August 18, 2006

Threat, or Menace, Part Deux

Hatched by Dafydd

So Scott Johnson finally dropped the other slipper in his continuing bad analogy comparing the US-brokered, UN-supported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah to the 1938 Munich agreement, brokered by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, among others. In our last episode, Scott stated that the Munich agreement resulted in a delay of World War II by about a year -- during which time, Scott asserted, Germany got stronger relative to the UK -- hence, it was a terrible agreement from Britain's perspective:

Like the UN resolution, the Munich Agreement assured that war, when it came, would be on terms more favorable to the fascists than they otherwise would have been.

At the end of the post, he added an update, in which a historian, John Steele Gordon, countered that the RAF had dramatically increased its strength relative to the German Luftwaffe... thus, that there is a good argument, at least, that the Munich agreement was actually good for Britain:

But had the Battle of Britain been fought in the summer of 1939 instead of a year later, those few to whom so much is owed would not have been able to save the many.

(Gordon refers, of course, to Winston Churchill's famous aphorism about the Royal Air Force: "Never have so many owed so much to so few".)

Now, this seemed a rather damning claim; if true, it completely undercuts Scott's analogy. But this was Scott's response to this point:

The first point I leave to pursue another day.

I suggested in my previous post that surely that other day had better be soon; I don't imagine that Scott was responding to me -- I highly doubt he reads Big Lizards! -- but evidently, sundry other readers responded via e-mail, rather than a blog entry, and Scott has realized he needs to address the argument directly.

Well... more or less. He still talks around the core question, which is (if you haven't forgotten in all the excitement) whether the 1938 Munich agreement was good or bad for the civilized world.

"Common sense" says it was bad; but common sense is what tells us that the world is flat, so it doesn't have much of a track record. We need some uncommon sense, which is another word for actual analysis. This he attempts to provide by a series of quotations, largely unanalyzed themselves (except by their selection).

From a biography of Churchill by William Manchester, Scott notes that, while it's true that the RAF increased from five to 47 squadrons during that time, and also dramatically increased its anti-aircraft batteries, the ground and naval forces remained static. In fact, Chamberlain refused to increase the army budget from 1938-1939, nor did he order a military draft; quoting Manchester, Scott writes:

In every other category--artillery, tanks, and equipped divisions--Nazi gains were overwhelming...The number of Nazi divisions jumped from seven to fifty-one...

But of course, as we all know from history, Germany never invaded the British Isles -- precisely because they could never win the air war against the RAF, and likely for that reason, could never win the sea battle against the Royal Navy. A reasonable person might conclude that Chamberlain deliberately chose a strategy of interdicting the Nazis before they landed, rather than a strategy where:

[W]e shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills....

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems to have worked -- provided Chamberlain was ousted (forced to resign) in May of 1940, on the eve of Germany's Netherlands campaign, to be replaced by Churchill... an almost miraculous turn of events in Great Britain. (Perhaps that was part of Chamberlain's grand strategy!)

Still, many people believe that Hitler might have been more stoppable if the eventual Allies had been able to launch a massive assault in mid-1938 or early-1939; but there's really no way they could have done that. France's army, thought to be the most powerful in Europe, turned out to be made of papier-mâché; had Great Britain relied upon their historical allies, the French, to keep their backs while they charged into the valley of death, the Brits might have found themselves "Paris"-ed.

Scott quotes also from Winston Churchill's own account of that period, the Gathering Storm, in service of the point that Chamberlain should have considered what might happen to France and Czechoslovakia, not merely what happened to Great Britain -- mostly, I think Scott means, because after falling, they could not help fight the Nazis:

The subjugation of Czechosloviakia robbed the Allies of the Czech Army of twenty-one regular divisions, fifteen or sixteen second-line divisions already mobilised, and also their mountain fortress line which, in the days of Munich, had required the deployment of thirty German divisions, or the main strength of the mobile and fully trained German Army.... We certainly suffered a loss through the fall of Czechoslovakia equivalent to some thirty-five divisions. Besides this the Skoda Works, the second most important arsenal in Central Europe, was made to change sides adversely....

Even more disastrous was the alteration in the relative strength of the French and German Armies. With every month that passed, from 1938 onwards the German Army was not only increased in numbers and formations, and in the accumulation of reserves, but in quality and maturity....

Far be it from me to argue with Winston Churchill, my favorite hero of World War II. But -- well, what at the odds that, absent the Munich agreement, the Nazis would have decided not to attack Czechoslovakia? And had they attacked, does any historian argue that they would have lost and been sent reeling backwards by the Czechs and Slovaks?

Clearly, whatever state the Allied armies were in at the time of the Munich agreement, they would have been in the same state during a Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in the alternative history we postulate, since that invasion would probably have happened within weeks of an Allied refusal at Munich. And having watched the reduction of Czechoslovakia -- and the certainty that the Nazis would have treated that country the way Rome treated Carthage -- does anybody believe this would have stiffened the French spines, causing them to have more courage?

In my completely untrained and uninformed opinion, the French collapsed in 44 days not because they didn't have a big enough army, but because they didn't have a big enough will to fight. There is no reason to believe that their already shaky intestinal fortitude would have been increased by watching a horrific, bloody, futile defense of Czechoslovakia.

Finally, Scott quotes from Telford Taylor's Munich: The Price of Peace:

[O]ne can safely say that that the possibility of establishing an allied front in France that would hold would have been far better than it was when the war actually began--both because France and especially Britain would have had more time to strengthen the front, and because Germany could not have denuded her eastern frontiers and concentrated virtually all her forces in the west, as she was able to do after the Nazi-Soviet pact and the destruction of Poland.

But what makes Taylor think that if the war had come a year sooner, the Hitler-Stalin Pact, and the accompanying dismemberment of Finland, Poland, Romania, and the Baltics, wouldn't also have come a year sooner? Does he even address that question?

Taylor appears, in this passage, to think of the Pact as if it were an uncontrollable and external force of nature, like a volcanic eruption or a solar flare. But in reality, it was Stalin's attempt to forestall war with the Nazis either forever, if Hitler had kept his part of it, or at least until the Red Army could be strengthened enough to be up to the fight, in Uncle Joe's opinion. If open war with the USSR had loomed earlier than it did, doesn't it make sense that Stalin would have agreed to a Pact then?

It was certainly in Hitler's best interest to secure his eastern border before embarking upon a war in the West; and Stalin surely had no great reason to love the Allies any more than he loved the Nazis... less, in fact, as National Socialism was less intrinsically antithetical to Soviet Communism than was Western capitalism. (Hitler railed against Communism -- but he railed just as much against capitalism. Of course, his hatred of the Jews overmatched both, but that's irrelevant to this specific point.)

Thus, as always happens in alternative history, we're left with a hundred question marks for every exclamation point. Even Scott admits as such:

The variables that must be taken into account of course make it difficult to reach any conclusion with absolute certainty.

Truer words are rarely spoken... and now I find that the analogy between the Munich agreement and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire agreement, is not so "atrocious" afterall, for they share a critical element: in neither case do we have enough information now to say whether it was good or bad for the civilized world.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 18, 2006, at the time of 3:06 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this hissing:


The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

in neither case do we have enough information now to say whether it was good or bad for the civilized world

That may very well be true, but whether it was "good" or not, the European dismemberment of Czechloslavakia on the alter of appeasement was morally repugnant.

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 3:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I tend to agree with your... but Charles Krauthammer has already decided the whole thing is bogus anyway and he is blaming the French among others.

I am certainly no expert on things like this, but I don't think that continuing the war the way it was going was doing Israel much good. If the French do not come in with troops then why would the Israelis leave? I am sure many of their troops will pull out but not all the regular Army unless there is someone there to take their place. And while it is true that it is still a question who will disarm Hezbellah, that was a question no one could answer long before this war broke out. Where was Charles then?

People are getting tired of the mayhem day in and day out. Media makes it all so in your face. Back in 1938 the world did not see Hitler the way the world can see Hezbellah today. For that matter it did not see the fire bombing of Dresden years later either. So I wonder if we can really compare the two. Because today we have public opinion to think about and what people will and will not support.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 4:22 PM

The following hissed in response by: DaveR

I think that Israel has bought itself a delay in which to allow the world to witness the slow-motion trainwreck of the UN fecklessly dropping the ball that it demanded to carry, calling-up and properly ramping-up reserves, deploying high-tech defense systems from the US, and finally, changing governments: that last not necessarily being an overt part of the plan, but a critical part nonetheless.

The above hissed in response by: DaveR [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 4:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


Yes that makes sense.

I guess I just do not understand why some people think that Israel lost here. How are they worse off? Because Iran is handing out money? Well they could have gone on pounding Lebanon for another month and Iran would still have been handing out money when all was said and done. Hezbellah would still have been hiding in Damascus.

Israel got their buffer zone and so far at least they still have a military presence in southern Lebanon. If Charles Krauthammer thinks that Hezbellah was not going to come back in there even if his plan had been followed he is dreaming. These people survived 20 years of Israeli occupation. No, it will take patience and a willingness to go after the source to drive out these terrorists. And the sad thing is the locals depend on them for day to day necessities.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 5:01 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

SNIP...snip...snip snip snip...SNIP:

in neither case do we have enough information now to say whether it was good or bad for the civilized world.

Hitler had a serious problem with timing, time, manpower, oil, felt a Kinship with the Brits, etc. Last i read, some 60-million died in "the civilized world" during WW2...natural deaths not included.

Scott was correct, with his thoughts about "the Munich Agreement", and Hitler was given the chance to win-it-all. Hitler jumped-the-gun (several times, at least), but still came close. Think the first Atom Bomb in Hitler's hands...the first Jet Fighters, in mass...improved missiles...etc. If Hitler had been more patient, then 60-million deaths would've been a drop-in-the-bucket compared to what could've been under the Munich Agreement.

The Arab/Persian/Muslim/Islamic world does not have a problem with timing or time, since they are quite patient...manpower, forget it, they have plenty (even more when they toss in their own Women and Children as Cannon Fodder)...oil is no problem.

The former Soviet Union had sought to turn the Arab/Persian/Muslim/Islamic world against America. i'm not going to waste my finger typing this. Other than this - The Shah of Iran was the stabilizing force until Jimmy "The Mullah" was elected President here in to speak of how patient the Arab/Persian/Muslim/Islamic world is.

The "US-brokered, UN-supported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah" shows just how weak America and Israel are.

A Moment to Be Seized in Lebanon


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 5:03 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Aftermath of war and Death Counts:

i was going to link to the Military Channel's "55 Days: The Fall of Saigon", that i saw last night, but their link now says - No information is currently available for the episode that has been specifically requested.

That Death Count started during the 55 Days before the Fall of Saigon, and it increased from there...

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 6:48 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


I don't think it is weakness. One thing is for sure columnists do not have to make the decisions that get people killed, we leave that to the much defiled and bitched about statespeople.

Israel has been fighting for her entire existence, we have troops fighting in two countries in the Middle East right now. That is not weakness.

I heard Charles on Special Report tonight, I know what he thinks. However, like I said before Hezbellah has been in Lebanon for decades. Why wasn't he demanding that Israel invade Lebanon and risk regional warfare to disarm them a year ago or two years ago?

Israel and the US are democracies, their leaders have to remain politically viable if they are to have any real authority. If the Israeli people decide they want a big ass war they can have one. That is their decision not Charles's, after all he is not the one the rockets will be landing on. And if Bush tries to be "strong" right now and push openly for more war he will almost certainly be impeached by a vengeful body politic.

I know it would be easier if these two countries were dictatorships and both could just let loose with the nukes, but such is not the reality. So no, it is not a sign of weakness if the US and Israel actually try for a cease fire and btw Lebanon is not going anywhere.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 6:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Section9

One thing we can count on is that fascists can't help themselves, especially Islamic Fascists. There will be another war there soon as sure as I'm sitting here typing.

The above hissed in response by: Section9 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2006 8:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: Fenrisulven

Israel and the US are democracies, their leaders have to remain politically viable if they are to have any real authority...And if Bush tries to be "strong" right now and push openly for more war he will almost certainly be impeached by a vengeful body politic.

I wonder if Roosevelt had the same thoughts before Pearl Harbor. We're going to have to lose an entire city before we get serious about Islam.

The above hissed in response by: Fenrisulven [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2006 1:17 AM

Post a comment

Thanks for hissing in, . Now you can slither in with a comment, o wise. (sign out)

(If you haven't hissed a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Hang loose; don't shed your skin!)

Remember me unto the end of days?

© 2005-2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved