Drawing lessons from Munich

The elegant opinion-page column ``Lessons of Munich - relevant 50 years later,'' Sept. 29, while brilliant and illuminating, is largely irrelevant both in the context of the '30s and of the '80s. The notion of ``democracy and unity, more than raw force,'' as the ``key to resisting oppression'' is naive and wrongheaded as long as multinational corporations dedicated to the armaments industry see profit in equipping regimes which seek to deny democracy and unity.

The British and the French found themselves in a dilemma vis-`a-vis Czechoslovakia because of their joint failure to prevent the full-scale resurgence of Nazi Germany's military machine as mandated by the 1918 Treaty of Versailles.

The upside of Hitler's fascism, as American and European multinational corporations and banks quickly discovered, was that it was good for business.

Fascism's downside - anti-Semitism and appetite for new territories - took a back seat to profit. One must never forget that Hitler led Germany out of its depression. Pursuit of profit usually takes precedence over policy.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, former United Nations ambassador, in a dazzling display of conservative logic, once stated, ``I prefer the dictators [of Latin America] to the communists, because at least we can do business with them.''

With the possible exception of Dr. Armand Hammer, the multinationals have always perceived communism as bad for profit.

The surrender to Nazi Germany resembled a hostile corporate raid triggered when Hitler smelled ``blood in the water.'' The hapless Czechs and their prized Skoda factories - whose weapons were unwelcome competition to Germany's Krupp works - were put into play by a nervous and obliging Anglo-French leadership. Sadly, no white knight appeared to save them. LeRoy Woodson, Seal Beach, Calif.

This column overdraws some lessons from Munich. Since there was a sizable German minority in Czechoslovakia, it is not helpful to speculate that if the Czechs were united, Hitler would have had second thoughts about attacking that nation.

At the end of World War II, the United States, despite its pledges and commitments to democracy, was unwilling to militarily confront the Soviets in Eastern Europe. The US was war weary.

Notwithstanding the treaties with Czechoslovakia, France and England were still exhausted from World War I. Neither intended to appease Hitler; both, however, willed the consequences of their acts. Realpolitik overcame treaty commitment. Elliott Cohen, New York

Students as priority Regarding the article ``A man for all reason,'' Sept. 29, profiling David Riesman, sociologist and educator: It is rather jolting to read of an educator who is something of an aberration because his first priority is student success. Isn't this a given?

Many excellent teachers are sustained by the firm conviction that their very reason for being is to enhance student success.

When the individual teacher is motivated by one criterion - the success of each student - the results will speak for themselves.

The power of a good teacher is immeasurable. He teaches by his very presence. Anne Vinson, Pleasant Ridge, Mich.

Renouncing alcohol I was very pleased to read the article ``Reynolds heir blows smoke in tobacco industry's eyes,'' Oct. 4, telling of Patrick Reynolds's conviction and courage in breaking the family tradition of ownership in the tobacco industry by selling his stock and working toward a tobacco-free society.

Shouldn't those involved in the sale or distribution of beer, wine, or liquor who know the effects of alcohol renounce alcohol with equal conviction and courage? Daryl Meyer, El Paso, Texas

More for the powerful Regarding the article ``UN tries to slow deforestation by boosting African timber industry,'' Oct. 4: Streamlining the timber industry in tropical Africa may well make the operations more profitable, but in no way will it improve the dire poverty of the common people.

As most of the timberlands belong to the respective governments, the people in power will get more money, but it is most unlikely that any of that will filter down to the populace. Louis Mihalyi, Chico, Calif., Prof. of Geography California State U

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