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War and Dishonor

It was the fall of ’38 and the motion was submitted to approve “the policy of His Majesty's Government by which war was averted in the recent crisis and supports their efforts to secure a lasting peace."

The policy being referred to was the Munich Agreement which carved up Czechoslovakia and the war being averted was World War II which would come shortly anyway. Of the hope that war would be averted through appeasement, Winston Churchill said, “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war.”

Echoing that old Munich motion, the pro-Iran left is calling the nuclear deal that lets Iran keep its nukes and its targets their Geiger counters, Obama’s “achievement”. Any Democrat who challenges it is accused of obstructing the only foreign affairs achievement their figurehead can claim.

“Cory Booker wants to torpedo a major Obama achievement,” the New Republic shrieked. On MSNBC, Chris Hayes accused sixteen Democratic senators who wanted tougher measures on Iran of seeking a war to sabotage “Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievement” out of “fear” of the Israeli lobby.

Hayes and MSNBC were only echoing another famous Democrat, Joseph P. Kennedy who warned of opposition to Munich by “Jew media” making noises meant to “set a match to the fuse of the world.”

Samuel Hoare, the Home Secretary, of whom King George V said, "No more coals to Newcastle, no more Hoares to Paris", warned against those who wanted a sterner tone to bring an end to Hitler’s program of conquest as today’s Hoares warn against those who want to bring an end to Iran’s nuclear program.

“It would have met certain failure if at the very time when we were attempting to mediate and to obtain a peaceful settlement, we had accepted the advice of those who said you must face Herr Hitler with a public ultimatum,” Hoare warned. “I go further, and I say that if we had made an ultimatum in the days immediately before the Nuremberg speech Europe would to-day have been plunged into a world war.”

Today the Hoares warn that stiffening sanctions against Iran and demanding an end to its nuclear program will lead to war. For years, the Hoares of the Democratic Party insisted sanctions were the only way to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Now the Hoares say sanctions will alienate Iran and lead to war.

Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the alternative to the nuclear deal would be war. Those who support sanctions will "close the door on diplomacy," Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, warned, saying that the failure of the deal will force Obama to, “choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to continue.”

Since the deal allows Iran’s nuclear program to continue, it’s a buffet of three choices, all three of which lead to conflict of some kind. The only variations are in the date and in the capabilities of the enemy.

That was the problem with Munich.

Hitler had already been making plans for a war with Britain and France that would commence three or four years after finishing off Czechoslovakia. The only thing that the Munich Agreement accomplished was to speed up Hitler’s timetable from three years to one by letting him finish his business with the Czechs earlier than he had planned.

“The peoples of the British Empire were at one with those of Germany, of France and of Italy, and their anxiety, their intense desire for peace, pervaded the whole atmosphere of the conference,” Chamberlain said during the House of Commons debate.

There’s “a new atmosphere” in the Iran talks, the Council on Foreign Relations’ top Iran expert said. The State Department called the atmosphere “constructive”. “Give peace a chance,” Obama urged.

"When the time comes for the verdict to be given upon the Prime Minister's conduct... none of us here fears that verdict," Hoare concluded. History would deliver its verdict on Chamberlain as it has on no other British prime minister in history making his name synonymous with craven appeasement.

And then Winston Churchill began to speak. "I will... begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing... we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat."

Lady Astor, whose Nazi sympathies were infamous, interrupted him with a cry of “Nonsense”. The Member for Berlin had written to Joseph P. Kennedy that Hitler would have to do more than “give a rough time” to “the killers of Christ” before she would launch "Armageddon to save them.”

“The wheel of history swings round,” she wrote. “Who are we to stand in the way of the future?”

Churchill, like William F. Buckley, believed however in standing athwart the history of totalitarians, their Reichs, their People’s Republics and their Caliphates and yelling stop.

“£1 was demanded at the pistol's point. When it was given, £2 were demanded at the pistol's point,” Churchill retorted. “Finally, the dictator consented to take £1 17s. 6d. and the rest in promises of good will for the future.”

That is the sum of all negotiations with totalitarians, whether it is with Nazi Germany, Communist Russia or Islamist Iran. The totalitarians scale up their demands and the peacemakers celebrate a victory for a compromise that gives their tyrants what they want and makes war inevitable through its appeasement.

“Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said in 2012. Now there isn’t even a policy of containment.

Obama’s foreign policy achievement consists of letting Iran do nearly everything nuclear it wants in the hopes that it won’t go all the way. Containment has given way to appeasement. Iran gets nine tenths of its nuclear ambitions at gunpoint in the deal and will take the rest when it pleases at nukepoint.

“We have been reduced in those five years from a position of security so overwhelming and so unchallengeable that we never cared to think about it,” Churchill said, “reduced in five years from a position safe and unchallenged to where we stand now.” In five years of Obama, the United States has been similarly reduced from a power to a pawn. Its security has been stripped away and sold to win the approval of its enemies. It is locked into the same process of offering worthless security guarantees to its allies and then selling those allies down the river to avoid the risk that those allies might ever call on those guarantees and expose their worthlessness.

That was the Chamberlain policy that Churchill was denouncing on Czechoslovakia. That is the Obama policy with his chalkboard of worthless red lines whose bluffing powers he is determined to protect.

"Relieved from all anxiety in the East, and having secured resources which will greatly diminish, if not entirely remove, the deterrent of a naval blockade, the rulers of Nazi Germany will have a free choice open to them in what direction they will turn their eyes," Churchill said.

Similarly the nuclear deal cuts off most options for America and its allies and endows Iran with a great many options. And once it does have nuclear weapons, its options will be nearly unlimited.

Chamberlain’s rejoinder to Churchill reduced a practical problem to a philosophical one.

"It seems to me that there are really only two possible alternatives. One of them is to base yourself upon the view that any sort of friendly relation, or possible relations, shall I say, with totalitarian States are impossible, that the assurances which have been given to me personally are worthless, that they have sinister designs and that they are bent upon the domination of Europe and the gradual destruction of democracies,” he said, reciting true facts about Nazi Germany with the air of a conspiracy theory, the way that the pro-Iran left treats statements about Iran’s murderous policies and aims.

If that grim reality were indeed the case, Chamberlain argued, “There is no future hope for civilisation or for any of the things that make life worth living.”

Peace was no longer a rational program, but a philosophical one. A world where dictators could not be successfully appeased, where war could not be averted with negotiations, was not a world that he wanted to live in. The appeasement of Iran and any other enemy follows the same self-pitying logic.

Either the world is an optimistic place where war can be averted with meetings and negotiations or it is a doomed hopeless place in which no one would want to live anyway.

For Churchill negotiations were a practical policy with a practical end, but the supporters of appeasement had made negotiations into a good thing entirely apart from any of the facts on the ground or their outcomes. Negotiations were important because war had to be averted, regardless of whether it could be averted, whether the agreement was moral and whether it was worth anything.

By making peace negotiations themselves into a moral absolute, the practical issues could be ignored and moral atrocities such as the dismantling of Czechoslovakia could be rationalized as being for the greater good of peace. Any contradictory information was drowned in enthusiasm, not for Hitler, but for peace with Hitler, which inevitably became indistinguishable from enthusiasm for Hitler.

If peace depended on Hitler and the entire hope of civilization rested on Hitler’s willingness to live in peace, the Chamberlains and their Hoares had to believe in Hitler to believe that civilization had value and life was worth living. Their modern counterparts substitute the Supreme Leader of Iran for the Fuehrer, or leader, of Germany, but otherwise they make the same mistake all over again.

To believe in world peace, they decide that they must believe in Hitler, in Stalin, in Khamenei and all the other monsters of history. They must believe that regimes which ceaselessly talk of war, build weapons of war and torture and murder their own people on a whim somehow share their hopes for peace.

“It seems to me that the strongest argument against the inevitability of war is to be found in something that everyone has recognized in every part of the House. That is the universal aversion from war of the people, their hatred of the notion of starting to kill one another again,” Chamberlain said.

But there is no such universal aversion. If there were, war would be the exception, not the rule.

To believe in peace, Chamberlain had to lie to his conscience, to the men surrounding him and to the entire country and the world. That much has not changed, whether the subject is Nazi Germany or Iran.


  1. Anonymous22/1/14

    And in his memoir, "Vixi" Richard Pipes, remembers from his boyhood in pre-war Poland, how the assimilated, secularized Jews believed the Nazis would only rid them of the embarrassing and backward Chasiddic Jews, while the Chaddidim hoped the Nazis would relieve them of the oppression of goyish Poles.


  2. Anonymous22/1/14

    Recently on Watter's World/FOX News, Watter's interviewed Robert De Niro at the Sundance festival. De Niro, with his wiseguy attitude on display, declared that Barry, was not in fact, "a schemer." But of course, Barry's own words of wanting to "fundamentally transform" America, and the litany of what many call poor decisions and lack of leadership over the past five years could easily be interpreted as his way of accomplishing his stated goal. I use words from liberal Hollywood only to make the point that the left abounds with stupidity.

    And then add to the mix the rachetting up of misdeeds since the start of his second term and actors like SoS John Kerry and DoJ Eric Holder have also begun drastic actions against the country and it's citizens.

    But the worst is the enabling of Iran which WILL lead to the inevitable consequences of war. Everyone is worried about it but no one says it directly, so I will. It WILL lead to war. You are exactly right. History is repeating itself. Totalitarian thought is the same today as it was eighty years ago, or throughout history for that matter. Never mind the religious aspect. It is what it is. A way to enslave the world with a few as the masters.

    I for one will resist. I for one will fight ... if I get the chance and am not nuked thanks to the ignorants in America that think they are so civilized. The left is so smart they don't acknowledge the existence of evil just as they don't acknowledge the existence of G-d and want to remove Him from society. Well, evil is coming to bite them in the ass! To bad it will also bite the rest of us also.

  3. Anonymous22/1/14


    I read tonight's essay and it sends chills down my spine. I am sure I am not alone in shuttering, while contemplating the nastiness which is barreling down the pike. I assume that those of us who frequent your profundities have had the same thought since our rat president took office...that Obama would bring ruin to our nation and war to the Middle East.

    Being stabbed in the back is nothing new for the Jews.

    What was new during this epoch is that Israel has owned a powerful military and is a technical champion. While the US has abrogated any real alliance with the Jewish state, Israel has in fact abrogated the defense of her own people.

    Suckers who depended on a country that has a president who pals with Jew haters and communists. Suckers with a milquetoast prime minister who kowtows to powers who want their country decimated.

    My question is, has Israel put the shiv in her own back?

  4. Naresh Krishnamoorti22/1/14

    The mindset of Chamberlain and Obama is what happens when we lose sight of original sin -- the permanent and most obvious feature of mankind -- and despair of the power of God to intervene in the world with goodness and mercy. You will either have faith in God and a sober view of the world, or you will have faith in a fantasy and an illusory view of the world. A sober view of the world leads to foreign policy based on a balance of powers. An illusory view of the world leads to Wilsonian idealism.

  5. Anonymous22/1/14

    Brilliant piece. And, oh boy, here we go again.

  6. Anonymous22/1/14

    "But there is no such universal aversion. If there were, war would be the exception, not the rule."

    The peace that The West has enjoyed since WWII, especially Europe, is utterly exceptional. Those of us in Europe now are fortunate to have lived through it. Prior to this Europe was at war pretty much constantly.

    I get the feeling that, over the next decade or two, normal service will be resumed...

  7. Anonymous22/1/14

    Further to my last comment re Europe at war, you're looking at war for over two thousand years.

    Most people labour under the misapprehension that peace is the default, and war the breakout anomaly. But in reality it's the other way around.

  8. Anonymous22/1/14

    The only world leader today who comes close to being a statesman with the understanding of a Churchill, is Stephen Harper the Prime Minister of Canada. His Conservative government has totally rejected this ignominious agreement with Iran as being less than useless. He is a very strong supporter of Israel and on his first official visit there this week-end he was given a hero's welcome. Unfortunately, unlike the Rob Ford debacle, it has received very little press coverage outside of Canada and Israel which is par for the course. Stephen Harper is an honest and decent man, a man of principles, who has the courage of his convictions, in spite of the many critics he has at home, and they are many.

    Once this whole mess blows up there is only one bright light. At the least the world will not have to face the might of the German military but only an inept backward society that has been given modern toys to play with. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic but it is the only thing that gives me hope.

  9. the European 'pause' was largely the result of a Pax Americana, the Cold War and European post-war fatigue. Too many Euros misinterpreted it as being some defining change in the human condition.

  10. roger in florida22/1/14

    What is so profoundly depressing about this is that, in Chamberlain's defense, he was negotiating from a position of weakness. We have surrendered from a position of overpowering strength. The US could crush Iran like a bug and fear very little retribution (for now!) It is the same attitude that had GWB claiming that "Islam is a religion of peace", a claim he must have known was a lie, if he didn't then he is retarded.
    We could have won major concessions, even to the point of ensuring a sort of peace in the ME. What we have done is guaranteed nuclear war.

  11. Anonymous22/1/14

    Upon taking office in 2008, one of the first things Obama did was to return a bust of Churchill to England. That bust had been a gift which had held for many years a place of honor in the White House.

  12. The end of this is going to be anything but pleasant.

    Obama’s foreign policy achievement consists of letting Iran do nearly everything nuclear it wants in the hopes that it won’t go all the way.

    Strangely reminiscent of the advice of leftists to women about to be raped and other crime victims.

  13. That was pretty ridiculous. Nazi German marshaled the most powerful army in the history of the world, commanded by the finest generals alive. Comparing the Wehrmacht to the IRGC is completely retarded.

  14. Anonymous22/1/14

    Very fine essay and to the point. My father's boss who left Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power said that he had read his book and it was clear that he intended to destroy the Jews in Europe. He said that few believed him and most died as a result. Sometimes it is best to believe the words of those who hate us and want to kill us. It does no good to live in fantasy land. It never has and never will. The liberal cannot understand this reality .
    Dave S

  15. "If France had then marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs." Adolf Hitler

  16. Anonymous22/1/14

    To Ryan: Your admiration for all things Wehrmacht are noted. But who won WWII? They had the "most powerful army in history" for a period of time. The did have some excellent Generals. But what good did that do when they were led by a top-down insane, egotistical, megalomaniac like Hitler? And the German people allowed him to take power (all opposition was crushed) for the sake of hurt pride and self-esteem from the punishment of the Versailles Treaty and effects of the worldwide depression.

    What they wanted was the government to "fix it." Fix the economy. Raise our pride. Raise our self-esteem. Raise our national standing, even at the price of genocide!!!! Where was the German resilience and determination to struggle and make amends and succeed in spite of past mistakes. No. As usual, it is always someone else's fault. In this case, the Jews, the Catholics, the Gypsies, anyone non-Aryian. Pathetic.

    Sounds very much like today where "race" in the bait-du-jour and our fearless leader, Barry, sets the board for paying back western civilization by unleashing the crazies in Iran with nukes.

    You should to take a flying leap with your Nazi hero's.

  17. Yes, after the famous example of Neville Chamberlin and Hitler, it's sad to see Pres. Obama repeating history with Ayatollah Khamenei, like as the old saying goes, let's have sex again right now.

    Of course, it's easy to make broad statements about history when you have only a handful of facts, and the analogy isn't perfect. When it comes to WWII you're in luck because I'm just putting the finishing touches to my WWII Historyscope, the most powerful ever created, free if you just take the time, at tinyurl.com/ww2historyscope

  18. Anonymous22/1/14

    You have a slanted view of German history. Read about France re-occupying Germany in 1924 and realize that the Treaty of Versailles was purposely over punative towards Germany because of France's last loss to Germany in the 19th century. Leaving a country helpless with no economy to speak of is pretty much the perfect environment to breed a Hitler-like figure who grabs power. If the German economy was allowed to recover and more Germans had jobs, Hitler would not have such an easy road to power. France bears a great deal of responsibility for Hitler's rise to power.

  19. Anonymous23/1/14

    Its sad watching history repeat itself, especially since some of the victims of the last Holocaust are still alive. Sadder still is that those in power who know better just don't care or worse, are looking forward to it.

  20. Anonymous23/1/14

    My heart bleeds knowing that it will be my grandchildren fighting this terrible coming war. I would rather it were myself instead.
    What will the progressives do when their children are drafted regardless of gender?

  21. Anonymous23/1/14

    Anonymous says "France re-occupying Germany in 1924 ..."?? Would that be the Alsace-Lorraine region taken by Germany after the War in 1871? Oh yes, I think the French were still furious over that loss some fifty years earlier, never mind the almost two million french who died fighting the Germans in WWI.

    I have to agree, however, that this lull in Euro nastiness (later half of 20th century) will not last, especially with their capitulation to the Muslim caliphate. But I never believed, for instance, the Euro as a common money for financial exchange was going to work simply because there was so much animosity amongst nations.

    But it is very strange indeed to have someone say "You have a slanted view of German history." I don't see how any reading of German history cannot be but slanted no matter the source. What I find interesting is that for all the history of Europe, just go down the list, British, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, etc., and the conquest of other lands in search of riches beyond their own borders, the middle east is being invited into their midst with a trojan horse model and will be taken from within while they sleep. The same will happen to America if we aren't careful. But it may not matter if Iran develops the nuke and then goes on a rampage to reassert their 7th century rights to world leadership and domain.

    This article, which is an excellent summary of history, albeit brief, and Mr. Greenfield has his finger on the pulse of what is happening. Our enemies are both foreign and domestic. And you are worried about arranging the deck chairs of some long lost war that caused the French, British and Americans to punish the Germans for causing never before heard of loss of life around the world, all because their feelings were hurt. If you look at history, they were lucky to have been left with a country and not taken in by another, or their lands split up by the victor's, and their people's enslaved. It could've gone another way. It can always go another way except for those who would rather settle for peace and "hope" for a return life without war. The lesson not learned is that human nature is unchanging over time. No matter the technology or the date, no matter how civilized people think they are or how far they think they have come, their human nature remains unchanged. The Hitler's of the world will continue to be with us. We need to be watchful and not so distracted with our life of plenty that we fail to recognize the threat when we see it. We need to be situationally aware. And we are failing today and recognizing the eminent threats around us.

  22. Anonymous23/1/14

    it's largely thanks to the US taxpayer that europe has had peace since WWII. they had two choices: welfare states, or strong militaries, and they chose the former. The US provided the strong military.

  23. roger in florida23/1/14

    Minutiae about WW2 is irrelevant now. I believe Mr. Greenfield's point is that we have negotiated naively and stupidly with a cynical, manipulative and dishonest opponent. I support the idea of US/Iran negotiations, because, as Churchill also said "jaw, jaw, is better than war, war", but these negotiations are a travesty, Iran knows we are philosophically weak and that weakness more than cancels the hardware advantage.
    A more apt historical parallel would be the Washington Naval treaty of 1922, where Japan gleefully agreed with the other naval powers to limit battleship tonnage to 35,000 and then went home and immediately began planning the 72,000 behemoths Musashi and Yamato. These monstrous ships were built in secret, covered yards in cities that no westerner was allowed to visit, sounding familiar?

  24. France bears a great deal of responsibility for Hitler's rise to power.

    This is irrelevant to the question of what was the right thing to do in 1938. And Czechoslovakia was not France.

  25. Anonymous23/1/14

    What is interesting about Britain is that after the war it was impossible to find any Nazi sympathizers or isolationists. Over night they ceased to have ever existed. That is how appeasers work. For them it is a no loss situation. They either get peace or the realists do the dirty work and an appeaser says go get 'em tiger and denies he ever was an appeaser. Finally if they lose the war the appeaser is the collaborator and says he was right all along.

  26. Common 'tater24/1/14

    What was interesting about Britain is that they had allowed themselves to become militarily weak and were disarmed, even at home. After the rescue at Dunkirk, the British government asked American citizens to send them weapons as there were not enough to arm the "home guard." During England's most vulnerable time, we the people helped and sent firearms to the equivalent of the militia. After the war, the British took those weapons and destroyed them. Interesting mindset. I am afraid that we have fallen into the same trap. If the visible, imminent threat disappears, so does danger and the not so visible threat. Therefore, no need for self reliance and the ability to act independently is not needed.

    We can all feel safe now. A bunch of diplomats got some soothing words and promises on a scrap of paper. Never mind the threats to send out terrorists or the threat to destroy any neighbors the ayatollah does not like.

    By the way, have you ever noticed the round robin of threats? First NK will start with bombastic threats. After someone soothes shorty, then it is the Chinese. After someone smooth's the Chinese ruffled feathers, then Iran starts up again. Isn't it interesting whose technology is used by all three of these bad actors to threaten their neighbors? Hmm? Any coincidences here?

    Great summary of the pre WWII mindset and the current events as well.

  27. Anonymous - 'thanks to US taxpayer'...there are those who argue that the US took advantage of a financially disabled Europe and surged ahead (understandable) but we were the buffer between you and the Soviet Union so would have 'cost' you anyway in my opinion. Britain and France had the strongest militaries they could afford. By the way - it wasn't until 2006 we British were able to pay back all the US war loans - with interest.


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