By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
Following World War I, most believed it was the war to end all wars, and we have all read the history and watched the movie reels.
Little did anyone know that two decades later, the second world war would almost double the number killed.
Why did World War II have to happen? Why didn’t we learn the lessons from history and prevent it?
The situation we face today is almost identical to the period between those wars, and yet we are repeating the same mistakes for the same reasons.
Austria and Crimea.
World War II did not start with gunfire. Germany’s quest for land came by supporting pro-German population in Austria that wanted to join Germany. Adolf Hitler simply annexed the country and drove into roaring crowds. The claim was simple, Germany was repatriating the Austrians back to the mother country.
Earlier this year, Vladimir Putin did the same thing with Crimea. In both cases, the takeover took place without a shot being fired.
Sudetenland and Eastern Ukraine.
The next quest for land in an effort to “repatriate” Germans occurred a couple of months later in the Sudetenland, an area of land between the border of Germany and Czechoslovakia.
Hitler said it was the last land area needed to unify the German people.
This one was a little more complicated, and European powers like Britain and France met with Hitler in Munich to discuss why this was necessary.
In the end, neither France nor Britain thought a stretch of land near Czechoslovakia was worth fighting over, and they granted Hitler the right to take it without any representation from Czechoslovakia.
The Czechs could have fought for it, but with no allies and a well-armed opponent, they agreed to cede the Sudetenland.
Today, Putin is claiming that pro-Russian pockets in Eastern Ukraine should be free from the pro-Western Ukrainian government, and he is more than willing to add those provinces into the Russian fold.
The Western powers are talking about sanctions, but no one is willing to defend a stretch of land between Russia and Ukraine.
American economy in extended recovery
During the rise of Hitler, the United States was struggling with its own economic troubles during the Great Depression. After the Wall Street crash in 1929, the country turned away from pro-business Republican policies and supported a progressive pro-government approach. What resulted was a hampered and slowed recovery as Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted policies to create government jobs at the expense of a private sector recovery. The Depression would last 12 years and would take America’s involvement in World War II to finally break free from depression.
President Obama also took over during an economic downturn and promised a government solution. That was more than six years ago, and the recovery continues to limp along.
In both cases, America had no interest in foreign altercations, becoming isolationist and ignoring major world events and where they would lead.
What happened/happens next.
After Hitler took the Sudetenland, he violated the Munich Treaty a year later and expanded into Czechoslovakia. France and Britain again did nothing and instead drew a line at Poland.
Sept 1., 1939, Germany invaded Poland.
What will happen next now is uncertain, but if history is any indication, Poland will again be vulnerable as it is just West of Ukraine.
Once Putin takes Eastern Ukraine (and he will take it), with no resistance, he will grab other parcels until he has the entire nation. Over the weekend, Putin said he could be in Ukraine’s capital in two weeks if he wanted to, and he is right.
No one will stand up to him, because we are “war weary,” just like we believed we were in the 1930s following World War I.
We will watch a nation fall to a dictator and not care. And then Poland is another “buffer” the Russians need to insulate themselves from the West.
All because no one had the courage to stand up for Ukraine now and turn back the threat.
Had Britain and France stood up to Hitler in Munich, perhaps 60 million people would not have died. Maybe the attempted extermination of the Jews would never have happened.
History is repeating. We’ve read this book and watched the movie, and we are about to be a part of the sequel whether we want to be or not.