Britain between the Wars, 1918-1940

By Charles Loch Mowat | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN 1937-1940
Say not the Struggle Naught Availeth:

1. THE LOGIC OF APPEASEMENT

NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN succeeded to a barren heritage. The rearming of the army and navy, the expansion of the Royal Air Force were only just beginning. The might of Germany, on the other hand, was growing great, and the pause in its aggressiveness which had followed the reoccupation of the Rhineland was unlikely to last much longer. Moreover, the three militarist powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, were now linked together: the Berlin-Rome 'axis' of November 1936 and the German-Japanese Anti-Comintern pact of 1936 were merged into a triangle on November 6, 1937. Following this, Italy left the League of Nations in December, as Germany and Japan had done long since. The peace of the world was crumbling: there was war in China, there was bitter fighting in Spain. Could the ruins be shored up and peace preserved? Chamberlain was determined to make a new attempt.

There were still three possible methods of keeping the peace (apart from the method of the pacifist); collective security through the League, an alliance of the anti-axis powers outside the League, and the appeasement of the dictators. The first was ignored by Chamberlain and not strongly advocated by his critics. In none of the crises of these latter years did the League play a part: no longer did it earn either the blessings of its friends or the curses of its enemies. 'What country in Europe today if threatened by a large Power, can rely on the League of Nations for protection?' asked Neville Chamberlain in March 1938; he answered 'None'.1

Alliances or arrangements with the anti-axis powers seemed no more promising. In the United States there was plenty of indignation at Nazi terrorism and Japanese aggression; but the Neutrality

____________________
1
In House of Commons, March 7, 1938, quoted in J. W. Wheeler-Bennett, Munich, p. 32.

-589-

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