Another reason this is not 1938

So, as is predictable, the far right are screaming “Munich! Munich!” at the top of their lungs, the far left are screaming “OMG Bush Iraq” at the top of their lungs, and the moderates are screaming “Godwin! Godwin!” at the top of their lungs, and in the noise all parties are forgetting something rather important. Never mind whether Putin is or is not the next Hitler. Unlike Bush (and, apparently, everyone else blogging on the subject) I haven’t looked into his soul and can’t say whether he has ambitions for world domination. (If he does, he’s either smarter than Hitler or not as ballsy: He didn’t write a book describing his power fantasies at tedious length and giving everyone fair warning.)

The reason 1938 was such a massive mistake is not that Chamberlain negotiated instead of fighting. It is that he negotiated when he could easily have won the fight he avoided. In 1938 the Czechs, Poles, and French between them massively outnumbered the Wehrmacht, and had a defensive alliance for precisely the purpose of deterring the Germans. The defining feature of Munich is not negotation, that has been done both before and since, with dictators and madmen. It is negotiating from a position of strength and acting as though you were the weaker party.

Now. Where is the equivalent to the French Army’s 130 divisions? Which country shall supply us with a Polish Army to threaten Russia’s other flank? Who has a British Empire with vast, unmobilised resources? Where, even, is the Royal Navy that could impose workable economic sanctions? (A less enlightened age called it ‘blockade’; but in any case any economic warfare would go the other way here. Petrol rationing, anyone?) The Russians are in strength here, and they know it perfectly well; and so do our leaders, which is probably just as well.


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