Sarajevo F. Kennedy met with soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin

Sarajevo &
Munich

Sarajevo and
Munich are political shorthands for diplomatic crises following the First and Second
World War. Munich action of advocating
a tough response to aggression through military action, a reflection of
how World War II started when Britain and France made the mistake of failing to
confront Hitler during the 1938 Munich crisis

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Meanwhile, Sarajevo’s
warning against the drift to war
reflected of how World War I started where Europe heedlessly slipped into war
following the assassination of an Austrian archduke in Sarajevo.

 

At the end of
World War II, the “Munich” analogy had dominated western thinking even though
it had led western leaders astray on many occasions.

E.g. John
Kerry, then US secretary of state, first coined the term by calling Syria’s use
of chemical weapons on civilians “our Munich moment”. He later called for
missile strikes against the Assad regime, claiming that the move was as a
necessary demonstration of the western resolve.

E.g. President
Lyndon B Johnson similarly invoked Munich when justifying the Vietnam War.

E.g. Supporters
of the Iraq war cited Munich in urging military action against Saddam Hussein

 

In contrast,
Sarajevo was used in the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis at the height of the cold war.

E.g. President
John F. Kennedy ignored advisors urging him to take military action while his
brother attorney general Robert F. Kennedy met with soviet ambassador Anatoly
Dobrynin and engaged in diplomatic negotiations to resolve the tense situation.
Russia later pulled out of involvement from Cuba while America withdrew
missiles in Italy and Turkey under the UN inspection.’

 

While both analogies
were equally popular and believed in back in that day, in present times, it
seems that the threat of a “Sarajevo” is more prominent in the than a “Munich”.

E.g. China is
disputing with several countries, including Japan, just as how Germany
confronted its neighbours during the start of World War I.

E.g. The US,
worried by the rise of China, may be pulled into an Asian conflict by its alliance
with Japan, similar to how the UK was pulled into World War I due to its
alliances with France and Russia

 

However, there
are still many national leaders that are insistent on appearing strong to
preserve their credibility and seldom back out of conflicts, approaching
rivalries with the Munich mindset. This kind of playground logic is unfortunately the dominant mode of thinking in
international affairs. The Munich mindset is still so entrenched that a real
intellectual shift would be required to change it.

E.g. Neither
China or Japan are prepared to look weak by backing off in the East China Sea

E.g. The US is
also unwilling to cut back on US naval patrols near China’s coast, which would
show weakness.

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