The ghost of Neville Chamberlain


President Barack Obama stands in that shadow


Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of 1930s Great Britain, went to Munich, Germany to seek peace with Hitler. The “ghost” of Chamberlain refers to his miscalculating achieving “peace in our time” (a phrase used by President Obama in his second inaugural). Chamberlain’s miscalculation enabled World War II.

As this column is written, the president has not yet addressed the nation or the congress. Was he persuasive? Did he convince Congress to commit to the doctrine of “We go to war in our time to achieve peace in our time?”

The president painted himself into a corner, as victimized by his staff as Jimmy Carter was by his. Was Secretary of State Kerry’s unscripted remarks that the U.S. would not strike if Syria turned over its chemical weapons within a week a gaffe or clever transition to what is now U.S. policy, preventing having to take action, especially as the vast majority of Americans oppose intervention?

Russia’s Putin, ever the master geo-politician, manipulating both Europe and the United States, accepted it, check mating us. Kerry has enabled The Putin Plan.

If the president acts contrary to congressional wishes, impeachment could result, not just from Republicans who dream of tarnishing his legacy, but also from Democrats who say if he goes to war in Syria they would support impeachment. That’s not to say impeachment would be successful, but, as we saw with Clinton, it is an exhausting, time-taking process, bringing much senior level activity in government to a standstill that could cause security vulnerability.

Our country is weary of war, weary of sending sons and daughters into conflicts on foreign soil, weary of there being no end game, weary of not being told the truth. Even the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated, when asked at a recent congressional hearing, he didn’t know what the end game was. Will acting or not acting in Syria deter or encourage would-be terrorists?

When then Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the misleading information given him by our intelligence community to the U.N., it enabled wide agreement to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Americans and most of the world are cautious and suspicious of American intelligence community’s statements of “facts.”

Can the president sell the American people and Congress on limited surgical strikes? Will the Putin Plan’s end game enable the president to not bomb and still save face? Why am I’m writing about Syria? Because war interferes with education, jobs and housing.

As Charles Rangel, the respected African American senior congressman from New York, said last week, in a message he sent to the president: instead of getting involved in another war, he should combat poverty, gun violence, and discrimination at home with “a war on poverty, a war on income inequality, and a war on food insecurity.”

We hope the president listens to how weary people are of talk of war with neither a plan for jobs, better education, better housing, nor for a fairer criminal justice system. For a dozen years, this column has emphasized jobs (the Vikings Stadium still excludes Blacks), better education and training (too many still being poorly educated, thus being unqualified to get a good job), housing (affordable only with a job), and public safety (which would be greatly enhanced if equal access was provided instead of discrimination against Black youth, dispersing them to gangs on city street corners instead of to careers and families.

Let us hope that the shadow of Neville Chamberlain does not suffocate another American administration in our time. Will it be peace through strength (“speak softly but carry a big stick”) or merely “peace through war”?

Stay tuned.


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