Fifty years ago Neville Chamberlain emerged from his airplane, gestured with his umbrella, and announced to his anxious countrymen that the abject surrender he had just signed in Munich would assure them what the Prayer Book pleads for, “peace in our time.” The major effect of his act was to give both umbrellas and peace a bad name for generations to come. Within a year, the world was at war while the Munich agreement went down in history as proof positive of the futility of concessions and the virtues of uncompromising strength. Its “lesson” has since been invoked to justify causes as diverse as the American intervention in Vietnam, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and opposition to arms control agreements. Nor would it surprise me if, behind the Kremlin’s secretive walls, Soviet strategists invoked that lesson to oppose a withdrawal from Afghanistan, Poland, or Hungary, gravely warning of “another Munich.”
Yet is the lesson ...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.