“Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, ‘Accept the Nazis. Yes, they’ll dominate the continent of Europe, but that’s not our problem. Let’s appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We can’t possibly stand against them.’”
This is a quote from Ted Cruz. I saw it today in an article about extremism in the Republican party, but I couldn’t get past this quote, which has become one of my major pet peeves: the complete ignorant or purposeful bullshitting of history.
So no… just no, Mr. Cruz.
England and France did not say, “We can’t stand up to Nazi Germany because they’re too tough so let’s give them all of Europe and surrender” in 1938.
What was on the mind of Neville Chamberlain in 1938 to give him pause on the march to war was the war that had ended 20 years earlier. A war in which Great Britain had lost in total 800,000-1,000,000 people, plus another 1.6 million people who were wounded, some of whom would bear the horrific effects of artillery shells, poison gas, or psychological trauma for the rest of their lives. That calculates out to approximately 2% of the British were killed, and about 3.5% of their population being wounded.
France bore more deaths, about 4% of their population, with another 4 million wounded on top of that.
To extrapolate that, let’s split the difference and imagine a war in which the modern United States, though ultimately victorious, suffered the deaths of 3% of its population or 10,500,000 people.
That’s a city the size of Los Angeles just vanishing off the face of the Earth. Add in another 15-20 million wounded for a war that wasn’t really about national survival or to stop world domination. World War I was an unnecessary war that didn’t have to happen and didn’t have to continue as long as it did.
Imagine the toll that kind of loss would take on the American psyche. Now it’s 20 years later and the people you fought are talking about expanding and reclaiming a small bit of land in a neighboring country and if the neighboring country doesn’t give it up, there will be war.
Without the advantage of hindsight, would we be so ready to go to war and possibly lose another 30 million people?
So let’s discard the whole, “France and Britain were scared and willing to give up anything to the Germans” canard. When Germany continued its aggression, they were the ones that stood up first to fight and both suffered again for it.
And while we’re at it, let’s retire this particular butchering of history when we talk of modern day ‘threats’ to our security.
In the course of the war, Adolph Hitler would employ 20,000,000 soldiers, a cursory count of tanks puts it at around 19,000 total in pre-war and wartime (give or take), and 117,000 aircraft, plus artillery, plus a navy, plus anti-tank weapons. Along with the industrial capacity to manufacture and roll out new equipment to a certain degree and a civilian populace who supported the war effort. (Historians feel free to correct me if any of those numbers are too off.)
Now, do any of our current foes or would-be foes match that capacity? No? Then stop comparing them to Hitler.
At worst, our current geopolitical foes are minor annoyances.