Thursday, October 22, 2009

appeasement

The Chesterhouse prize giving was a couple of weeks ago. One of the awards was to the winner of our history essay contest who spoke about his essay. The topic was Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement in the run up to the second world war.

It was the standard story that I was taught and exists in the popular consciousness. Chamberlain was a coward who could have prevented the second world war if he'd invaded Germany after Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland. Even though I know the story I'd forgotten the sheer amount of contempt for Chamberlain. I shouldn't have, the word appeasement is still dirty and most people know where it comes from.

What struck me most about the talk is how uneasily this view sits with anti-Iraq war opinion. I think the standard story is more or less right in each case, but it's more or less the same story in each case.

I think the moral of the story is that there are no easy answers in situations like this. There's just a choice between bad options.

My impression is that many people are perfectly comfortable with this tension.

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