10A017 Lethal Folly by Jim Davies, 9/3/2010

Today is September 3rd. Seventy one years ago, the British government declared war on the German one, in an act of colossal folly.

The pretext was that two days earlier, the German government had invaded land ruled by the Polish one, having itself manufactured a pretext in the form of an alleged border raid by Polish soldiers which was later proven to have been carried out by German ones, as a "false flag" operation designed to enrage Germans' patriotism to the degree needed to support a war. Two months earlier, the German and Soviet governments had struck a deal, a non-aggression pact, which secretly also agreed to divide Polish territory between the two of them. Despite two decades of hostility between those Communist and Fascist states, the deal was generally trusted in Moscow but seen as just a useful temporary arrangement in Berlin; the government there had every intention of conquering the Soviet Union when the timing suited it better. However, the Pact gave the German government assurance that by grabbing the Western part of Poland, it would not run the risk of premature war with Russia.

So what did the Brits have to do with this? - not much. In another act of utter folly it had, without any prompting or pressure, unilaterally "guaranteed the integrity of Poland" six months earlier; something it was obviously incapable of doing, since its armies would have to cross Germany to get there. That had two consequences; first the Polish government trusted that the assurance would deter the German one from invading and so made no serious attempt to negotiate a settlement to the (not unreasonable) demand of the German one for control over the German populated city of Danzig (now Gdansk.) That intransigence pushed Hitler to invade or give way, and his domestic popularity would have been heavily damaged had he given way. The other consequence was that the British government "had" to keep its word - something all good Englishmen are supposed to keep - or itself lose voter support.

The unpredicted factor, which triggered WW-II, was a sea-change in British public opinion during that Summer, 1939. Until then, it was solidly behind Chamberlain's peace-seeking "appeasement" policy. But then it swung round, for reasons I can ill explain. By September, had Chamberlain gone back on his word given in March with so little thought - not expecting it would ever be called upon - he'd have been in a box. Had he broken that promise, he would have been replaced within a year by someone else who would have kept it.

And so these ridiculous and lethal games that governments play resulted in the fifty- to eighty-million deaths of World War Two. None of it could have happened, had zero government societies prevailed; even if in just one (in the UK, say, or the US) the resulting carnage would have been far less.

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