As an alternate question, how about this.
As so many times before, a smaller European nation found out it was becoming a playing piece among the major powers of Europe. For Munich Agreement, the Czechoslovakian government was not consulted. How about if they would have flatly refused? With no good options, just bad and worse options, what if - with the realisation that their country will become undefendable - they would have read the omens and decided to stand out, even alone if necessary? Would Hitler have attacked regardless? If so, would it have played out any differently? Compared to what happened, where Czeckoslovakia was dissolved in a relatively short time frame. Similar fates to Baltic states under the threats from USSR, mind. Appeasement did not work out that well for them either.
Again, Finland provides an alternate example, as she refused the USSR demands that would have made the country undefendable. To this day, some, but not many, Finnish politicians and historians (I leave their political views out of this discussion as politics are not to be discussed here) are of the mind that Winter War could have been avoided if only Stalln would have got his initial demands instead. Yet, Finland only survived the Winter War because of a set of more or less extraordinary events, but it all started from decision to stand up.
If Czechoslovakia would have decided to fight instead, would the anti-Hitler alliances formed out quicker, would there ever been a Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, ...
Again, Chamberlain hardly is the villain here. I know that is not what the OP asks, or hints, but worth writing down perhaps.
Please see post 50 for my thoughts. We know Hitler would have ordered Case Green - what every country (and the plotters amongst the German General Staff) does after that? Who knows? As said would the Czechs beat off the Germans? Would they quickly succumb? or what? And without knowing that its all just so much guess work.
To continue this off-tangent, I did read your posts, also I did watch the video first. Which was excellent and quite interesting while at it. Again, the original quesion is a most intriguing one: Did Chamberlain do the right thing? I went back and worth on my own though process, not between "yes" or "no", but "yes" and "I don't know". Hindsight not allowed, I could not conclude he did the wrong thing, per se. Sudetenland and 1938 was not "it", imho.
I do agree with the panelist that 1935 and Abessinia was a missed opportunity. The Navy could have so easily kept Mussolini at bay, showing a strong deterrence, and indeed, showing the UK politicians "are not eunuchs". That in mind, in 1940-1941 the Italian embargo did play a strong role in Mussolini choosing Hitler. That, and of course the fact Hitler's Germany had humiliated everyone and appeared all-powerful and non-stoppable.
As for the Munich Agreement, with no hindsight, and keeping in mind it was about 3 million Germans joining Germany proper, i don't see how the public would have agreed to go to war against Germany on those premises. Nor was Anscluss, either. It is such a devilish dilemma with 20/20 hindsight though, as those two annexations left Germany so much stronger.
Which brings me back to my question, or rather pointing my finger at Czechoslovakia instead. Reverting to old bacon-and-eggs joke, and how the chicken participated in preparing breakfast, the pig committed. Yes, Chamberlain participated (strongly) in Munich negotiations, but Czechoslovakia committed to it. If indeed the Sudetenland had her best defences there, the question in black and white was: does she give them up, or does she keep them? Czechoslovakia went with it, with a terrible price, while Hitler received quite an inventory of war material and factories for his use.
So in my mind, it was not Chamberlain, it was the Czechoslovakian government who made the most terrible decision on appeasement. With 20/20 hindsight of course, but it was their call, ultimately. A war against Germany was of course a terrible option, but when the price at the table is your survival as an independent state, it comes ultimately to making a choice there. One of the panelists suggested the war might have been over in a matter of days, but that is of course what was the expected outcome of invasion of Finland by USSR as well. Who knows? Very difficult to speculate, and of course a terrible option for Czechoslovakia as well. I have no doubt Hitler would have done anything butt attacked, and I don't believe there would have been a coup in Germany either. Everyone was terrified of Hitler, there was no coup when Germany attacked France, either, while most of the German Generals were really scared of the potential outcome of Fall Gelb.
-- Edit: and how it played out in history, from this point of view, was how it logically should have played out, too? Annexation of Czechoslovakia finally opened up everyone's eyes to the fact there was no role for diplomacy anymore. From now, it was the arms who'd do the talking. Also, Stalin would have never done anything else given the options. Decadent European powers bleeding each others to death, leaving Europe ripe for pickings, how would he say no. So we are where we are. --
While the past is easier to forecast then future, it is not simple either. I don't know but the overall situation with Czechoslovakia in 1938. Can anyone recommennd a book going in detail about this?
Interesting post re the Czechoslovakian take.
I suppose on the one hand one could say Benes did the only sensible thing by the Czech people - it was made clear he would be taking his country to war without the possibility of help coming their way so there would be hundreds of thousands of deaths - many civilian - for little purpose.
On the other hand, as you say, no one knows what would have happened so why not stand firm and see what happens - maybe help will be forthcoming (particularly if they put up a good defence) and worst case the Czechs will be remembered for making a stand against evil. Maybe the reality was that mobilisation would be too badly affected by the loss of the Sudeten Czechs?
But even if help doesn't arrive and they go under, is life for your average Czech really going to be any worse than what life was likely to be like under the Nazis? Or did they too believe that Hitler wouldn't seek any more after the Sudetenland?
I've never really read a critique of Benes and Co's actions. Would be interesting to read.
I am not blaming Benes as such, just curious to learn more as how and why the decisions in Czechoslovakia were made, at the time. As you wrote, the options were terrible. They just did not have any good options, just bad, and worse, with hindsight required to see how this decision played out.
Again, the safe assumptions Benes could have made were that yes, Hitler would attack, and that outside help was questionable at best, after Munich Agreement. I would not have USSR being available to "help" at this stage a feasible option at all. No one would trust their "help" (hence the parenthesis), and also, they were not much in a shape to help anyone, with the officer purges etc.
And, crucially, there was no prequisite as what it truly means to have appeasement with Hitler, or Stalin for that matter. Czechoslovakia decided to trust the agreement, to their demise. Baltic countries decided to trust their agreements, to their demises. And of course, we have not much touched the subject of how to work with a a pot of nationalities such as Czechoslovakia after the Great War. There are sound reasons why Czechs and Slovaks wanted their independent states after the Cold War. And at the time it was more complex, even.
So, anyone with a good book to recommend on the topic of pre-WW2 Czechoslovakia?