Britain was not prepared for war in 1938. Neville Chamberlain had no illusions about Hitler. He did the right thing in Munich.
Some other words of Churchill’s are too rarely quoted. They are from one of the finest and most moving, though least known, speeches he ever gave, paying tribute to Chamberlain after his death from cancer in November 1940. It had been Chamberlain’s fate "to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man," Churchill said. "But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? . . . They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour."
In his bow to Chamberlain’s memory, Churchill showed a magnanimity and wisdom that others have lacked. "Long and hard, hazardous years lie before us," he continued, "but at least we entered upon them united and with clean hearts."
Never once did Churchill advocate preemptive war, and he always recognized that democracies should use arms only as a last resort. Maybe the presidential candidates should be asked whether the United States entered the Iraq war "united and with clean hearts." That could be the real "lesson of Munich."