Misrepresenting history
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-11-13
Among those who have been endorsing convicted former president Joseph Estrada’s all-out war mantra, you will occasionally read the analogy being forwarded that paints President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) as another Neville Chamberlain of the UK. Chamberlain was British Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940.

Many had faulted British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for allegedly appeasing Adolf Hitler during their September 1938 meeting, instead of repudiating the Nazi Fuehrer. By signing the Munich Agreement on September 30, 1938, Chamberlain allowed Hitler to acquire the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. Some historians felt that the Munich Agreement did not bring “Peace for our time” as Chamberlain claimed upon returning to London. Instead, it emboldened Hitler and less than a year later, Hitler invaded Poland — triggering World War II.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the “evil eyes” have grabbed the Munich Agreement of Neville Chamberlain as a convenient handle for reinforcing what they’ve been trying to project P-Noy — the image of a weakling and an appeaser. The financial grants to the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the ABB (Alex Boncayao Brigade) are being projected as the “appeasement” tools of a “weak” president instead of these grants being appreciated within the proper context of peace dividends.

The analogy could find traction in a public mind that’s over entertained and under informed. The analogy however is shot full of holes. Consider the following: 

1. When the appeasement charge was hurled at Chamberlain by British hawks like Winston Churchill, they had no idea how strong the German armed forces had become. The German Blitzkrieg routed the combined forces of the UK and France in 1940. Seeing how ill-prepared the British and French were — from the point of technology and tactics — Sun Tzu’s dictum comes to mind. You should never start a war that you can’t win. The British-French defeat in the Battle for France had vindicated Neville Chamberlain.

2. German invasion and conquest of the UK was only averted by the miraculous victory of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Battle of Britain. A German tactical error, shifting bombing attacks from the British airfields to British population centers, allowed the RAF to regroup and refit. With British control of the air, German invasion of the UK was ruled out.

3. Knowing the maniac for conquest that Hitler was, there was no assurance that he would have junked his expansion plans had Chamberlain put up a stiff resistance to the Sudetenland takeover. It’s speculative to say that Hitler would have postponed invading the Sudetenland, which would have effectively started World War II in 1938. Seeing how pathetic the British-French forces were in the Battle for France, they would have been routed just the same if the war had started in 1938.

4. The UK and its other allies would not have been able to defeat Germany if the US did not enter World War II. When Chamberlain met with Hitler in Munich in 1938, the US was staunchly isolationist, focused on coping with the trauma of the Great Depression. This was a compelling factor for Neville Chamberlain to avoid war.
5. It is therefore wrong to blame Chamberlain for his decision to cede the Sudetenland because it was clearly the right policy decision to make at that time, under those conditions. His accuser, Sir Winston Churchill, made far worse decisions during World War II when he became head of the Admiralty and Prime Minister. The Fall of Singapore and Operation Market Garden were but some of Churchill’s monumental blunders.

P-Noy, in a way, is under similar pressures and constraints in attempting to forge a lasting peace in Mindanao. He knows that we don’t have the resources to fight a war. The Filipino capacity for living with the costs of war is uncertain. We are after all a nation of bellyachers.

Unlike the British, who shine during times of severe adversity, how will the Filipinos react if terrorist bombs start exploding with frightening regularity in Metro Manila and other urban areas? How will Filipinos react when the funds for the CCT (Conditional Fund Transfer), K + 12 and Universal Healthcare programs have to be drastically reduced in order to support the war effort? How will Filipinos react when investors flee, along with capital, and jobs are lost?

Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos had a better economy during the first three years of Martial Law but Marcos sued for peace and our country signed the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. The first three years of the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos enjoyed an economic upturn but Ramos went for all-out peace in Mindanao.

With an MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) that’s believed to be getting external support, P-Noy has to worry about whose side the US is really supporting. The message of Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell praising P-Noy’s all-out justice policy carries an unsaid US message that they will not support an all-out war. P-Noy can run to China but will he take that risk?

It must be noted that P-Noy’s all-out justice policy was also praised by the European Union and Japan. The US, European Union and Japan were actively pushing for the aborted MoA-BJE (Memorandum of Agreement - Bangsamoro Juridical Entity). There is more to the Mindanao problem than just forging a peace deal. Powerful nations have major interests to pursue — their quest for oil, minerals and military capability to control the South China Sea — and the Moro sub-state is key to all these. Our country must necessarily factor all these when selecting our options.

If Filipinos understood the full dimensions of Neville Chamberlain’s actions in the 1938 Munich Agreement, they would better appreciate the wisdom in the recent actions of their president in seeking a lasting peace in Mindanao. Unfortunately, television and radio — the media that best penetrate national households — are more preoccupied with showbiz and its intrigues. They’ve abandoned their duty to inform and clarify.

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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