In my previous post on fear and the nature of appeasement, I lamented that I could not seem to find a pertinent article on the roots of appeasement that had appeared in the Weekly Standard.
A kind reader with better library skills that I possess found the article. The article was “The Roots of European Appeasement,” with the subhead: “It’s the 1920s All Over Again.”
The author is David Gerlernter, and the article appeared in the Sept. 23, 2002 edition of the Standard.
It’s useless to link because, unless you subscribe to the magazine, you won’t be able to get into the archives.
But it’s well-worth looking up. It starts with the King dedicating the Cenotaph in Whitehall and placing a wreath on England’s Unknown Soldier of the First World War. By the end of the week, a million people had visited the monument and graveside.
“Some million British Empire soldiers had died in the First World War. But another memory (conscious or not) must have transposed the nation’s grief into a different, nearly unbearable key. Almost every visitor at the Cenotaph or the graveside would have recalled August 1914, when war broke out andLondon rejoiced–uproariously. In fact, virtually all Europe rejoiced uproariously. ‘Europeans of all stripes,’ according to the historian Peter Gay, ‘joined in greeting the advent of war with a fervor bordering on a religious experience.’ The pacifist philosopher Bertrand Russell writes of discovering, ‘to my amazement,’ as he wandered the streets of London, ‘that average men and women were delighted at the prospect of war.’ In August 1914, the war’s ghastly end was unforeseeable and unimaginable. On November 11, 1920, its jubilant beginnings were unimaginable. On that sad November day, millions of Englishmen confronted not merely grief but guilt, and modern Europe was born.
“What happens when a fundamental axiom we have believed for generations turns out to be wrong? Today we are finding out. We have believed that the Second World War was a continuation of the First; that the Cold War was a grotesquely extended prolongation of the Second. But the truth cannot have been that simple, because the effects of the Second World War are vanishing while the effects of the First endure. “
Of course, Europe was afraid after the trauma of World War I.
The trouble is that sometimes a nation allows fear to set its foreign policy.
We saw this happen in Spain on Sunday, and the world is a far more dangerous place because of this.