The Awful Parallel
Winston Churchill wrote a memoir about World War 2 , the personalities, circumstances and events leading to the outbreak of the war. His review of these events in "The Gathering Storm" begins after the end of World War 1 and the Treaty of Versailles, under which the Allies and the League of Nations forced draconian war debt reparations on Germany. The post-war naivety of the victorious Allies with respect to their place in the world and their responsibility to maintain the peace, as history shows, resulted in a downward spiral of denial and political pandering, both domestically and on foreign policy matters that would lead, inexorably to another war.
Tired of war and looking for a "peace dividend" the Allies began in the early 1920's to disarm, decommission navies and armies and ignore weapons development and preparedness for war. In the meantime the onerous conditions placed on the German economy as punishment for war ruined Germany's economy and national pride, leading to the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist Party, the Nazis.
A series of missteps and miscalculations by diplomats, and the election of increasingly socialist and isolationist politicians in the western democracies encouraged Hitler's National Socialists in Germany to break post war treaty agreements, surreptitiously re-arm and create an armed force second to none at the time. Hitler's diplomats went to great lengths to assuage the nervous Western governments -- they lied. When the Great Depression hit Europe, the allied countries adopted Keynesian spending polices, deepening and prolonging the Depression. While the West spent money it didn't have on social programs and waste, Hitler built his armies and annexed the Rhineland of France, all of Austria and the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia.
Churchill was a lone voice sounding a warning through the mid 1920's and the 1930's. Various British Prime Ministers concluding with Neville Chamberlain -- who famously declared "Peace in our Time" weeks before Hitler crushed Poland -- convinced themselves that negotiating with Hitler and imposing sanctions on his allies, despite all evidence to the contrary, would secure the peace. The rest is history.
The parallels of the lead up to World War 2 with the current conditions in the Western world are troubling. The cast of players has changed, but the characters remain. The result of years of socialist policies is that Europe is once again on the brink of financial collapse. The people of many European nations are withdrawing into almost tribal enclaves, preparing for the worst. In place of the tyranny of the German National Socialist Party of Hitler, radical Islam oppresses much of the Middle East. Paralleling widespread support of Fascism by progressive elites in the West is now a troubling acquiescence to radical Islam by western governments and media. In Hitler's role we cast Ahmadinejad of Iran, racing to create nuclear weapons and, like Hitler and the National Socialists, threatening the Jews with extermination. Like Hitler, Iran's diplomats lie and obfuscate, buying time to complete their preparations for attack.
Chamberlain's part is aptly played by US President Barak Obama, whose foreign policy is one of apology, appeasement and isolationism. Obama uses the diminishing influence of the US to dissuade Israel from defending itself, while encouraging radical and corrupt Islamic governments to become bolder. At the same time Obama's domestic policies and those of the Euro-statelets result in huge cuts to defense spending and an alarming lack of preparation, and no stomach to engage in any armed conflicts, hoping instead that sanctions and talk will replace action. The descent of the countries of North Africa, particularly Libya and Egypt from relatively stable, and tacitly western-friendly states to Islamist, western-hating states is the direct result of Obama's muddled foreign policy -- and something for which the media congratulates Obama endlessly. Obama and the media believe his actions will bring peace in our time.
Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad has declared his intentions. Like Chamberlain, Obama denies the obvious. Like the Allies following World War 1, the Western democracies have allowed socialist domestic and spending policies to bankrupt their economies and comprise their national security. All of the players are in place and field is set. We may well be watching this generation's gathering storm.
It is said those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. We have our Fascist tyrant and our naïve appeaser. We desperately need our Churchill.
Mark Walker is group publisher, Black Press.