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This review is from: The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obama's America (Hardcover)
For a man dead set against appeasement Thornton starts out by saying good things about it in two instances. On the one hand, when the enemy is significantly stronger, it is rational for the weaker to make an attempt to appease. On the other hand, as Churchill is quoted, "the surest and perhaps only path to world peace" is when the stronger attempts to appease the weaker. These two instances would seem to fit a lot of cases but are never heard from again in Thornton's book (examples that come to my mind, during the Peloponnesian war weaker Melos should have appeased stronger Athens, in 1815 Britain and the victorious powers did successfully appease defeated France). Perhaps the Hitler phenomena could have been avoided if France and the Allied powers had appeased Germany during the 1920's. Appeasement has always been, in the proper circumstances, a useful tool of diplomacy.
Let's move on to the 1930's case. It is important to realize that the League of Nations and the policies of internationalism and arms control flowed out of the experience from the origins of WW I. Men were asking: is there not a better way than deterrence, alliances, and arms races --- peace through strength had led, or at least, had not averted that war.
There seems to be an assumption among far too many that a policy of peace through strength is the right policy for all times and places. Bruce Thornton fits right in with this crowd. He assumes that a policy of deterrence could have prevented WW II. This tired old notion really needs to be retired. Hitler did not expect to achieve his goal of lebensraum without war. Hitler, if you will pardon the pun, was a tough nut to crack.
Lastly, I would like to briefly touch on Thornton's root cause of why Britian and France were unable to stand up to Hitler's Germany: it was the fault of the Enlightenment and modernity. I know this script is old hat in certain circles but that doesn't make it any less ideologically inebriated. Thornton stands before us not as a historian but as a terrible simplifier.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 5, 2011 11:47:46 AM PDT
Peter Leavitt says:
AS, the problem with your argument is that after WWI the appeasers of Nazism, especially Chamberlain, lacked the wit to understand that the best way to deal with bullies is with credible main strength, something that Churchill, Thornton and Kagan have amply proved. If you think that the critics of optimistic modern "Enlightenment" nostrums are inebriated, then you are rather naive about the history of the assorted twentieth-century disasters.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 1:15:05 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 13, 2011 7:19:41 AM PDT
The Ancient Simplicity says:
In regards to your views on the Enlightenment, it is obvious we will not reach any kind of understanding. Reminds me of the heated arguments, which I find humorous, as to whether Hitler's problem was that he was an absolutist or a relativist; or Heidegger's claim that metaphysics grounds an age.
Appeasement in the 1930's was clearly a disastrous policy. Would deterrence have done better? You say it is "proved" that it would have. Proved is a strong word. History is complex; telling simple stories with simple morals may feel good but is not history.
When you say Chamberlain "lacked the wit to understand" you do a grave disservice. Chamberlain was not weak-minded or weak-willed but a sharp minded and strong-willed man, who weighed all the evidence, taking detailed military and economic advice, before making policy. He constantly wrestled with doubts over whether Hitler's aims were vast or limited.
I dare say if Churchill had been named PM in 1937 it is his reputation that would lie in tatters and popular writers today would scribble: why wasn't appeasement tried. All I am saying is that neither deterrence nor appeasement could meet the Hitler test.
Posted on Jun 13, 2011 8:14:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 13, 2011 8:16:59 PM PDT
Chuck McVey says:
I confess I have to wryly note I voted that both of the previous commentators `added to the discussion.' The problem is you both are arguing what-if-history and while we would like to think that standing up to Hitler early on would have averted the horror of WWII, we really do not know. Same for, 'What if Churchill were the PM in 1937.
What we do know is that appeasement failed, failed terribly. Appeasement is a sign of weakness and weakness encourages aggression.
Those are our lessons learned . . . except we seem to have to relearn those lessons again and again. Sadly, we are very slow learners.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 14, 2011 8:22:57 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 14, 2011 9:49:16 AM PDT
The Ancient Simplicity says:
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