The Munich Agreement History Lessons

The Munich Agreement is one of the most criticized diplomatic agreements in history. In 1938, Adolf Hitler aimed to close the Sudetenland, the German-dominated part of Czechoslovakia, to Germany. Faced with rising tensions, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain rushed to Germany in September to discuss how to keep the continent at peace. Without consulting Czechoslovakian leaders, he accepted Hitler`s request, a decision that was finally formalized when Germany, Britain, France and Italy signed the Munich Accords on 30 September. Chamberlain returned from Munich and announced that he had achieved “peace for our time.” He was wrong. Less than a year later, German troops invaded Poland. The Second World War had begun. But was the lesson of Munich simply that appeasement does not bring peace? It is also this – although it is certainly not the unsured consequence that some have tried to draw from it, that all peace is synonymous with appeasement and that force is the only reliable instrument of diplomacy. The real lessons are deeper. But Bush and the Cold War hawks misunderstood Munich. What she felt was a lack of hardness was a deliberate collusion with dictators to fight communism elsewhere.

If they had carefully considered the importance of the real Munich decision, they would have understood that they were not responding to the “lessons of Munich”, as they have often claimed, but that they were in fact repeating the same mistakes as the great employee Neville Chamberlain. One of these lessons repeats the lesson of the birth of Czechoslovakia in the midst of the collapse of Austria-Hungary – that in a moment of crisis, no state can survive without the active support of all its peoples, and not just of a dominant segment. If the Czechoslovak Republic had been able to count on the unwavering support of its peoples, Hitler would have thought twice before attacking them – and “Edouard Daladier and Chamberlain would have thought twice before abandoning them. In these times of peace and tranquillity, he does not seem to allude to it. A dominant segment of a population, especially if it secures foreign aid, can keep a state active and force dissidents to live with it. It can even create a semblance of normality. But if a state is to survive under pressure, compliance with its rule is not enough. Then a state needs more than power or nobility of purpose: it needs the reckless loyalty of its people.

Power is not a substitute: a state that cannot win the active loyalty of all its peoples will be vulnerable to a Municher.