seem no more egregious than the liesnand distortions made by the RooseveltnAdministration during and just prior tonWorld War II. Finally, it was not the elannof the North Vietnamese that in the endnenabled them to prevail, but the fact thatnthey were heavily armed by the SovietnUnion.n1 he lesson drawn from Vietnam,nwhich serves as the guiding light fornfeshionable thinking on foreign policy, isnthat the United States should nevernoppose proconmiunist movements nornever support anticommunist ones.nIronically, while leftists now preachnnonresistance to totalitarianism, whennthey look at the 1930’s they see as thenultimate folly the failure of the Westernndemocracies to resist nazism. An earlynand prominent exponent of this antiappeasementnview, which has becomenhistorical orthodoxy, is William L. Shirer,nwho was situated in Europe during then1930’s, first as a newspaper reporter andnlater as a radio commentator. Shirer hasnfocused on this anti^peasement themenin a number of popular books—^the mostnnotable of which is the highly acclaimednThe Rise and Pall of the ThirdReich. ThenNightmare Years is an autobiographicalnaccount of the appeasement era. (Thisnbook is the second volume of Shirer’snmemoirs, the first of which. The Start,npublished in 1976, covers his life beforen1930.)nIn capsule form the orthodox antiappeasementninterpretation of thesenevents runs as follows: From Hitier’s verynaccession to power, Germany took stepsnto regain military strength and thus benable to move toward foreign aggression.nSince even these early steps to remilitarizationnwere treaty violations (of thenVersailles Treaty and the Locarno Pact),nBritain and France had the legal andnmoral authority to launch preemptivenwar and thus nip the nazi menace in thenbud. Most certainly, they should havenwaged war when Hitler remilitarized thenRhineland in 1936 or when he threatenednCzechoslovakia in the Sudetenlandncrisis of 1938. Instead of pursuing thenmoral and realistic course ofwaging war,nthe leaders of Britain and France optednfor appeasement that only allowed thennazi German peril to increase its strength.nWhile there were a number of motivesnfor appeasement—^fear of war, naivetentoward Hitier—blooming largest was thenconservative British and French leaders’nhysterical fear of communism and theirnperception of Hitler, a “right-wing”ndictator, as a bulwark against proletariannrevolution. Instead of opposing communism,nself-interest dictated thatnBritain and France form an alliance withnthe Soviet Union to thwart nazi agression.nThis interpretation of appeasementnwith its highly censorious, moralisticntone, while not such a distortion ofnreality as the Vietnam myth, is nonethelessna simplistic rendition of the complicatednevents of the 1930’s. First of all, thenmorality andlegality of Hitler’s pre-1939nactions were ambiguous, not a clear-cutncase of wrongdoing demanding Britishnand French retaliation. The VersaillesnTreaty had lost its moral authority yearsnbefore Hitler attained power. Whereasnthe Versailles Treaty had been predicatednon the assumption that Germanynwas the aggressor in World War I, mostnhistorians had absolved Germany of thatnguilt. Instead of perceiving Germany asnan inherent a^ressor that had to be keptndown, fashionable public opinion innGreat Britain had come to look uponnGermany as the aggrieved nation andnpostwar France as the oppressor. Germany’snprogram of rearmament and itsnremilitarization of the Rhineland couldnbe easily viewed as justifiable exercise ofnits sovereignty. And in Hitler’s pre-1939nterritorial expansion—Anschluss withnAustria and the acquisition of the Sudetenland—Germanynwas merely gainingnland inhabited mainly by ethnic Germans,nmost of whom seemed to desirenincorporation into the Reich. Thisnconformed to the universally acclaimednprinciple of national self-determinationnwhich the Treaty of Versailles had Mednto apply when it would have been tonGermany’s benefit.nFinally, the orthodox critique ofnnnappeasement downplays the importancenof the strong pacifistic sentimentsnin the Western democracies that placednconstraints on policymakers. The awfulncarnage of World War I had turnednpublic opinion vehemendy against war.nAnd the development of air powernfostered an almost pathological fear thatncivilian populations would suffer immeasurablynin a fiiture war. Fear-mongersncontended that air attacks using poisonousngas would completely wipe outnurban populations. This antiwar attitudenwas most intense on the left and wasnconcretely reflected in the feet that thenBritish Labour Party continually votednagainst rearmament up until the outbreaknof war in September 1939- Withnthe aid of hindsight it is easy to brand thenappeasers as utterly misguided. Butngiven the context of the 1930’s, such anverdict is not that clear. At least, beforenholding up appeasement to censure ornridicule, it is appropriate to take a closernlook at the contemporary liberal orthodoxynto which Tuchman and Shirernso completely subscribe.nTuchman castigates America’s possessionnof nuclear armaments, its supportnfor El Salvador, and the pursuit ofneconomic growth. Shirer equates thenappeasers’ attitude toward Hitler withnwhat he alleges to be America’s currentnfondness for right-wing dictatorships.nHe was extremely agitated over America’sninvasion of Grenada. Goldsmith’snobservation that “the folly of others isnever most ridiculous to those who arenthemselves most foolish” might benapplied to Tuchman and Shirer. Butnthere is a difference. For as misguided asnthe fools of history might have been,nthey did not actuaUy desire the destructionnof their society. The Trojans did notnwant their city sacked; the RenaissancenPopes did not will the Protestant Reformation;nthe appeasers of the 1930’sndid not desire a Hitler-controllednEurope. The results of their policies, innshort, ran counter to their desirednoutcomes in addition to being contrarynto the self-interest of their groups andncountries.ni23nDecember 1984n