The Iranian deal has called to mind the Munich Agreement of 1938. Then Britain and France signed away the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia, in hopes that Adolf Hitler would be content with absorbing the German-speaking Sudetenland borderlands and cease further territorial acquisitions. But that appeasement only accelerated Nazi atrocities, from Kristallnacht at home to the dismemberment of all Czechoslovakia and, the next year, the invasion of Poland.
Is the Munich disaster a sound analogy for the current proposed agreement with Iran?
General Eisenhower speaks with paratroopers prior to the invasion. (Photo via Library of Congress)
Seventy years ago this June 6, the Americans, British, and Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious invasion of Europe since the Persian king Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 B.C.
About 160,000 troops landed on five Normandy beaches and linked up with airborne troops in a masterful display of planning and courage. Within a month, almost a million Allied troops had landed in France and were heading eastward toward the German border. Within eleven months the war with Germany was over.
An ascendant Vladimir Putin is dismantling the Ukraine and absorbing its eastern territory in the Crimea. President Obama is fighting back against critics that his administration serially projected weakness, and thereby lost the ability to deter rogue
regimes. Obama, of course, rejects the notion that his own mixed signals have emboldened Putin to try something stupid that he might otherwise not have. After all, in terms of planes, ships, soldiers, nuclear strength, and economic clout, Putin must concede that he has only a fraction of the strength of what is at the disposal of the United States.
In the recriminations that have followed Putin’s daring intervention, Team Obama has also assured the international community that Putin is committing strategic suicide, given the gap between his ambitions of expanding the Russian Federation by threats of force and intimidation, and the rather limited means to do so at his disposal. Perhaps Putin is pandering to Russian public opinion or simply delusional in his wildly wrong calculations of all the bad things that may befall him.
Do any of those rationalizations matter—given that Putin, in fact, did intervene, plans to stay in the eastern Ukraine, and has put other former member states of the former Soviet Union on implicit notice that their future behavior may determine whether they too are similarly absorbed?
History is replete with examples of demonstrably weaker states invading or intervening in other countries that could in theory or in time bring to their defense far greater resources. On September 1, 1939, Hitler was both militarily and economically weaker than France and Britain combined. So what? That fact certainly did not stop the Wehrmacht over the next eight months from invading, defeating, and occupying seven countries in a row.
Hitler was far weaker than the Soviet Union. Still, he foolishly destroyed his non-aggression pact with Stalin to invade Russia on June 22, 1941. Next, Nazi Germany, when bogged down outside Moscow and having suffered almost a million casualties in the first six months of Operation Barbarossa, certainly was weaker than the United States, when Hitler idiotically declared war on America on December 11, 1941. Continue reading “The Hitler Model”→
The new administration party line is that Putin is now weak and acting out of just that weakness by sending troops into Ukrainian territory — a sort of chihuahua who took on a pit
bull because he knew he was weak.
But even weak states do not typically invade others because they accept that they are weak (and thereby expect to lose?), but usually because, even if weak, they at least still expect to be strong enough to win. Even demonstrably weak Mussolini apprised the political and military landscape and thought that he could win something when he opportunistically invaded a tottering France in June 1940.
Of course, the point is not so much whether Putin is acting out of weakness and frustration at Obama’s purported strength (a fantasy), or even whether he is acting out of strength due to Obama’s clear weakness (most likely), but rather that he is acting at all.
This summer will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and we should reflect on the “lessons” we have been taught so often on how to avoid another such devastating conflict. Chief among them seems to be the canard that the Versailles Treaty of 1919 that officially ended the war caused a far worse one just 20 years later — usually in the sense of an unnecessary harshness accorded a defeated Imperial Germany.
An obscure academic organization called the American Studies Association not long ago voted to endorse a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli universities. The self-appointed moralists were purportedly outraged over the Israeli
government’s treatment of Palestinians.
Given academia’s past obsessions with the Jewish state, the targeting of Israel is not new. Yet why do the professors focus on Israel and not Saudi Arabia, which denies women the right to drive and only recently granted them the right to vote? Why not Russia, which has been accused of suppressing free speech, or Nigeria, which has passed retrograde anti-homosexual legislation?
The hip poet Amiri Baraka (a.k.a. Everett LeRoi Jones) recently died. He was once poet laureate of New Jersey, held prestigious university posts, and was canonized with awards — despite being a hateful anti-Semite.
After 9/11, Baraka wrote a poem that suggested Israel knew about the plan to attack the World Trade Center. One of his poems from the ’60s included this unabashedly anti-Semitic passage: “Smile, jew. Dance, jew. Continue reading “The Israel Double Standard”→
The interim agreement negotiated by the Security Council and Germany with Iran is a serious advance toward what Winston Churchill called the Munich agreement: “a total and unmitigated defeat” and a “disaster of the first magnitude.” Nothing in the agreement guarantees that Iran will fulfill its promises, or that inspectors will be allowed access to all of Iran’s enrichment facilities, let alone its secret sites, or that serious consequences will follow violations of the terms of the agreement. Continue reading “Obama’s Munich”→
In a story describing President Obama’s six conversations with Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi that led to the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the New York Times summarized Obama’s estimation of Morsi. Obama told his aides “he was impressed with the Egyptian leader’s pragmatic confidence. Continue reading “The Ghosts of 1938 Still Haunt Our Foreign Policy”→