Neville Chamberlain Announces Britain’s Declaration of War

A good speech. The Germans were given every possible chance, and chose war. Chamberlain did not, like us, live in the shadow of “Munich”. He lived in the shadow of July-August 1914, where the major powers of Europe failed to talk, failed to bargain, failed to try to make reasonable accomodations to each other’s demands, and World War I with its millions of deaths resulted. That is what Chamberlain tried to avoid. But, when it proved to be impossible, he led Britain into war, and he did so with a country united because it knew every other possible avenue had been explored. Churchill was right to be charitable to Chamberlain, even as he was right to say Chamberlain should have drawn the line earlier. But few in Britain agreed with Churchill at the time. They did not want to fight the Battle of the Somme again. As it turned out, they had no choice. They were not interested in war, but as the saying goes, it was interested in them.

Hat tip Conservative History.

5 thoughts on “Neville Chamberlain Announces Britain’s Declaration of War”

  1. In addition to pursuing the unwise policy of appeasement, Chamberlain and his team treated with contempt those Germans who–at great personal risk–were trying to warn the British government about the seriousness of the risk for Naziism.

    OTOH, Chamberlain did hedge the appeasement policy by investing signifcantly in upgrading Britain’s defenses, including expanded production of the Spitfire and Hurricane fighters and the deployment of the radar-based air defense system.

    Obama is following his lead on the appeasement, but not on the defense upgrades.

  2. “Churchill was right to be charitable to Chamberlain, even as he was right to say Chamberlain should have drawn the line earlier. But few in Britain agreed with Churchill at the time”

    Quite right.

    Churchill was jeered and booed and shouted down by the very MPs who not long after, acclaimed him as Prime Minister. Chamberlain may have been a credulous fool but he had powerful political support for his credulity during his tenure. Chamberlain took the fall for the obstinacy and willful blindness of many an idiot who went on to a long parliamentary career.

  3. I don’t know if he was a credulous fool. It is hard for sane, sensible people to believe a guy is going to act like Hitler, even when it is Hitler, but he hasn’t run amok yet. It is so much more sensible, so it seems, to figure he is just a big puffed-up blowhard, that no one would really want another European war, that he could be bought off with something tolerable and the train would keep rattling along. The problem is: Hitlers happen.

  4. I’ve quoted this before, but Paul Reynaud (who became Prime Minister of France just before the German onslaught of 1940) said:

    “People think Hitler is like Kaiser Wilhelm. The old gentleman only wanted to take Alsace and Lorraine from us. But Hitler is Genghis Khan.”

    People really do have a hard time comprehending the reality of figures like Hitler and Ahmadinejad.

    Paul Reynaud was once asked whether he would not admit that Daladier, his great political rival, was a patriotic Frenchman who desired a French victory. His response was:

    “Yes, Daladier desires a French victory–but he desires my defeat even more.”

    I’m not sure this was a totally fair comment about Daladier, but it certainly applies to the current American Democratic leadership, who are much more concerned about victory in internal political matters than about victory over terrorists and rogue states.

  5. “,,, Hitler and Ahmadinejad.”

    I don’t see much comparison. Hitler really ran the government, really controlled the secret police, really did manage to dominate and control the Army. Ahmadinejad is not nearly so powerful. I tend to think he is a blowhard who talks the way he does to get attention. In other words, he is more like what Chamberlain figured Hitler was: The loudest guy in a cabal, the public face of a faceless committee, and someone who made noise for domestic consumption. In fact, most noisy despots are more like that. Hitler and Genghis Khan only come along once in a while. Plus, Hitler had rough equality of conventional power on land against his primary enemies. Ahmadinejad has nothing remotely close to Israel’s nuclear capability. He has no Wehrmacht, he has no nukes. He has some terrorists he supports, at great expense. Iran is nothing like the threat that Germany was. He is a bad guy, and I would be happy to see a mob drag him screaming from his house and hang him from the nearest lamp post. But only in his own sick dreams is he as much of a threat as Hitler was.

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