Since reading David French’s post yesterday, I have wanted to say something about it, but have hesitated: I don’t want to be guilty of a book plug. But here goes . . .
I tremendously appreciated what David wrote, especially this:
When we look back in scorn at the appeasement policy of the late 1930s, we often forget how understandable it was. We can’t even comprehend the casualties sustained by France and Britain in World War I . . . Politicians were desperate to avoid more slaughter, but in their desperation opened the door to the worst massacres in human history.
When I was preparing my history of the Nobel Peace Prize, I was quite moved by what I read about the years 1918 to 1939: Everyone was simply desperate to avoid another war. The first war was so terrible, the human mind can even now barely fathom it. Mention the Locarno Treaties today, or the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or even the League of Nations, and everyone laughs his butt off. But some very serious and very smart men were doing their utmost to avoid another war. And they could not. I have huge sympathy for them.
By the way, do you know who was a strong backer of the Kellogg-Briand Pact? An object of conservative veneration today, Calvin Coolidge. Another backer of the pact was a man equally sober and commonsensical: Colonel Stimson.
Let me close with something very, very simple. Ask someone, “Who was responsible for World War II?” and you may hear, “Woodrow Wilson,” or “The Versailles Treaty,” or something like that. Do you know what the correct answer is? The Nazis, period. They were determined to do what they did, and, luckily, there were people determined to beat them.