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1939 Redux, Not Ready Again

March 7, 2022 Frontpage No Comments

By DEACON MIKE MANNO

Anybody who remembers anything about history must feel like they are living through the American Revolution and the pre-war period of European history while watching the daily news. And even though it was a bit before my time, I can almost hear Edward R. Murrow’s broadcast opening, “This is London….”
Unfortunately, for far too many of our students today, the lessons of history are lost in favor of a mixture of progressive theology and pointless woke ideology. Today’s events are a stark reminder of just why our schools need to treat history as a major ingredient of the academic curriculum at all levels in every discipline.
In 1939 the European peace — what there was of it — was shattered when a megalomaniac named Adolf Hitler, the chancellor of Germany, invaded Poland despite his assurances to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, dean of the school of diplomatic appeasement, and Britain’s European allies that he would take no further military action against his neighbors. He even gave Chamberlain a signed paper that guaranteed “peace in our time.”
Well, needless to say, Chamberlain didn’t last too long as prime minister after that. In came Winston Churchill and World War II in Europe was on. But what gave Chamberlain the idea that der Führer would agree to a European peace?
Hitler already had his eye on expansion well before he invaded Poland, claiming that German citizens were being separated from “the fatherland” by the redrawing of European boundaries after World War I. Thus he leveled claims on several European territories. Even before his troops entered Poland, he sent his army into the industrial Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles then into an area in Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland, where he claimed over three million German nationals lived.
During this time Herr Hitler was threatening or had sent troops into, among others: Austria, Bohemia, Lithuania, and Moravia, all the time telling his European counterparts that each one was the last he would demand. He later even signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, which he later violated, much to the dictator’s ruin. And, of course, in between he was conducting the crudest of warfare while killing Jews, Gypsies, and anyone else he considered inferior or an enemy.
Now look at today’s headlines. Here we are confronted by another megalomaniac, this one named Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, who has now started wars of annexation against, among others, Chechnya, Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, North Caucasus, and Crimea. And he did so by making similar claims to those made in the 1930s: These are historic Russian lands populated by Russian people.
And now Ukraine.
Now I understand the desire of the European democracies and the United States not to rush into a ground war against a nuclear power. But what I don’t understand is why the world leaders have not learned the lesson from history that you cannot achieve peace by appeasing a bully as was done in the 1930s and is now being done by the modern Adolf Schicklgruber in Moscow.
Part of the problem is that confronting a bully is something unpleasant, or something — most importantly today — that will cause a re-evaluation of plans and goals. In short, it is inconvenient and as long as we want to stick our heads in the sand and just let the world go on its merry way, we are enabling these modern little tyrants to push the boundaries to the point where honest men will finally react.
For some reason our leaders, warned of the disaster awaiting Ukraine, took the Neville Chamberlain School of Diplomacy to heart and refused to act to take command of the situation, especially in the knowledge that in 1994, at the urging of the West, Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal for an agreement by the United States, Great Britain, and Russia to guarantee Ukrainian independence.
But they didn’t learn the Chamberlain lesson and now it is coming back to wreak havoc around the globe. First and foremost they should have sized up Putin’s trump card: energy. He survives by selling energy to the world and our leaders have not only allowed him to do so, but to appease their supporters in the Progressive Left they have conducted a war on “evil” fossil fuels.
Had our energy production not been disrupted by the short-sighted policies of the Biden administration, we would be producing more than enough oil and natural gas to fill all of our needs with plenty left over to assist our European allies. Instead we are left to buy from Putin which allows him to finance his criminal war in Ukraine. One will hope that the current administration will recognize the error of its energy decisions and make a change in course.
Somehow, however, I’m not optimistic that it will, and the State of the Union Address gives no suggestion that it will do so. We were not ready for this, despite the claim otherwise.
If it does, it might at least ameliorate some of the damage it has already done. Unfortunately, that is not the biggest problem right now. The decision to delay sending weapons to Ukraine when we first realized there would be war will, unfortunately, come back to bite the Ukrainian people, who desperately need the assistance.
But one thing we can do to assist: Pray for the brave resistance. In victory or defeat they are giving the world a lesson in courage; President Volodymyr Zelensky will stand in history with the likes of our own George Washington, Patrick Henry, and the Sons of Liberty. Hopefully their actions will be taught to the generations to come.
Hopefully the world leaders will get their acts together. In 1939 it was too late to avoid the calamity of war. Had members of the establishment of the day stiffened their spines, Hitler might just be only a footnote of the past.
But I think we still have time, limited as it might be, to avoid disaster, to avoid following in the footsteps of Neville Chamberlain and remembering the words “This is Kyiv. . . .”

  • + + (You can reach Mike at: DeaconMike@q.com and listen to him every Thursday morning at 9:30 CT on Faith On Trial on IowaCatholicRadio.com.)
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