry Eagar
    May 22, 2008

    Did he, now?

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to get rid of that stuff? You don’t just put it out with the recyclables.

  52. #52 Troy
    May 22, 2008

    I wrote it wrong before, the U.N. inspectors eliminated the weapons.
    http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0721-02.htm

    All you have provided are mere assertions that he had these WMDs. What do you have for evidence?

  53. #53 Harry Eagar
    May 23, 2008

    Well, they eliminated some. All, who knows?

    Not you.

    You are a trusting soul, aren’t you?

  54. #54 Troy
    May 23, 2008

    Who would you trust, a man who served in the USMC as an officer and served as a weapons inspector or someone advocates a war that has and continues to destroy the lives of thousands upon thousands of people?