Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Atavism: Same same only different.

TOMORROW's debate on replacing our ageing Trident missile system is a milestone in our country's future. And it may turn out to be a defining point for the Labour Party too. A recent poll showed that more than 60 backbenchers are preparing to refuse to toe the line in securing a new nuclear deterrent which will serve the UK until 2050 and beyond. Others say the revolt could run to more than 100 of Labour's 352 MPs.

Tomorrow MPs will effectively decide whether this county wishes to remain Great Britain or become Little Britain. Without an effective deterrent Britain will no longer have a seat at the top table of world affairs and will quickly become just another middle-sized nation with far less influence on global affairs. http://news.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=395312007

Arthur Neville Chamberlain (18 March 1869 – 9 November 1940), known as Neville Chamberlain, was a British Conservative politician and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1937 to 1940.

Chamberlain is perhaps the most ill-regarded British Prime Minister of the 20th century in the popular mind internationally, because of his policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany regarding the abandonment of Czechoslovakia to Hitler at Munich in 1938. In the same year he also gave up the Irish Free State Royal Navy ports, in practice making it safe for German submarines to stay about 200 miles west of the Irish coast out of range of the Royal Navy, where they could pick off merchant shipping at will.

As with many in Europe who had witnessed the horrors of the First World War and its aftermath, Chamberlain was committed to peace at any price short of war.The theory was that dictatorships arose where peoples had grievances, and that by removing the source of these grievances, the dictatorship would become less aggressive.

How horrible, fantastic it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing. I am myself a man of peace from the depths of my soul.

Chamberlain believed passionately in peace for many reasons (most of which are discussed here), thinking it his job as Britain's leader to maintain stability in Europe; like many people in Britain and elsewhere, he thought that the best way to deal with Germany's belligerence was to treat it with kindness and meet its demands. He also believed that the leaders of men are essentially rational beings, and that Hitler must necessarily be rational as well.

[I]n the Seinfeld episode "The Pitch" Chamberlain is referenced when the main character Jerry and his friend George are in a restaurant discussing the aftermath of a vomiting incident on George's girlfriend. Jerry says "vomiting is not a dealbreaker; if Hitler had vomited on Chamberlain, Chamberlain still would have given him Czechoslovakia" to which George glibly replies "Chamberlain, you could hold his head in the toilet and he'd still give you half of Europe".

By chance I just received this piece in the mail:

Speaking both as a historian and someone old enough to recall the late 1930s, Professors [Bernard] Lewis said too many politicians today display "the spirit of Munich -- a refusal to acknowledge the danger we face and a belief that through accommodation we can avoid conflict." He added: "I look around and I see more Chamberlains than Churchills."

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truepeers said...

I've always wondered - does anyone know - whether the Seinfeld character, Newman, was so-named in an intentional parody of the Nazis.

dag said...

I wonder if that or for Alfred E.