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Appeasement

Politesse

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It seems to be a very common opinion that "appeasing" Hitler during the years 1929-1939 was a grave diplomatic error that spelled the doom of Europe in WWII. I certainly remember having this presented to me as fact when I was in high school. That said, I'm not a great expert on WWII era history, and with this trope being raised quite frequently of late by metaphorical application to the actions of Vladimir Putin, I'm interested in people's thoughts on this issue. Was Hitler "appeased"? What were the realistic alternatives to appeasement, and in what ways would they have been a better course of action? Perhaps more analytically, we might ask what the costs and advantages of an earlier international war would have been? Could the Holocaust have been avoided by such a measure?
 

bilby

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That depends how you define 'realistic'.

Hitler used 'salami tactics', with the French unwilling to go to war over what were individually minor escalations of German breaches of the Treaty of Versailles.

At each step, the probability of a rapid French success in enforcing the treaty without risking their armed forces becoming embroiled in a full scale war became less, and with memories of the Great War still fresh, it would have been political suicide for any French politician to start another war with Germany.

The tendency to think 'Even a remilitarised and belligerent Germany is never getting past the Maginot Line, so France herself isn't at risk, and while it's a bit hard on the Czechs to give their country to Germany, really, the Sudetenland is basically German, and they were a part of Austria-Hungary until a few years ago, so if Hitler wants it, it's better all around to let him have it' is understandable.

England can't really act without French approval, and war absolutely must be avoided at all costs.

Without a crystal ball to see the future, it strikes me as highly unrealistic that another course could have been sold to the people or the parliaments of either France or England.

Had it been, the French military would have crushed Hitler's unfinished armies like a bug - on paper.

But wars aren't fought on paper; If they were, Putin would have been in charge in Kyiv weeks ago.

Counterfactual history always has the benefit of going exactly the way its writers expect it to go.

I strongly suspect that France and England had the military strength to stop WWII in Europe by acting against Hitler earlier; Certainly the size, training, and equipment of the French forces appeared to be more than adequate to the task. But for their use in this way to be realistic, a very large number of people would have had to be far less averse to war than was actually the case. I would hesitate to call it 'realistic' for them to change their minds, given that they knew the past in horrific detail, and had no way to know the future.

There was a widespread belief that unstoppable air raids using chemical weapons as well as explosives and incendiaries might be inflicted upon London, Paris and other major cities within hours of war being declared. The absence of these very widely anticipated raids came as a somewhat embarrassing (though pleasant) surprise to many.

Indeed, the 'Phony war' period suggests strongly that none of the belligerents on either side was ready, willing and able to attack their enemies on land, even as late as April 1940, eight months after war was declared. There's a big difference between declaring war and actually invading your enemy's territory.

The 'Phony war' was a kind of halfway step between economic sanctions and full blown war, in which naval blockades attempted to do economic, rather than physical, damage to enemy nations.
 
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Hermit

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It seems to be a very common opinion that "appeasing" Hitler during the years 1929-1939 was a grave diplomatic error that spelled the doom of Europe in WWII. I certainly remember having this presented to me as fact when I was in high school. That said, I'm not a great expert on WWII era history, and with this trope being raised quite frequently of late by metaphorical application to the actions of Vladimir Putin, I'm interested in people's thoughts on this issue. Was Hitler "appeased"? What were the realistic alternatives to appeasement, and in what ways would they have been a better course of action? Perhaps more analytically, we might ask what the costs and advantages of an earlier international war would have been? Could the Holocaust have been avoided by such a measure?
Yes, Hitler was appeased, but that was by necessity rather than a grievous error of judgement. The eight months of Sitzkrieg preceding the Blitzkrieg after the actual declaration of war is pretty convincing evidence that none of the opponents were capable of conducting major military operations, as was the close run thing that became known as the Battle of Britain.
 

steve_bank

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Hitler was a political genius, thankfully not so much with anything else.

He correctly assessed the Allies' ability and will to fight. He had enough supplies and oil to fight maybe six months of full scale war.

He was actually seriously unprepared for war. The popular image is that of a mechanized militray juggernaut . In reality a large portion of his supply chain was horse drawn. He never developed large scale transport like the American 2.5 ton, air trasport, and a long range bombers.

I think appeasement was an error. Hitler expertly played the Europeans and the Russians as well.

The Germans had experience before WWII proper developing what was then new, real time coordination of air and land forces as situations evolve. Today it is called Com mad And Control.

The Brits had naval superiority but were dispersed around the empire.

France was still practicing cavalry maneuvers and hunkering down behind the Maginot Line.

he iconic British Spitfire was initially started by private funds.

Post war Europeans in a sense was appeasing Russia for energy. Putin probably thought he had them by the balls, and unlike Hitler he was wrong.
 
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