Thomas Sowell makes a comparison between Germany in the 1930s and Iraq of today. Now before you roll your eyes at another Nazi-Hussein comparison, hear me out. Sowell makes the point that in the 1920s and 30s Germany had been placed under an international edict to disarm.
- Back in the 1930s, Germany’s military forces were limited by a ban on conscription, by limitations on the number and kinds of weapons it could have, and by a requirement that it station no troops in its own industrialized Rhineland. These requirements were in the treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War.
In other words, it was the equivalent of today’s restrictions on Saddam Hussein’s acquiring WMDs. And like Saddam, Hitler pretended to go along with disarmament at first, while continuing clandestine programs. Yet, then like now, we knew that the programs continued. So Hitler, like Saddam, decided to throw off the stealth and begin arming brazenly, daring his enemies to do something about it.
The politicians of the time decided to do nothing, as Bill Clinton did nothing, because it would have been politically unpopular. Meanwhile, others demanded “clear proof” of the build-up, just as the media and others do today. And when there was no action from his former enemies and the League of Nations, Hitler took the next step.
- The key violation—without which he would not be able to wage war—was moving German troops into the Rhineland in 1936, in open defiance of the treaty of Versailles. Both he and his generals knew that the French army was so overwhelmingly more powerful at this point that German troops would not have been able to put up even token resistance if France sent its troops in to oust them. France did nothing. It was the first of many nothings that France did in a series of crises that led up to World War II.
Just as the French do nothing today. And what was the result back then? In the opening days of the war, just a few years later, Hitler conquered France in weeks. What will be the result today? Who will die from our inaction? How many millions of innocents? I’m just glad Bush is no Chamberlain and the US is no France.