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BRITISH TO COURT RIBBENTROP TODAY (Real Time + 70 Years)
Microfiche-New York Times archives | 3/9/38 | Ferdinand Kuhn Jr.

Posted on 03/09/2008 8:14:15 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson

BRITISH TO COURT RIBBENTROP TODAY

Ready to Bargain Cautiously if Nazis will Make Genuine Concessions for Peace

ROME AGENDA MAPPED

Perth and Ciano Await Final Instructions for Talks to Begin Next Week

By FERDINAND KUHN Jr.

Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.

LONDON, March 8. – Timing his visit to coincide with the start of the Anglo-Italian negotiations in Rome, Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, will arrive in London tomorrow for a series of talks that will show whether or not Anglo-German negotiations are possible also in the near future.

Herr von Ribbentrop will see Viscount Halifax, British Foreign Secretary, on Thursday and also talk to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, although the purpose of his journey to London is ostensibly to wind up his affairs as Ambassador here.

Neither Mr. Chamberlain nor his advisers know whether Germany is ready to do business with Great Britain on a basis of give and take. They suspect that she is not. Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s Reichstag speech was not exactly encouraging nor were the subsequent pronouncements of other Nazi leaders.

Yet the British Government has never been more anxious to reach an understanding with Germany, even if it must be bought at a stiff price. The British eagerness at the moment is much more than a smoke screen to conceal a possible anti-German purpose in the coming conversations at Rome.

If Mr. Chamberlain could get an Anglo-German agreement that would keep the peace in Europe for even a few years it would be worth more to him than an Anglo-Italian reconciliation. He knows that the differences between London and Berlin are more serious than those between London and Rome, but he wants to discover, at any rate, whether an Anglo-German deal is attainable and at what a cost.

Wants to Avert War Threat

The motives of Mr. Chamberlain and the British Conservatives in this quest are threefold: First is the obvious one of trying to stave off a war a little longer, perhaps avert it altogether. The second is to win a general election next Autumn or Winter, for the Conservative leaders honestly believe that an agreement with Italy and Germany will win them more votes with pacifist British subjects than all the “principles” for which Anthony Eden, former Foreign Minister, resigned a fortnight ago.

The most important of all is that Mr. Chamberlain and his colleagues are convinced that their present policy will give Great Britain a moral case in the eyes of her dominions and potential allies. In case a war comes, Mr. Chamberlain wants to be able to say that he did everything humanly possible to satisfy legitimate grievances while there was time.

The ruling Conservatives believe that if Great Britain refuses to negotiate with the dictators now, she will lack a moral case, such as that which she found so helpful in the United States and elsewhere in 1914. The dominion Prime Ministers apparently feel that same way, for as long ago as last June they urged the British Government to “conciliate” to the utmost.

“Differences in political creed,” they agreed at the Imperial Conference, “should be no obstacle to friendly relations between governments and countries and nothing would be more damaging to the hopes of international appeasement than a division, real or apparent, of the world into opposing groups.”

The so-called Chamberlain experiment, therefore, does not date from Mr. Eden’s resignation ore even from Viscount Halifax’s visit to Berlin, but from this decision of the entire British Commonwealth in the middle of last June, shortly before Mr. Chamberlain’s exchange of letters with Premier Benito Mussolini.

Personally, Herr von Ribbentrop is no more popular in London than when he greeted King George with a Nazi salute or called upon Great Britain to join an anti-Communist alliance. But the British Ministers will go out of their way to be polite to him this time, for he is now the Foreign Minister, with a formidable influence over German policy. They will not make an issue of the anti-British passages in Hitler’s recent speech; they are in a mood to translate snubs into friendliness if they can.

May Grant German Wishes

The Germans have said that they do not want credits and do not want to bargain for advantages in Central Europe that they feel to be theirs by right. Experience has shown them that they can take what they wish in Central Europe without British permission, as long as they do it without bloodshed. They do want their colonies back and they also want what their official spokesman in Berlin yesterday described as a “press pact” agreement whereby the British Government would prevent newspapers here from telling unpleasant truths or untruths about Germany.

Even such a price would not be too steep for the negotiations if the Germans were willing to give something tangible in return – some “contribution to a general appeasement,” as the British delicately put it. Mr. Chamberlain, perhaps, would not hesitate to give a colony or two if he felt that he was getting something genuine and desirable in return. As for a press pact, there are many ways for Great Britain to satisfy Germany on this score without a legislative enactment openly violating the freedom of the press.

Quiet Press Control

In the financial crisis of 1931, in the Mediterranean emergency of 1935 and, above all, in the weeks preceding the abdication in 1936, the British press muzzled itself “voluntarily’ with a docility that even the dictators might have envied. In each case the self-censorship was defended on patriotic grounds.

The Government pledged itself only yesterday not to enforce a censorship upon the free British press, but it would require only a discreet word from the Cabinet to the newspaper publishers for the powerful pro-Government newspapers to soft-pedal their criticisms of Germany. One would never know there had been any pressure; the Government would strenuously deny the existence of any censorship, and the newspapers would boast of their “self-restraint.” This is the way the thing has been done in present day Britain and it can be done again at any time.

Of course it would be difficult if not impossible to make the Labor and Liberal newspapers line up in this fashion. Some publishers who still value the freedom of the press would fight tooth and nail to keep their freedom and if any “discreet” request were made to them they would shout it from the housetops with out delay.

Mr. Chamberlain and his colleagues could at least assure the Germans that all the “solid” and “reliable” newspapers were behaving themselves. And to make assurance doubly sure Mr. Chamberlain could always make a statement in the Commons appealing to this press to show “restraint” in dealing with international problems. If this is all the Germans want they can have it as far as Mr. Chamberlain is concerned.

Already the government is doing its utmost to discourage public discussion of international affairs by shutting down on the normal sources of news in Downing Street and at Westminster. The usual channels of official information have dried up in the past two or three weeks. The contacts that used to be so valuable to newspaper men have all but vanished. A young Under-Secretary will soon be answering most of the questions on foreign affairs in the House of Commons while the Foreign Secretary sits in the House of Lords.

Truly, things are much changed since Herr von Ribbentrop made his debut in London. He will find tomorrow that despite all his blunders as an Ambassador the British are ready to do business with him if he and his master will reciprocate.

A Communist procession of between 300 and 400 late tonight congested traffic in Piccadilly Circus marching behind a band and drums, chanting, “Ribbentrop must go.”

Later a speaker shouted that although Herr von Ribbentrop missed the demonstration through postponing his departure from Berlin, the Communists intended to make him hear their voices wherever he went in London. The German Embassy was strongly guarded.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Germany; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: 1938; anniversary; realtime; wwii
Key paragraphs:

The motives of Mr. Chamberlain and the British Conservatives in this quest are threefold: First is the obvious one of trying to stave off a war a little longer, perhaps avert it altogether. The second is to win a general election next Autumn or Winter, for the Conservative leaders honestly believe that an agreement with Italy and Germany will win them more votes with pacifist British subjects than all the “principles” for which Anthony Eden, former Foreign Minister, resigned a fortnight ago.

The most important of all is that Mr. Chamberlain and his colleagues are convinced that their present policy will give Great Britain a moral case in the eyes of her dominions and potential allies. In case a war comes, Mr. Chamberlain wants to be able to say that he did everything humanly possible to satisfy legitimate grievances while there was time.

Gotta keep the pacifists happy.

1 posted on 03/09/2008 8:14:16 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
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To: Homer_J_Simpson
A couple short articles from 3/9/38

AIDS SPANISH LOYALISTS

City College Group Adds to Fund for New Ambulance

An ambulance purchased for the Spanish Loyalists with funds raised through Federated Faculty Committees for Aid to Spain was displayed yesterday on the City College campus. Seventy-five students attended a noon-hour meeting in behalf of the fund and donated $6.

The vehicle, which is painted blue, has appeared on many of the college campuses in the metropolitan area and is scheduled to visit Sarah Lawrence College today.

John K. Ackley, recorder of the college, and Seymour Copstein of the Department of English urged the student body to support the Loyalist cause in Spain. Student speakers sounded the same keynote.

JEWS’ WEALTH VEXES NAZI

Streicher Rails Against Any Who Can Still Prosper

BERLIN, March 8 (AP). – Alarm against the continued prosperity of Jewish firms in Germany, despite four years of Nazi effort to crowd them out, was sounded today by the Stuermer, weekly organ of Julius Striecher, Germany’s No. 1 Jew-baiter.

The Stuermer demanded to know if aristocrats deliberately were trying to support Jews.

It printed a long list of regular customers of a large Jewish-owned Berlin department store containing many names of aristocratic families and government employees.

2 posted on 03/09/2008 8:16:34 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson ("I知 not liking the way the 21st Century is shaping up logic wise." - AU72)
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To: Homer_J_Simpson
Real Time + 70 years ping.

Reply #2 has two shorties from 3/9/38.

3 posted on 03/09/2008 8:18:06 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson ("I知 not liking the way the 21st Century is shaping up logic wise." - AU72)
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To: fredhead; GOP_Party_Animal; r9etb; PzLdr; dfwgator; Paisan; From many - one.; rockinqsranch; ...
Real Time + 70 years ping.

Oops. I forgot to paste in the names.

4 posted on 03/09/2008 8:35:36 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson ("I知 not liking the way the 21st Century is shaping up logic wise." - AU72)
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To: Homer_J_Simpson

Thank you very much for these ‘time capsules’. They serve to remind us of our own limitations.


5 posted on 03/09/2008 8:42:46 AM PDT by headsonpikes (Genocide is the highest sacrament of socialism.)
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To: Homer_J_Simpson

“The ruling Conservatives believe that if Great Britain refuses to negotiate with the dictators now, she will lack a moral case, such as that which she found so helpful in the United States and elsewhere in 1914. The dominion Prime Ministers apparently feel that same way, for as long ago as last June they urged the British Government to “conciliate” to the utmost.”

I consider this statement extraordinary, but it makes sense.

In the First World War, Britain’s own army was more than doubled in size by contributions from its empire, and from the US. So Chamberlain’s concern to make absolutely certain that these folks would be on board once again, when war finally came, would be more than understandable.

And if that required Neville to play the fool to Adolf... well, so be it.
On the other hand, I think most historians strongly suspect that Neville really LIKED being a fool.
Has anyone ever argued otherwise?


6 posted on 03/09/2008 8:46:14 AM PDT by BroJoeK (a little historical perspective...)
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To: Homer_J_Simpson

Our future with Obama as President.


7 posted on 03/09/2008 9:35:45 AM PDT by montag813
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To: Homer_J_Simpson
Seymour Copstein of the Department of English urged the student body to support the Loyalist cause in Spain.

So English departments have been hotbeds of Communism since the 1930s.

8 posted on 03/09/2008 9:51:34 AM PDT by PAR35
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To: BroJoeK

Chamberlain played the fool so well that he became one. But it is not exclusively his fault — a lot of people believed in wishful thinking rather than in the unpleasant facts. Some things never change.


9 posted on 03/09/2008 10:03:36 AM PDT by Wilhelm Tell (True or False? This is not a tag line.)
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To: BroJoeK
On the other hand, I think most historians strongly suspect that Neville really LIKED being a fool.

I feel a certain amount of sympathy for poor old Neville. In 1938 we were not quite twenty years past the World War. In 2008 we are over thirty years past our Vietnam experience. Now compare the casualties from those two events. Our 58,000 dead in Vietnam over ten years or so would have amounted to a fairly good month for the Allies in WWI. Yet the anti-war types are still using Vietnam as a rallying issue to this day. If I was a Brit in 1938 I would have required a lot of convincing before I would be willing to go to the continent of Europe to fight the Hun. Threats to Austria and Czechoslovakia would not have done it. I realize it is a leader's job to anticipate emerging problems and convince the people of the need to take painful steps when necessary, but for Chamberlain it would have been a tall order. Especially in a democracy, where the leader first has to be elected. Hitler and Stalin didn't have such constraints.

10 posted on 03/09/2008 10:30:30 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson ("I知 not liking the way the 21st Century is shaping up logic wise." - AU72)
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To: PAR35
So English departments have been hotbeds of Communism since the 1930s.

I recently read Radical Son, David Horowitz's autobiography. The way he tells it public schools were hotbeds of communism in the 1930s. They still thought Marx/Lenin/Stalin represented a happy future for the working stiff.

11 posted on 03/09/2008 10:36:22 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson ("I知 not liking the way the 21st Century is shaping up logic wise." - AU72)
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To: Homer_J_Simpson

3/9/38 is also the day Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg of Austria called for a plebiscite on March 13th to determine whether Austria should remain independent or join Austria. Hitler didn’t think that was a good idea on such short notice.


12 posted on 03/09/2008 10:41:18 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson ("I知 not liking the way the 21st Century is shaping up logic wise." - AU72)
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To: BroJoeK; Homer_J_Simpson

Added to which, the year’s delay bought time for Britain to build at least the foundation of credible war-fighting forces, especially the air force - without which, in 1938, war might have been near suicical. Perhaps not quite such a fool after all.


13 posted on 03/09/2008 11:56:57 AM PDT by Winniesboy
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To: Homer_J_Simpson
Timing his visit to coincide with the start of the Anglo-Italian negotiations in Rome, Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, will arrive in London tomorrow for a series of talks that will show whether or not Anglo-German negotiations are possible also in the near future.

So how did the talks go?

14 posted on 03/09/2008 12:53:27 PM PDT by delapaz
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To: Homer_J_Simpson

Ironically Ribbentrop was an agent for Johnnie Walker whisky (a product born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire) before becoming a Nazi...


15 posted on 03/09/2008 3:46:06 PM PDT by the scotsman
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To: delapaz
Here is what William Shirer has to say about how the talks went:

"On March 9, Ribbentrop, the new German Foreign Minister, had arrived in London to wind up his affairs at the embassy, where he had been ambassador. He had long talks with Chamberlain, Halifax, the King and the Archbishop of Canterbury. His impressions of the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, he reported back to Berlin, were "very good." After a long conference with Lord Halifax, Ribbentrop reported directly to Hitler on March 10 as to what Britain would do "if the Austrian question cannot be settled peacefully." Basically he was convinced from his London talks "that England will do nothing in regard to Austria.""

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Pg 344

16 posted on 03/09/2008 4:08:22 PM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson ("I知 not liking the way the 21st Century is shaping up logic wise." - AU72)
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To: the scotsman
Ironically Ribbentrop was an agent for Johnnie Walker whisky (a product born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire) before becoming a Nazi...

And Heinrich Himmler was a chicken farmer. Goering was a pilot for a Swedish airline, or something like that. They were a bunch of amateurs.

17 posted on 03/09/2008 4:12:55 PM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson ("I知 not liking the way the 21st Century is shaping up logic wise." - AU72)
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To: Winniesboy

“Added to which, the year’s delay bought time for Britain to build at least the foundation of credible war-fighting forces, especially the air force - without which, in 1938, war might have been near suicical. Perhaps not quite such a fool after all.”

I’ve seen this argued both ways. Some say the Germans actually gained more from that extra year, and were more formadable in 1939 than they would have been in 1938.

Niall Ferguson, in his 2006 book, “The War of the World” paints a picture of the British government almost literally quaking in their boots at the thought of possibly provoking Hitler.

On page 323, he notes, for example:
“Incredibly, the army’s budget was actually cut in the wake of the Austrian Anschluss. Things were no better by the time of the Munich crisis. It was not until February 1939 that the idea of a European expeditionary force was revived, and even at that late juncture it was to be composed of just six regular and four territorial divisions.”

— At a time when Hitler was preparing over 100 divisions for Poland.

Next Ferguson heaps scorn on ideas for the new British air force, and caps it off with:

“In 1938 the [British] Chiefs of Staff ruled out even ‘staff conversations’ with the French, since the very term ‘has a sinister purport and gives an impression ... of mutually assumed military collaboration.’ Perish the thought!” Says Ferguson.

Sorry, Winnie, but historians are not kind, not kind at all to Neville boy.


18 posted on 03/09/2008 8:20:04 PM PDT by BroJoeK (a little historical perspective...)
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To: Homer_J_Simpson

Wow - peace in our time! I can hardly wait for the Obamanation to get to work.


19 posted on 03/09/2008 8:34:12 PM PDT by QBFimi2
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To: BroJoeK

It is easy for historians with hindsight to condemn Chamberlain’s appeasement policy. But I agree with Homer J’s assessment and sympathy.

You single out Chamberlain as the fool, but he was not the only national leader who could have stood up to German/Italian/Japanese aggression and failed to do so.

Millions of people around the world in the 1930s wanted like Chamberlain to avoid another world war. After all, it kept the USA out of the war until attacked by Japan late in 1941.

You could at least give Chamberlain some credit for declaring war in September 1939 when he finally realised that something had to be done to stop Hitler.


20 posted on 05/25/2010 3:26:20 PM PDT by AJ Simo
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To: AJ Simo; Homer_J_Simpson; henkster; PAR35
"You could at least give Chamberlain some credit for declaring war in September 1939 when he finally realised that something had to be done to stop Hitler."

Well, welcome back to March 9, 1938 / 2008!
That was for sure a "golden oldie" date. ;-)

I'm a "history buff," not a historian, so my opinions mostly come from the historian authors I read.
And in this case most are quite scornful of Neville Chamberlain, for:

  1. His years-long policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler's efforts to overturn and reverse the Versailles Treaty.

  2. His inability to hold onto Britain's First World War allies, Italy and Japan. Had they remained with the allies, their influence could have helped keep Hitler in check.

  3. His decision to "draw the line" at Poland, where it made no sense, instead of at Czechoslovakia where a strong allied stand could well have forced Hitler to back down.

  4. His half-hearted declaration of war in September 1939, and the allies total lack of serious intent in executing it.

Yes, I've read that Chamberlain did not stand up to Hitler at Munich in 1938 because his military advisers told him there was no way they could be ready for war. Nor were British people, their Commonwealth or allies psychologically ready for war in 1938.
So appeasement then made sense.

But my complaint against Chamberlain in this particular thread is not that he did what he considered militarily and politically necessary -- kissed Adolf's b*tt -- but rather that Chamberlain seemed so much to enjoy it.

Chamberlain was replaced by Churchill in May, 1940.
At the time it seemed a great risk and uncertainty regarding Churchill's fitness for the job.
But in 20-20 hindsight, it seems almost miraculous -- considering how perfectly suited Churchill proved for the role, and how amazingly soon thereafter Chamberlain died, from bowel cancer.

Bottom line: Chamberlain bought into and accepted as valid German propaganda which said the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was "unfair," "unjust" and so must be overturned and adjusted more to German liking.
But what Chamberlain wanted was a peaceful transition to a post-Versailles world, and so was willing to appease what he considered Hitler's more-or-less legitimated demands.

Only when Chamberlain finally realized that peace was the last thing Hitler wanted, did Chamberlain at last "draw a line in the sand" at Poland -- Hitler's crossing of which must re-start the World War.

21 posted on 05/26/2010 4:18:16 AM PDT by BroJoeK (a little historical perspective...)
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To: BroJoeK

“Well, welcome back to March 9, 1938 / 2008!
That was for sure a “golden oldie” date. ;-)”

Thanks. I’ve only just come across this site, but I’ll be catching up to 1940/2010 as soon as I can. I should also say a big thank you to Homer J for the time and effort spent on these excellent posts.

I’m currently looking at old British newspapers from 1936 & had in mind putting something on the Internet like this. (covering the Rhineland reoccupation, Italo-Ethiopian War & Spanish Civil War). 2016 is a little far off though!

Appeasement was certainly the wrong way to deal with fascist aggression. But I see that you do understand how it made sense to many at the time. I don’t know whether Chamberlain “enjoyed” sucking up to Hitler, but he certainly was a very weak prime minister.

“Chamberlain bought into and accepted as valid German propaganda which said the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was “unfair,” “unjust” and so must be overturned and adjusted more to German liking.”

Indeed, many British people at the time felt the Versailles Treaty had been too harsh on Germany and that Hitler’s early grievances were justified. Right up to the Sudetenland, his territorial demands were for areas with German populations.

Some right-wingers also sympathised with the Nazi regime. On 1 October 1938, Lord Rothermere (owner of the Daily Mail newspaper) sent Hitler a telegram in support of Germany’s invasion of the Sudetenland, and expressing the hope that ‘Adolf the Great’ would become a popular figure in Britain.

Risking war would not have gone down well with the British electorate at that time. Britain had lost one million dead in the trenches of 1914-18. Zeppelins and planes had bombed defenceless British civilians. This was a shock akin to 9/11 for modern America. By the 1930s it was known that the modern German bombers could now obliterate British cities. Much was therefore at stake.

Perhaps this is what Chamberlain “enjoyed” when waving his worthless piece of paper after Munich. He felt he had won popularity at home.

And my apologies, BroJoeK. I secretly suspected that you were singling out the Brits for being spineless. I see from a later post of yours that you are equally critical of the USA & France. So my patriotic pique was unnecessary :-)


22 posted on 05/26/2010 1:18:27 PM PDT by AJ Simo
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To: AJ Simo
"And my apologies, BroJoeK. I secretly suspected that you were singling out the Brits for being spineless. I see from a later post of yours that you are equally critical of the USA & France. So my patriotic pique was unnecessary :-)"

No one can blame people for wanting to avoid war -- then or now.
But somewhere there always have to be "adults" who understand the only real way to insure peace is to be ready to fight.
So the question is, why did the adults of the 1930s seemingly forget something so obvious.

You listed a number of reasons, all valid. I add to that the idea that most people bought into the premises of German propaganda:

  1. That Germany did not start the First World War, it was all just some kind of "accident," possibly even engineered by the Brits.

  2. That Germany did not really lose the Great War, and did not deserve to be punished for it.

  3. That the Versailles Treaty was unfair and unjust to Germany, especially when compared to the 14 Points President Wilson had promised them.

  4. Therefore adjustments were required, by force if necessary.

The problem was, none of this is really true, and it blinded the Allies to Hitler's real agenda, which was basically continuation, with a vengeance(!), of those same German imperial ambitions that began the First World War.

But now ask yourself: why would so many normally intelligent western leaders blind themselves? Of course we're talking here about what was going on inside their minds -- a dubious enterprise at best.

Well, my opinion is -- giving everyone the benefit of doubts -- that after the Great War, they intuitively understood Germany could only be defeated with the intervention of the United States, and that required also convincing average Americans that the Allies had done everything possible -- had walked the extra mile -- to keep the peace with Hitler.

So there just could not be ambiguity in newspaper narratives -- the Allies had to be guilty of trying too hard to keep peace, they could not be seen as attempting militarily to force Hitler's compliance with Versailles.

In short, I suspect Ally leaders put on a big show, for the benefit of Americans as well as their own people -- this being the only way they could hope, if war came, for total commitments to Allied victory.

Just a suspicion mind you -- but then we look at a Neville Chamberlain, and he seemed entirely sincere, not putting on a big show.
And with that we just have to stop, before the murkiness of human psychology engulfs us and we lose all contact with historical reality... ;-)

23 posted on 05/28/2010 5:07:31 PM PDT by BroJoeK (a little historical perspective...)
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