_ As a result of World War I, the Great War, it was considered very smart indeed to avoid war at all costs. That’s why Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain were Prime Ministers of England before World War II started. They believed that if they fought Germany, things could get much worse. If they got rid of Adolf Hitler, Germany would turn Bolshevik and Communist. After all, no war could really be won anymore. The experience of the trenches proved that. Everything would end up in a standstill.

This sort of thinking was suspended during World War II, but it exists in Europe today, which has become very pacifist. That’s why Angela Merkel had an address to the German people reminding them that they had to do more to promote the euro as the common currency. She keeps on tying it to peace.

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_ On the way home in traffic after dinner we turned on a CD playing speeches that Churchill made. We soon forgot about the traffic as we listened to what he had to say to the British people in the midst of the Dunkirk disaster. It’s almost unbelievable, though, that so great a statesman — at least in retrospect — has such inadequate information about the French troop movements in Northern France. They were not doing what he was saying. But then he could have been lying to them, too. He went to France on May 16 and saw how defeatist the French were. He spared the British people because he didn’t think they were ready to hear such horrible things.

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_ The mood in London in May of 1940 was very defeatist. Ladies talk about putting sand in the hallways and filling their bathtubs with water. They also were careful to remove photos from the walls. They were preparing to be bombed by the Germans. One lady went to get her hair done and said if she had to be bombed she was at least going to do it with hair nicely arranged. Nobody knew the peril of the troops at Dunkirk or they would have been even more concerned. You can consider it a pre-Blitz sentiment.



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Amiens in Northern France was the town where the British clashed with the Germans in May of 1940. Everything was at stake. They had their backs to the English Channel. The Germans hadn’t gotten this close to England even in World War I.

The British were winning at first, pushing back no less a general than Rommel. But the French were supposed to advance from the south and catch the Germans between them. The French never appeared. Rommel started to throw 88’s at the English. These were originally designed for the Luftwaffe. But they wreaked disaster on British tanks.

From here there was no road for the British but to Dunkirk and defeat — or so they imagined then.

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_ The Germans reached the English Channel on May 20, 1940. If Hitler had given the word, his generals might have crossed the Channel before anyone could prepare to resist them. Certainly they could have taken all the British soldiers at Dunkirk prisoners of war and marched them off to camps. England would have been forced to make peace. Churchill’s ten-day-old government would have fallen. Halifax might have become Prime Minister and he was intent on appeasement anyway.

Perhaps Hitler would have flown the new Prime Minister to the Berghof to sign peace terms. He might have even come to London. It would have been a very different outcome to World War II.

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_ If Hitler had consolidated his moves in late 1938 after the Munich Accords and not invaded the rest of Czechslovakia in March of 1939 we would not have had the Second World War. He would not have provoked the British people. Sentiment would not have turned against him. The Chamberlain government would not have fallen in May of 1940, and Churchill would not have become Prime Minister. He probably would not have even been in the cabinet. Chamberlain felt compelled to bring him in as First Lord of the Admiralty only after declaring war on September 3, 1939.

No war, no Churchill — it’s as simple as that.

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_ Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940. For the next two weeks Hitler won battle after battle and had England on the run. The British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk was trapped on the coast of France. Their prospects looked dim. Hitler could easily have won the war at this point long before America would ever dream of entering the war. The rest of the twentieth century could have been different.

Hitler miscalculated. Churchill persevered. That won the day.

Read Five Days In May.

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_ I’m listening to public radio from the Austrian state of Styria that includes Graz. What seems curious is that it’s supported by the state, which means tax money. In the United States nobody with a public radio would be able to get away with playing nonstop Christmas music of the religious variety on Christmas Eve. Maybe they would have gotten away with it some decades ago, but no longer.

This is Europe. It’s old-fashioned. Maybe we should think twice before we make it just like us, before it becomes the United States of Europe. Don’t we need countries that embrace the old values as well as the new?

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_ Hitler didn’t pursue the English soldiers at Dunkirk. He let them get away and get ferried back to Britain. This allowed Churchill to stay in power. That eventually led to Hitler’s demise five years later.

You could say that Germany fumbled the ball in 1940 and gave up taking on a leadership role for the rest of the century. But now after reunification Germany is poised to lead the EU. It’s got a second chance.

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You might think economics are boring, but the Euro Crisis seemed to be the only economic story that in a worse case scenario could lead to war. Even Angela Merkel said that if the Euro Zone failed, she couldn’t guarantee that Europe would enjoy another sixty years of peace.

Lehmann Brothers might have failed in 2008. That might have caused the collapse of the housing market and the curent recession. But no one feared that it would cause civil war to break out in the United States. But in Europe, fresh from two world wars, friction could lead to armed conflict. England and Germany are at odds again. Germany wants to dominate the low countries and other countries to the East.

The only thing different from one hundred years ago when World War I began is that the United States is the referee.

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