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Appeasement by provocation?

Stephen Hornsby-Smith
Stephen Hornsby-Smith

Appeasement by provocation or diplomatic subterfuge, or over-zealous aggressive isolationism?

It is often argued that Chamberlain tried to save the principle of Appeasement by avoidance of conflict, but what if appeasement was a front to actually put both major dictators of 1930s in a unavoidable conflict with each other? Would that be appeasement or would that be diplomatic provocation? However, Chamberlain is still stigmatized and misunderstood when it came to his pacifying Hitler, offering Czechoslovakia as a sacrifice, and then hoping that Hitler would be satisfied and not seek war ! Perhaps Chamberlain did cock-it-up or perhaps we are all too ready to draw conclusions about him? But can one put a strategy and over-rely upon it when one needs at least a plan B? Being a 'agent provocateur' via back-channeling actually made war more imminent ! How?

Perhaps Chamberlain wanted to use the term 'Appeasement' to placate Britons in his domestic agenda when in actual fact he might have used Hitler by using the same contemptuous language as Hitler to impress and to bargain for Hitler's anti-Soviet agenda to broker trust and even for Hitler to be in Chamberlain's debt? I think Chamberlain considered that Hitler owing one to Chamberlain was a debt that would give Chamberlain leverage? Could this have been too ambitious? But aside from being the callous broker collaborating even initiating the international callous disregard of the Czech's freedom, Chamberlain might have had in his own mind of how to barter a Europe free from war by the mutual destruction of Hitler and Stalin by their own 'hands, by provoking Stalin into feeling intimidated by the Nazi's too close to eastern Europe (by annexing Czechoslovakia) to not incur the wrath of Stalin's paranoia by being at the gates of Stalin's backyard.. Not a bad strategy to illicit conflict in ones own interests but by pitting extremists against each other? How to open a front beyond ones interests and not having to pay for a war that your own domestic electorate could mistake Chamberlain's war mongering as 'appeasement??!!!!' Indeed, Chamberlain had kept the politician who was most unpopular because he demanded re-armament, on retainer, just so he could convince both Stalin and Hitler that their war would not have any involvement because Churchill's wrath was unpopular.

Chamberlain's trap back fired by Stalin and Hitler 'joining forces' to share Poland. Yet although this seems flaming obvious, there was reasoning behind Chamberlain's gamble :The Spanish Civil War in 1933-36 enabled Britain to look on without having to intervene whilst Stalin against Hitler, Franco and Mussolini, destroyed each other. Chamberlain's miscalculation was that the Spanish Civil War had taught the leading agitators to not immediately walk into a booby-trap or minefield set by Chamberlain who'd had 'previous'. No doubt Chamberlain's last attempt to not succumb to political pressure at home was his attempt to remind the British that their potential champion (Churchill) had had a mixed record himself - Unpopular with trade Unions, the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign and his jumping political ship by betraying the Tories for the Liberals, did however not determine the hearts and minds of the House of Commons, Chamberlain had had his 'Appeasement policy' (which was less primitively cowardly and more sharp practice) hung around his neck, whereas Churchill was more of a soldier who the public could identify with by having a war record as a soldier of escaping the Boer prison camps when a young man. It was his war record as a soldier and not his mishandling of the Gallipoli Campaign that the British came to identify him with - Chamberlain's last gamble had backfired too ! It is in this context Churchill surpassed himself and made himself the beating heart of every British man woman and child. Churchill was born to do this for Britain ! Fate and destiny had finally given us the strength, character and sheer will to triumph ! Hitler should have taken on Stalin because Hitler and Stalin were no match for Churchill !!

Indeed, Chamberlain's misfortune and gamble gave Churchill enough political clout to redeemed his reputation, rearm Britain and eclipse any political rival during but not after the war. Thank goodness Churchill was the manifestation of all that is big-hearted and courageous during the war, but was not the peacetime leader chosen by Britons in 1945.! Why? Britain would have to eat a lot of humble-pie as we slowly declined as a global influence, and no man eating tiger in his political prime like Churchill in the 1930s and early to mid 1940s would have ,could have stomached Britain in terminal loss of all that Victorian Britons like Churchill had been so imperially proud of. Furthermore, post-war Britain gave Churchill the chance to warn of his coined phrase 'The Iron curtain' to the world. He'd once again be PM but his legacy beyond the 2nd World war was one of global geo/political insight that safely steered Britain away from the rocks of obscurity and towards the terrain of international broker and forward thinking ! Churchill was not one to hold on to grudges when he held the international communities attention to salvage itself from the terrors of the Cold War until its demise - pity he couldn't have witnessed the falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, because he would have been so proud of all of us for sticking it out ! His legacy wasn't just to glean the end of what he termed the 'Iron curtain' but to make us believe in Vigilance and recall the unfortunate era of Appeasement,that would result in Aquiescence and even collaboration beyond and even inside our borders that Chamberlain could not have foreseen, but that history has convicted him of without proper scrutiny.


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