Leading up to the onset of World War II, western democracies like Britain and France viewed a policy of appeasement toward Germany as the path of wisdom and restraint. It seemed prudent to make concessions to aggressors if it meant avoiding a bloody war. When Nazi Germany rearmed the Rhineland, annexed Austria, and seized an area of Czechoslovakia the British and French response came in the form of paper: the Munich Agreement, which conceded these territories to Germany under the condition they make no land grabs. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared to a cheering crowd that the agreement meant “peace for our time.”
Concessions often bring about peace in the short term, defusing tensions for a while…but the aggressor’s initial demands are not forgotten and, in fact, they are often bolstered by newfound doubts about their enemies’ resolve. As such, a greater conflict ensues. This was the case in 1939 when Germany broke the still-new Munich Agreement and invaded Poland, starting World War II.
The lesson of deterrence is one which is hard-learned time and time again. In this one-hour program, Victor Davis Hanson’s insights guide our investigation of the United States’ successful deterrence of enemy aggression in the past and the efforts to sustain it in an era of rogue nations and nuclear proliferation.