* Lew’s comments on “Facing the Dictators” by Anthony Eden

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 17, 2016


Anthony Eden was urbane, witty, prescient, and a wonderful writer … reading his memoirs is like being in the room at the critical times when the diplomatic conversations of 1935-38 led to so many wrong decisions and ultimately to the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust.

Eden served three periods as Foreign Secretary and then a relatively brief term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.


… It can be argued that no decision taken by Poland in 1935 would have prevented the German-Russian deal that destroyed Poland in 1939 … I am not so sure … I believe Polish leaders would have been wiser to throw in their weight wholeheartedly with the Western powers, including Russia … This might have changed Germany’s actions towards Czechoslovakia, might even have averted Munich

… The rearmament of the Rhineland (in 1936) was an example of Hitler’s brazen but skillful tactics … his illegal deed was combined with assurances for the present and promises for the future … the timing was perfect, including the usual choice of a weekend … his initiative was limited, and did not show evidence of any imminent intent to attack France or Belgium … designed to inhibit effective response … Hitler’s anticipation was that neither of the French nor the British would have any appetite for physical response … He had paid close attention to press reports from France and Britain … And also had spies in both countries

… in Jan 1938 … Roosevelt communicated secretly to Neville Chamberlain … his deep concern with the deterioration of the world situation … he wished to take action along the only lines open to him, given the state of American public opinion … he proposed calling the entire diplomatic corp of Washington to the White House … He would lay before the representatives of all countries the following suggestions: reduction of armaments; equal access to raw materials; laws of warfare … If the response were favorable, the United States government would begin working with selected governments on the details of tentative proposals which could then be submitted to other nations … Roosevelt was communicating with this proposal to the British only, and would proceed only if he received assurance from Chamberlain that the proposal met with the wholehearted support of his Majesty’s government

… Eden’s recommendation was to immediately accept Roosevelt’s proposal … and to make no destructive criticisms or reservations or attempts to define issues more clearly … even if nothing concrete comes from Roosevelt’s proposals in the short-term, they will bring us time and will bring the United States a little nearer to a divided Europe

… but Chamberlain dithered and Roosevelt’s initiative was never made … Eden resigned a month later


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