It was a mistake for Britain, the US and France not to maintain their World War I alliance – no matter that the 1919 Peace Treaty was terribly flawed. The peace treaty could always be amended. Leaving potential aggressors aware of a willingness to fight to defend against aggression would have had its benefits in the 1930s.
People in the US didn't want to be dragged into another war. And Britain dreaded another war. Hitler was aware of this and saw weakness in it. He saw weakness in the 1935 isolationist Neutrality Act that was passed in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill was in tune with US public opinion, Right and Left, and President Roosevelt went along with it.
Britain's conservative Baldwin government tried too hard to impress Hitler with its peaceful intentions. Baldwin didn't want Britain to be part of an alliance that Hitler claimed was hostile to Germany. Neither did Chamberlain, who became prime minister in 1937 and turned down a military alliance with France that included the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.
Mussolini was encouraged by the pacifistic attitudes in the United States and Britain in executing aggression against Ethiopia.
The Munich Conference of 1938 is infamous for the appeasement of Hitler, but the damage had been done before Munich. Hitler, seeing weakness in the West, wanted to exercise a military option before the Munich Conference – against Czechoslovakia. He was disappointed with Germans agreeing with anti-war sentiments that motivated the conference. The conference forced him to wait a bit.
Czechoslovakia's president, Eduard Benes, had welcomed standing up to Hitler, but he wanted French support. France felt that it needed British support, and the British felt they needed US support.
France's premier, Daladier, had no illusions about Hitler's ultimate goals. He told the British in a late April 1938, a few months before the Munich conference, that Hitler's real aim was eventually to secure domination of the European continent. He added,
Today, it is the turn of Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow, it will be the turn of Poland and Romania. When Germany has obtained the oil and wheat it needs, she will turn on the West.
The French didn't want another invasion by German armies. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 the French wanted guarantees against this. Unfortunately an anti-aggression alliance didn't happen until World War II.
Copyright © 2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.