We should be far less worried about appeasing a would-be aggressor and much more concerned about a militarized foreign policy that overreacts to every possible danger

Monday, April 19th, 2021

While John Mueller’s new book certainly has a catchy title, The Stupidity of War: American Foreign Policy and the Case for Complacency. it argues not only for complacency but for appeasement, too:

Mueller goes on to show that Washington has consistently exaggerated foreign threats and overestimated the need for militarized responses to threats that were minimal or non-existent, going all the way back to the earliest days of the Cold War. He persuasively argues the case for what he calls complacency and appeasement: the United States faces few real threats, most of them will diminish or implode before they become a serious problem, and most of the threats that policymakers obsess over are manageable or imaginary. He also challenges one of the central myths about the “liberal international order” by denying that an ambitious U.S. grand strategy was necessary to secure the benefits of postwar democratization and economic growth.


While most advocates for a less aggressive U.S. foreign policy might shy away from the word appeasement, Mueller reclaims the term to restore it to its original meaning. Appeasement has been a curse word hurled against opponents of militaristic policies for the last 75 years because of the unusual events of the late 1930s. It described the efforts of Britain and France at that time to resolve international disputes through diplomatic negotiations to avoid another great war, and because this failed in the face of Hitler’s revanchist aggression, the word has been used to discredit diplomatic compromises ever since.

As Mueller points out, it was appeasement that averted catastrophe in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which had the potential to lead to a global conflagration even more murderous than World War II. In general, he says, appeasement succeeds in avoiding stupid wars, and avoiding stupid wars is in the best interests of all concerned.

Hawks continue to conjure up the specter of Munich to justify their preferred policies, but the horrors of WWII already instructed the world in the insanity of wars between the major powers. We should be far less worried about appeasing a would-be aggressor and much more concerned about a militarized foreign policy that overreacts to every possible danger.


  1. Altitude Zero says:

    There’s an old saying that you do not get to the truth by reversing falsehood, and this book is a good example. Just because the Neocons went nuts over the last thirty years, treating every minor threat as the second coming of You Know Who, doesn’t mean that simply assuming thea we can buy our way out of every crisis by giving in is the correct answer, either. The problem is of course that, while over-reaction can lead you into some terrible situations, under-reacting to a major threat can be fatal, and you can only be wrong once. And as for the Cuban Missile Crisis, I call bullsh*t. The Crisis was diffused by a negotiated settlement, not by anything reasonably describable as “appeasement”. The answer to Neocon stupidity is not reverse 180 degree stupidity.

  2. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Just a historical note — the supposed “appeasers” of England & France in 1939 were the belligerents who declared war on Germany. They were the war-mongers, not the appeasers.

    “the United States faces few real threats, most of them will diminish or implode before they become a serious problem”

    That seems to be a product of typical Leftie thinking that conflict necessarily involves bullets & bombs. The US is already in an existential crisis because of de-industrializing and offshoring — but the Lefties can’t even recognize that they are now dependent on the kindness of strangers. There are unfortunately many ways that an enemy can defeat us.

  3. Goober says:

    I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that any sort of conflict resolution absolutely must require nuance, and a full understanding of the situation, and the players therein.

    You simply cannot have “blanket policies” that apply to every situation.

    This is why, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, I think our response was spot on. He was not going to be appeased. He needed to be forcibly ejected.

    This is also why a war between Russia and Ukraine, even if it is clearly a case of Russian aggression, might not necessarily require a full mobilization of NATO and a hot war. It might, but it might also not.

    I think perhaps a very clear example of this is the doctrine we had of not allowing communist expansion after WWII. It got us into Korea, as well as Vietnam, even though those were entirely different situations.

    Ho Chi Mihn and the Vietnamese Communists were not necessarily going to be friendly with the USSR and the Chicoms. I think it’s entirely possible, and that history bears this out, that they may very well have been US allies (albeit nominally Communist US allies) had we taken a different tact. The idea that “Communism bad” was mostly as a result of the fact that the USSR was Communist, and they were our enemies, and we were short sighted enough to not realize that a Communist State didn’t necessarily need to be an enemy of the US.

    Cuba likewise. In fact, Cuba might be an even better example, because we had a way better chance of influencing them through friendship into relaxing their economic stranglehold on Cuba. As it was, our hostility towards them paradoxically bulwarked the regime against all of their failures, as they were able to blame the US “blockade” for everything that they screwed up. It allowed a handy scapegoat their centralized control incompetence. In those situations, a “helpful hand” from the US would have placed in stark contrast the incompetence inherent in their system, and the success of ours, and the Castro regime would never have lasted as long as it did. At least IMHO.

    So yes, appeasement has it’s place, as does outright hostile response. I think we just need to be better at one thing, which is that IF we get to the point of hostile response, it should be unconstrained by politics at that point. If you’ve gotten to the point of firing war shots at each other, the only politics involved should be in the quest for absolute and unquestionable victory. No mirings in “police actions”, “limited wars” or nation building. If we go to war, we go in as hard as we can, break everything we can, and only stop upon complete, unconditional surrender. If we want to help with rebuilding afterwards, al la Japan and Germany after WWII, great, but that can only happen after all hostilities are 100% ended.

  4. Mike in Boston says:

    “He needed to be forcibly ejected.”

    [citation needed]

    Suppose the US had done nothing after Saddam rolled into Kuwait. No Iraq wars, no massive expenditure of blood and treasure. U.S. citizens would have come out far, far ahead.

  5. Altitude Zero says:


    We can of course argue specific cases all day (I, for example, am EXTREMELY doubtful that Ho or Fidel could have ever been “turned”, given what we now know about them, especially since we’re really crappy at that kind of thing) but there’s no doubt that, as the Good Book says, there’s a time for peace and a time for war, and having any kind of “blanket policy” as you so aptly put it, is a good way to get played.

  6. Goober says:

    I’m not suggesting we could have turned Castro, merely that the US hostility and embargoes, spun inside Cuba as an outright blockade, were used as popular scapegoats to cover for the regimes incompetence. Without that scapegoat, would he have been successful in keeping power for so long? Especially with a benevolent US offering to help wherever things went henshit?

    As for Ho, I’ll let the man speak for himself:


    Mike in Boston: I want to clarify, my words were not in support of the 2004 invasion, but rather the 91 ejection of his forces out of Kuwait.

  7. Phil B. says:

    I would argue against “appeasement should never be resorted to”. Used judiciously, it can prove to be a sensible tactic to buy time.

    For example, Neville Chamberlains “appeasement” at Munich which is used as a classic example of how “wrong” this was.

    The facts are that after “The War to end all wars” there was a strong “never again!” sentiment in the UK and between the Wars, the defence budget was cut and little was spent on defence, other than the Royal Navy. Britain still had a large overseas empire and the sea routes and trade needed policing and no British person would object to paying for the Navy.

    In short, the UK was defenceless and had Chamberlain taken Britain to war in 1938 over Czechoslovakia, the UK would have lost big style.

    Germany had, since 1933, been training its pilots (Lipetsk since 1926) and Panzertruppe (Kazan since 1929) in Russia, and had modern aircraft (the Messerschmitt BF 109, Junkers 87 Stuka, Heinkel 111 and Dornier 17) plus by that time had a large number of experienced and battle tested crews, having used the Spanish Civil war to iron out the teething troubles in their equipment and perfected their tactics. They were again tested and refined in the invasion of Poland before meeting the British in combat in 1940.

    At the time of Munich, although Britain had the largest air force in the world, it consisted of open cockpit fighters, little different from those at the end of WW1, and when rearmament commenced, upgraded the equipment. However, the first Squadron (19) began to exchange its Gauntlet biplanes for Mk I Spitfires only on the 4th August 1938, barely a month before the Munich crisis in September.

    At the time of the 1938 Munich Crisis (September 1938), No 19 was the only squadron to possess Spitfires and had certainly not worked up to combat ready status. The second unit to receive Spitfires started to receive them on 31 October 1938. By the end of 1938, the RAF had two fully-equipped Spitfire squadrons with 100 per cent reserves (that is, if all the aircraft in the squadrons were destroyed or not airworthy due to battle damage, they could be completely replaced from the reserves).

    At the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939, the British Royal Air Force was still a peacetime unit unlike the highly experienced German forces. At that time, nine squadrons were equipped with Spitfires. Another squadron (No. 603 Squadron) was in the process of replacing its Gloster Gladiators (obsolete before it was introduced into service) with the Spitfire and needed to get up to speed with the new aircraft so were effectively not ready for combat. A total of 306 Mk I Spitfires had been delivered of which 36 had been written off in training accidents. The new aircraft was a quantum leap forward in comarison to the Bristol Bulldogs, Gloster Gauntlets and even the Hawker Fury – all of them biplanes – and the increase in performance plus inexperienced pilots led to the training accidents. In the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, many of the squadrons were Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons (equivalent to the National Guard) and were “weekend warriors”. They did well, nonetheless.

    France was invaded in May 1940 and 67 Spitfires were lost during the Battle of France. By the time the Battle of Britain started (officially 10 July to 31 October) Fighter Command had built up to 27 squadrons of Hurricanes and 19 of Spitfires. Between the beginning of July and the end of October, 565 Hurricanes and 352 Spitfires were lost.

    Production of the BREN machine gun began in 1938 too – the best LMG of WW2 (and for quite a while afterwards). The majority were lost in the battle of France but it was a start in modernising the army. Don’t mention the state of British tanks of that era, particularly compared to the tried and tested German armour and the experience of their crews.

    Now, I believe that at the time of the Munich Crisis as it was known in the UK, Chamberlain knew that Britain was defenceless and the breathing space between Munich and the invasion of France allowed Britain time to rearm and train. Had the Luftwaffe attacked in 1938 or 1939 and Britain had to defend itself with Gloster Gauntlets, Bristol Bulldogs, Hawker Fury’s and the more modern Gloster Gladiators (all biplanes, all open cockpit except the Gladiator) plus the few Spitfires and Hurricanes, then the War would have turned out differently.

    Chamberlain, I firmly believe sacrificed himself to buy time. He placed the welfare of his country above his own personal benefit and accepted the criticism and scorn, knowing that he could not reveal the weakness of Britain’s defences and had to sacrifice Czechoslovakia. Poland was a different matter. What would you have done under the circumstances?

    Yes – I fully agree that America is a far stronger nation militarily than Britain was in 1938 – or France for that matter. Don’t forget that at the same time that Britain was rearming, France was doing so too. They placed a lot of orders with America for aircraft and munitions. When France was invaded, the USA diverted a lot of the war matériel to the UK and demanded payment for kit that was not needed or unsuitable for the needs of the UK forces. My uncle who was in the Royal Navy at the time told me how he helped dump tons of 8mm Lebel rifle ammunition in the Atlantic as it was useless to Britain.

    Hitler was probably unaware of the full weakness of either country. Had he turned westward rather than eastward in 1938, he might well have succeeded in winning the war.

    Again, in 1940 when he was preparing an invasion fleet, the “Battle of the Barges” (RAF Bomber Command attacking and destroying the barges and ships Hitler needed to cross the channel) was carried out by medium, twin engined bombers (Vickers Wellington, Handley Page Hampden, Armstrong Whitworth Whitley) which were the result of a 1934 invitation to tender for bombers to replace the single engined bombers (Hawker Demon and Fairy Battles) that would have been totally inadequate for the task. Guy Gibsons book Enemy Coast Ahead describes his involvement with this “battle”. They did not come into service until just before the Munich crisis and again, Britain had no effective bomber force or the numbers to project power in 1938.

    Had the “unsinkable aircraft carrier” that was Britain been invaded, then neither America nor the British Empire could conceivably projected enough force across an ocean to re-invade Europe. Nor I suspect would there have been the will to do so.

    The difference between a politician and a Statesman is:

    A politician thinks of the next election.

    A Statesman thinks of the next generation.

    Chamberlain, I maintain was a Statesman and was unjustly condemned for “appeasement”. Britain was totally unprepared to fight the Wehrmacht in 1938 and 1939 and the time that “appeasement” bought was essential. It was still a close run thing, though.

  8. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Phil B., very interesting, but it ignores the major undeniable fact: England declared war on Germany, not vice versa.

    When England (and France) declared war on Germany, it was the equivalent of Woke posturing. They were in no position to do anything to help Poland — and protecting the independence of Poland was the supposed justification for England’s belligerence.

    Then followed the “Phony War”, in which the English and French did nothing except convince Hitler he had to deal with them before getting on with his main aim, which was to attack the USSR.

    English and French belligerency did not extend to declaring war on the USSR for invading Poland in concert with Germany, and their commitment to Polish independence was forgotten at the end of WWII, when they abandoned Poland to the USSR.

    English and French initiation of the war in Western Europe was an example of muddy, confused thinking. That lack of clarity about the specific ends and lack of realism about the available means got millions of people killed. It is that muddy thinking we need to avoid.

  9. Kirk says:


    Well, that’s an interesting theory, but… I rather doubt that there was anything the English or the French could have done that would have changed things at all.

    From the after-the-fact standpoint, your ideas aren’t entirely nuts, but when you look at it from the standpoint of the general European view of 1939, which was expecting a replay of WWI? You’d be entirely nuts to expect that the German Army would be able to pull off France 1940. Nobody expected that sort of thing, even the Germans. In order for you to be even slightly “right” in the sense of your argument, the French and English would have to have been prescient of what that campaign would look like. As it was, they were expecting another situation like WWI, where the war would be one of long, brutal attrition. Absolutely nobody had realistic expectations of how reality would play out.

    As it was, both the UK and the French had a moral obligation to the Poles–After all, when the Poles had come to them in the late 1930s and said “Yeah, hey… That crazy German wants us to ally with him in order to invade the Soviet Union, what do you have on offer…?”, they’d told the Poles that they had their backs. Of course, that’s a rather simplistic view of it all, but that’s about the gist of historical fact. Poland was in a vise between two totalitarian regimes, and chose to do the “right thing” by the rest of the world. One wonders what a Realpolitik Polish foreign policy would have looked like–I rather suspect that they’d have been forced into a situation not too much different than Hungary’s or Romania’s.

    In any event, the whole “appeasement” argument rather falls down on the fact that when you’re dealing with nutters, the smartest thing to do is just bite the bullet and deal with them as they are going to deal with you. Hitler could and should have been stopped in the 1930s, but because they wanted the “bulwark” of Germany against the Soviets, well… Yeah. And, because the Soviets wanted the Germans to attack and weaken the West, well… All that happened with the COMINTERN telling the French Communist Party to do all it could to weaken the French, as well as all those trainloads of raw materials that Stalin sent west into Germany.

    All parties played with fire, and got their hands burnt off. Appeasement would have worked no differently, and that’s down to the essential sociopathic madness of Hitler and his acolytes. Blaming anyone else is nuts–It’s like you’re looking at a family with a diagnosed madman in the family, and then blaming the victims for what happened. Sure, in an idea world with perfect foresight, you could spec out the likely course of events and proceed accordingly, but nobody had a bloody clue that France would fall the way it did in 1940. Even the Germans were shocked by it all. They’d expected a replay of the Schlieffen Plan from 1914, and projected the French Army as being a lot better an opponent than it really was. And, hell… Looking at the stats and the facts as they were then known, France should have been a lot more of a factor than they were.

    In any event, what we’re really talking about here isn’t “appeasement”, but negotiation. You can’t negotiate with a nutter, or Hitler would have been finished when they gave him Czechoslovakia. He was your typical sociopath, and you don’t negotiate with those people–You just distance yourself, or you kill them, depending on the options they give you. Hitler’s economic idiocy meant that Germany had to go to war or go bankrupt in the worst way possible, so war it was–And, nothing the Allies did would have ever changed that.

    Which isn’t to say that they couldn’t have organized themselves a lot better than they did.

  10. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Kirk, I hear you, man! And we certainly are sitting here with the benefit of hindsight.

    But I would encourage you to read President Hoover’s belatedly published book :Freedom Betrayed” (2011). With foresight, Hoover saw that Hitler & Stalin were destined to fight to the death over their competing views of socialism. He advised at the time that the smart thing for everyone else was to keep out the way — maybe come in at the end when both sides were punched out.

    It was an act of cosmic stupidity for the English & French to issue a guarantee of support to Poland — a guarantee which they had neither the means nor the will to honor. Their guarantee encouraged the Polish Political Class to refuse to negotiate with Germany.

    Hoover suspects the malign encouragement of FDR behind this foolish act of moral preening by England & France. Regardless, the English/French declaration of war against Germany changed the strategic calculus for Hitler, whether or not he was a sociopath. Rationally, he could not attack east to the USSR while leaving declared belligerents on his western border.

    The key issue for us today is history’s warning against empty feel-good gestures, such as the English/French made in starting WWII. Even at the time, it obviously made no sense for them to commit to war against Germany for occupying western Poland while having no objection to the USSR’s simultaneous occupation of eastern Poland. And their abandonment of all of Poland to the USSR at the end of WWII simply showed they were cosmically hypocritical as well as cosmically stupid.

    The lesson for us today is that before committing to war/military action we need to have a very clear understanding of our objectives, and a very realistic appreciation of whether our desired objectives are in fact feasible given the correlation of forces.

  11. Kirk says:


    What, then, were the realistic options for the Allies?

    I really don’t see any, from the standpoint of how things had deteriorated in 1939. They’d first turned Germany into the scapegoat for WWI, mostly as a revenge act for the Franco-Prussian War, and essentially created that which nearly destroyed them in the 1940s. If they’d have acted better and sooner, WWII would never have happened, but… Yeah. The situation in ’39 left few good options. Staying out of it all? Not ‘effing likely to work, between Hitler and Stalin.

    My read of the history involved is that Stalin was always going to do something, whether it was expand south into the Middle East, or move on Europe. If you squint, and look at it from the right angle, it all makes sense for a Soviet invasion after the Germans, French, and British all exhausted themselves in WWI Mk.II–And, that’s what Stalin’s machinations were all moving towards in the French political scene with regards to what the French Communists were doing. I think there was always going to be a war, no matter what–The key thing was, how much more optimized growth were they going to give Hitler and the Nazis? The destruction of Czechoslovakia and the takeover of their armaments industry was critical to German war potential, a lot more than anyone is really willing to acknowledge today. Having done that, and then if they’d have given Hitler and the Nazis time to digest western Poland…? The problems would be that much worse, in terms of a stronger Germany.

    The biggest problem the Allies had in ’39 wasn’t so much the Germans as it was the conditions they’d set with the disastrous Versailles treaty and its administration. Had they possessed the wit and wisdom to do other things besides what they did, then… Well, let’s just say that the conditions for WWII wouldn’t have been nearly as dire as they were.

    In a real sense, WWII was the Allies reaping what they’d sown with WWI’s end games and peace process. Likewise, Stalin got exactly what he deserved with Hitler and the whole WWII debacle, and I say that because of everything he did to enable and strengthen Hitler in the early parts of the war. I think the fall of France in 1940 came as a huge shock to everyone, in that it stopped the long bleed-out that all had foreseen and dreaded, and then enabled Hitler to turn on his Soviet sponsor in the East. Lulled, I might add, into an entirely false sense of superiority based on the experience they had with the ennui of the French elites.

    Frankly, looking at the whole mess, the only thing I can say is that it’s too bad that all the wrong people got killed. The simple folk of the Central Eurasian landmass did not deserve what came for them, and the assholes who deserved it, mostly escaped the consequences of their actions. You’ll note that when you go back and look, very few of the opportunistic little power freaks in Germany got the noose; they were adjudged essential to rebuilding things after the war. Meanwhile, all the young men they’d cozened into fighting their wars were lying dead on the steppes, never to even see burial. Same with the Communist Party apparatchiks who enabled Stalin’s terror and righteously put their fellow nationals into the Gulag system–All of them were acclaimed Heroes of the Soviet Union, and got to die in their beds. The lot of them should have been processed into the death camps they consigned so many innocents to.

    Ah, well… The elephants dance, and the ants get crushed. It’s all has it always been, and ever shall be.

  12. Gavin Longmuir says:


    Agreed. There was going to be war in Europe at the end of the 1930s — mostly as a result of the vicious way the French treated defeated Germany. The only question was which countries would be first into the meat-grinder.

    Hitler had made very clear his opposition to the Communists of the USSR. Viktor Suvorov has written a number of books (e.g. “The Chief Culprit”) asserting that Stalin was gearing up to attack Germany. It was Poland’s misfortune to be stuck in the middle between Germany and the USSR — and Poland’s further misfortune to be mislead by the English & French into a refusal to cut a deal with either side.

    We can peel back the onion some more to see why WWI ended so badly. If the US had not entered that European war as a fresh belligerent towards the end, it is likely that the exhausted European combatants would have reached a stalemate — with German occupation of much of Western Russia and possibly no Bolshevik take-over of Russia. Why did the US enter the European war? It seems the fingerprints of Perfidious Albion are all over that.

    George Washington was correct with his warning against “entangling alliances”. Sadly, the Biden* crew in their arrogance seem determined to drag us all into unnecessary (and unwinnable) conflicts.

  13. szopen says:

    Damn, guys.

    (1) “It was an act of cosmic stupidity for the English & French to issue a guarantee of support to Poland”

    Poland and France were ALLIES.

    (2) “Their guarantee encouraged the Polish Political Class to refuse to negotiate with Germany.”

    Polish political class DID negotatiated with Germany and was ready for reasonable agreements. The problem is the German demands were not reasonable and would mean, taking into an account the events of 1938/39, that Poland would without fight accept the role of German vassal and would effectively resign from parts of Polish territory. No Polish politician would agree for that.

    You think Poland would accept German demands? Great. Then, as you probably know, German would issue the same demands to France. Hitler himself said that he initially wanted to attack France first, and only “unreasonable” Poland convinced him to change the priorities.

    (3) English and French belligerency did not extend to declaring war on the USSR for invading Poland in concert with Germany,

    Because the British guarantees specifically (in secret addendum) specified that “foreign power” is Germany only; and also because of utter stupidity of my own government, which issued orders to Polish army to not to fight the Soviets and not declaring war on them.

    (4) “Then followed the “Phony War”, in which the English and French did nothing except convince Hitler he had to deal with them before getting on with his main aim, which was to attack the USSR.”

    Except Hitler ALWAYS wanted to strike west:

    “It was clear to me that a conflict with Poland had to come sooner or later. I had already made this decision in the spring, but I thought that I would first turn against the West in a few years, and only after that against the East. … I wanted first of all to establish a tolerable relationship with Poland in order to fight first against the West. This plan appealed to me but could not be executed, as fundamental points had changed. It became clear to me that Poland would attack us in the event of a conflict with the West.”


  14. Kirk says:


    See, one of the things you have to remember when dealing with Europeans is that they have highly refined memories and historical references guiding their every action.

    The French in WWI’s aftermath were channeling what the Prussians did to them in 1870. The Prussians in 1870 were channeling what the French did to them back during the Napoleonic Wars, and so on and on and on and on and on…

    The French of 1919 forgot why the Prussians did what they did in 1870, thus creating the motive for 1940. Purblind idiocy, in other words.

    I first encountered this mentality in a Serbian friend of the family–We were talking about the troubles in the former Yugoslavia, and he was telling me all about the horrible things that the nasty Croatians and Muslims had gotten up to, and why he was so glad they were “getting theirs”. He had all the horrors perpetrated on innocent Serbs, right down to their names and what injuries they’d had which killed them.

    Now, in the course of that conversation, a couple of synapses fired in my memory, and I suddenly recalled that his home village was far from the fighting; indeed, it was in the heart of Serbia, and I did not recall any penetration into that area. So, I asked him about all that, and what I discovered was that he was recounting to me events that had taken place back in the late 1600s or so… He still remembered the names and all that from something which happened about the time of the second siege of freakin’ Vienna, as though it were yesterday. And, he was still enraged by it…

    I can only vaguely tell you what one branch of my family was doing circa 1680, and I look at those activities as simple historical fact, not justification for killing members of the former Iroquois Federation. Europe is different, in that regard–They remember the last slight upon themselves, but never the preceding one that they perpetrated.

    My conclusion is that most of that continent is insane, and the insanity is contagious. You see the same mindset of “blood guilt” spreading here in America today, and it’s called “Critical Race Theory” and being espoused by all the right people. Idiocy on skates…

  15. Kirk says:


    And, thus we demonstrate the dangers of relying on one’s own national schooling and opinions… I think the Poles did the best they could with a really lousy hand, and they did better by their “allies” the French and English than those assholes ever had the right to expect–Especially with regards to all the pre-war intelligence on the Enigma systems that the Poles handed over, gratis. Not to mention all of the Poles who fought desperately for the Allies as soldiers… Only to be betrayed at the end of the war by the handing over of their nation to the Soviets.

    The whole thing was shameful, but all of a piece with the assholes playing Realpolitik with people’s lives.

  16. Phil B says:

    @ Kirk,

    You might be interested in Vladimir Bogdnovitch Resuns’ (his pen name is Victor Suvorov) book Icebreaker which sets out in meticulous detail the Soviet preparations to invade Europe in 1941. One of the big reasons that the Germans were so successful initially is that the Soviets had dismantled their border defences and retrained their army to fight an offensive war rather than defensive. Hitler beat them to it and if Mussolini had not invaded Greece and the Balkans and had to be bailed out by the Germans, the four or six weeks that they spent there instead of invading Russia six weeks earlier, then they may not have been stopped by Generals Mud and Winter.

    Your point about the Soviets wanting Germany and the Allies to fight themselves to a standstill and then move in to conquer them is spot on. They did this in the far east and seized large chunks of Manchuria and Sakhalin Island to name two.

    A PDF of Icebreaker is here:


    There is much made about BREXIT and how the UK would lose credibility if it did not stick to the absolute letter of any agreement. Nowadays, that doesn’t mean much but in those days, it did. Back in 1939, Britain had a treaty with Poland and when the Germans invaded, they were obliged to honour the terms of the treaty which meant declaring war on Grmany.

    As for Gavin Longmuirs argument, I would ask what he would have done in Chamberlains situation in 1938, given the dire state of the British armed forces?

    The time to have stood up to Hitler was in 1936 when he reoccupied the Rhineland area. Militarily he was still weak and had not completed the rearmament of the Wehrmacht and was still comparatively weak in artillery, tanks, and modernised weapons (many WW1 Mauser 98′s were still in general use with their long barrels and MG34 production was only ramping up) and reliant on horse transport. However, the propaganda films showed highly mechanised forces and all their best kit was on display (but not the MG34 which was carefully concealed from outside observers until the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938.

    But again,I would argue that the obsolete kit and the poor state of training of the British army would have made such a gesture very risky indeed.

  17. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Phil B: “what he would have done in Chamberlains situation in 1938, given the dire state of the British armed forces?”

    Chamberlain was greeted by thousands of cheering Englishmen when we returned from Munich in 1938. They did not want to be part of any war.

    The failure was not what Chamberlain did in 1938; it was the empty declaration of war against Germany in 1939. If English honor was worth so much, they should have followed that declaration of war with real action — not with a “Phony War”. And if English honor was so great, how could they have agreed to handing over their ally Poland to the tender mercies of the USSR at the end of WWII?

    That is all water under the bridge. There is nothing any of us can do to change any of it now. All we can do is learn from history — which reinforces the wisdom of George Washington’s advice to avoid those “entangling alliances”.

  18. Kirk says:

    I read Rezun years and years ago… I find some of his supposition to be interesting, yet unproven. The inferences he makes are good, but the documentation and citation it’s based on…? Not very good, at all. Of course, he’s basing it on things he read and heard during his time with the Soviet GRU, but… Who knows the truth of it, at this point?

    I have to disagree with Gavin’s points. The choices faced by Britain and France were all bad, by ’39. They should have acted far earlier, but did not. Why? Well, that’s likely buried in the archives, but I suspect that the French were influenced by the Communists in their government, and the British weren’t able to do much on the continent without them.

    The problem with acting against Germany early enough to prevent the war was that a.) they weren’t unified enough to do so, and b.) there was active malfeasance on the part of the Communist and Communist-sympathizing French deputies. On orders of whom? Probably, Stalin. In any event, he was setting the table for a mid- to late-1940s sweep–At least, in my read of the history.

    What the Allies should have done would have been to look at the European situation around 1925 and said “Y’know… This ain’t working. We don’t need to set ourselves up for round two with the Germans the way we are, why don’t we look at trying to reset this crap so that we don’t have to refight it all over again…?”. Of course, nobody did so, and they all acted selfishly, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom for millions. Had the Entente had a lick of sense, which they did not, they’d have made peace terms that didn’t mean going to war inside of a generation back in 1919. They sowed, and the 1930s generation reaped a harvest of death.

    My take on it is that by about ’39, the whole thing was on rails to oblivion, and there wasn’t a damn thing to be done about it. The US had, sadly, a moral obligation to get themselves involved, given the massive Wilsonian cock-up we engineered in 1919. Our mistake was a.) playing arsenal to the belligerents, out of greed, and b.) letting Wilson wreak his havoc. The sumbitch should never, ever have been elected, let alone allowed to do what he did. Much of the extraconstitutionality of our times has its roots in his malign work, and the asshole really should have been tried as a traitor and shot for what he did to the country. Along with the rest of the Progressive freaks. Nearly everything wrong we have going today dates back to that administration, including and emphasizing law enforcement and race relations.

    Absent Wilson’s resegregation and support for the KKK/Jim Crow, I suspect we’d have come to a far better racial equilibrium than we have managed.

  19. Gavin Longmuir says:

    “Back in 1939, Britain had a treaty with Poland and when the Germans invaded, they were obliged to honour the terms of the treaty which meant declaring war on Grmany.

    This was the same “Perfidious Albion” where Lord Palmerston had famously said: “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”

    Poland was caught in the middle. If they had remembered Lord Palmerston’s remark, they might not have relied on outside help and made some better (but still very unpleasant) decisions.

    Library of Congress House Document No. 541 “Events Leading Up To World War II” (1945) certainly makes it seem like Polish politicians were very reluctant to deal with Germany on the issue of the mainly German population of Danzig. It quotes a diplomatic correspondence from Hitler to the French Premier (27-Aug-1939) stating: “I see no possibility of persuading Poland, who deems herself safe from attack by virtue of guarantees given to her, to agree to a peaceful solution.”

    None of this is to excuse the actions of Hitler, Stalin, or any of the other movers & shakers. But it is a reminder to us all now to be very careful where we let the Barry Obama’s of this world put their “Red Lines”.

  20. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Basically, I agree with Kirk — by 1939, war was inevitable. And it had its roots in WWI, which in turn had its roots in the Boer War, which in turn had its roots in European competition for colonies, which in turn had its roots in over a millenium of Europeans fighting each other.

    The US did a wonderful thing after WWII — with a generous Marshall Plan instead of a punitive Treaty of Versailles, which put Europe on a path for decades of peace.

    The point about thinking about such topics is to seek to inform ourselves what to do now about the future we might be able to influence, not the past we cannot change. Just what kind of treaties & guarantees should the West be giving to the Ukraine or to Taiwan? History suggests we should be very careful about what we commit to!

  21. szopen says:

    “Library of Congress House Document No. 541 “Events Leading Up To World War II” (1945) certainly makes it seem like Polish politicians were very reluctant to deal with Germany on the issue of the mainly German population of Danzig”

    Well yes, because POlish politicians (at least according the memoirs published after the war) thought that would be slippery slope leading to vassalage. Plus you have to take things in context: and the context was Munich. When Czechia agreed to cede Sudeten, was promised anything, and then was practically incorporated into Reich. With Hitler, there were assurances that there was absolutely nothing which would stand in a way of Polish-German friendship (and the relationships seems to me to be more warm than most modern Polish historians would want to admit, though it seems Hitler never actually made official offer besides some vague sentences like “Odessa is a port too”), and then, after taking Czechia, changing the mind and suddenly seeing great injustices which just have to be corrected.

    BTW, supposedly Pilsudski made an offer to the French to make preventive war with Germany. Again supposedly he made that offer in 1933 expecting French would refuse, just to prepare the ground for renegotiation of POlish-French alliance, or, in some other articles, to force Germany to end the cold war. Many historians however doubt such an offer was actually made.

  22. Kirk says:

    I’m sure there’s a lot of self-serving tunnel-visionesque BS in the US Congressional record. None of those incompetent parochial dipshits wanted to go on record with anything that even remotely looked like it was their own fault–The entire narrative was that everybody, to include the Soviets, were the poor innocent victims of the Eeeevul Nazis. That was the line they were selling, and I doubt there’s the least little bit of honest self-acknowledgment in there anywhere.

    You look at things from the perspective of what’s classically been taught and indoctrinated here in the US since WWII, and there’s just a tremendous amount of self-serving covering up of facts and distortions of the records to make everyone look good. The US media refuses to analyze all the encomiums they delivered about Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin–Or, how deep in the tank they were for all of them. So, the Big Lie goes on. And, on.

    However, you go look at things from what the other players/victims were seeing and going through, and the story is going to be far different. And, maybe just as distorted, from an honestly objective viewpoint…

    One of the things that really annoys me about the Russian/Soviet expressed viewpoint is that they play up the “victim” thing to a truly massive degree, while simultaneously ignoring what they did to enable Hitler and the Nazis. It’s like all that tacit support their program got in the French Chamber of Deputies didn’t exist, or that the COMINTERN wasn’t dictating actions to the French Communist parties…

    Honest truth, at this point? Figuring out what it was would require a really deep dive into the archives, probably some cracking of heads because the people who knew have successors that don’t want the story out any more than they did back then, and a lot of honest introspection over the whole era.

  23. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Kirk: “You look at things from the perspective of what’s classically been taught and indoctrinated here in the US since WWII, and there’s just a tremendous amount of self-serving covering up of facts and distortions of the records to make everyone look good.”

    “Classically” — there’s the word! According to some polls, the rising generation in the US is mostly unsure of which countries were allied with the US in WWII, with lots of them not even knowing about WWII. Winston Churchill reportedly said: “A nation that forgets its past has no future”. Test now in progress.

    The issue is not restricted to the West. I had a conversation with an intelligent educated young Russian a few years back. He had never heard of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and frankly could not believe that Russia had partnered with Germany and invaded Poland.

  24. Kirk says:


    The entire world is going ahistorical, which if it isn’t an actual usage, damn well should be.

    Once upon a time, I was tasked to research Vietnam-era route clearance operations. In so doing, I found and checked out a copy of the Rand Corporation study on said subject. That study had been in the US Army Engineer School library since the early 1970s, and had been checked out a grand total of two times–Once by an officer writing a paper sometime in the late ’70s, and then by me, in the early 1990s.

    Reading that book, I discovered that the Army had commissioned Hughes Aerospace to do a study on the potential use of thermal imaging to spot mines with. I was amazed–I did not know that we’d had such devices in that period. Flippin’ things were jeep-mounted, but we had ‘em. Turns out, they don’t work for spotting mines or IED-type things all that well.

    Several months later, I’m still working the side project, and the boss comes back from some symposium and tells me that they’re working all sorts of trick new technology in the post-Desert Storm era for finding mines and so forth out in the desert, and would I be so good as to contact the contractor… Which was the successor corporation to Hughes Aerospace. So, I do. After hours and hours of phone tag in the pre-email era, I get in touch with the program manager and we exchange contact info so he can send me what he has. In the course of the conversation, it transpires that a.) he knows nothing about anything before he started working for Hughes in the late 1980s, and b.) he had no idea that Hughes had ever done anything for the Army in terms of research into using thermal imaging to find mines. He was shocked and amazed to find out that they’d done it already, in Vietnam…

    I gave him the citations for what I’d found in the Rand studies, and heard back from him a few weeks later after he’d had time to pull up everything from the corporate archives. Turns out, had he but known about all that prior effort, he’d have saved Hughes and the Army a butt-ton of money, because the Vietnam-era studies basically rendered all of his preliminary research moot and meaningless–They could have gone on to other issues much earlier than they did.

    Nobody knew–Not the contracting officer that tasked them, not the corporate guys that made the contract, not the researchers, and not the idiots who’d started the whole ball rolling at the Engineer School, whose library was where I’d found one of the few extant copies of that study.

    ‘Effing mind-boggling, TBH. I don’t know how many self-proclaimed “subject matter experts” there were working on those issues at the time, but apparently, none of them had bothered to do any basic research in their own friggin’ library. That was about the time I started paying attention and noticing just how few of the “commissioned elite” actually read any history, or could even hold an intelligent conversation about any of it. Frighteningly few, I’m here to tell you. I feel fairly safe in saying that, as a lower enlisted swine? I probably was better-read than about 99% of the people I worked for and around, when it came to the basics of our profession. Hell, my personal library was bigger than some of the ones maintained by field-grades–I maxed out my weight allowance for professional materials every time I moved, and many of them didn’t even know there was a weight allowance specifically for that purpose, let alone had call to use it.

  25. Jim says:

    “Just a historical note — the supposed ‘appeasers’ of England & France in 1939 were the belligerents who declared war on Germany. They were the war-mongers, not the appeasers.”

    In 1939, Germany was an “astronomically” rising industrial power poised to economically and militarily eclipse the British Empire and its satellites. Since certain successful preventative measures undertaken swiftly and with prejudice, the Germans have been good little boys.

    In the year 2021, can you hear history beginning to rhyme?

  26. Szopen says:

    Anyways calling French and Englishmen war-mongers seems to me rather unjustifiable.

    G: I want Sudeten. Or war.
    F & E: Ok, you will get Sudeten, but you promise that’s all and you will behave.
    G: Of course. Ah, I forgot to tell you, I want Czechia too, but that’s it, I don’t want anything else
    F & E: OK
    G: I want Danzig and referendum in Pomerania. Or I will attack Poland
    F & E: Listen, if you will attack Poland, we will declare war on you. We want to be no misunderstandings this time: absolutely, without doubts, if you attack Poland, we will attack you.
    G: no you won’t
    F & E: <after three days declares war on Germany
    G: …

  27. Kirk says:


    You have to bear in mind… There are still an awful lot of people who feel that the “wrong side” won WWII, and that Germany should have been allowed the freedom to do whatever they wanted to all those unwashed Eastern European types, ‘cos most of them were dirty Jews or the next thing to them, Slavs. After all, what is the root word for Slav, but slave…?

    Personally, I think they should have kept the camps open after the war, and run every single card-carrying member of the Nazi Party through them so that they could join the literal “ash heap of history”. Then, I’d have herded all the fellow-travelers in the Allied nations through and begun on the Communists, but by that time, I’m pretty sure someone would have assassinated me.

    A pox on all their houses. The monsters of the left, which includes the Nazis, should have all been put down at the same time, and it’s a pity they weren’t.

  28. Szopen says:

    Kirk, hear, hear!

  29. Sam J. says:

    “The monsters of the left, which includes the Nazis, should have all been put down at the same time, and it’s a pity they weren’t…”

    If the Jews had not taken over Russia and destroyed the whole economy of Germany then it wouldn’t have happened in the first place so who exactly should have been run “through the camps”?

    If the Nazis were so evil in killing 6 million Jews, false, then how evil were the Jews who ran the Soviet Union.

    Solzhenitsyn says 60 million died. We can easily see well over 20 million without any even of the slightest exaggeration and surely it’s way, way more. What should should be the price for that?

    Now if your average German, they were all Nazis after the Jews had completely destroyed the whole economy and put the entire wealth of the country in their pocket. The Germans were willing to vote for anyone but the Jew run candidates. If they deserved to die then how many Jews deserved to die for the slaughter in the USSR? A number please. All of them???

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