One of the few widely held generalities about history is that it tends to “repeat itself.” Of course, far fewer people can recall George Santayana’s complete quote, and fewer still take it seriously.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
In that vein, let me quote an interesting passage from an article in the Wall Street Journal:
“A large portion of modern wars erupted because aggressive tyrannies believed that their democratic opponents were soft and weak. Often democracies have fed such beliefs by their own flaccid behavior. Hitler’s contempt for America, stoked by the policy of appeasement, is a familiar story. But there are many others. North Korea invaded South Korea after Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that Korea lay beyond our “defense perimeter.” Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait after our ambassador assured him that America does not intervene in quarrels among Arabs. Imperial Germany launched World War I, encouraged by Great Britain’s open reluctance to get involved. Nasser brought on the 1967 Six Day War, thinking that he could extort some concessions from Israel by rattling his sword.”
(For the full article, click here: Opinion Journal.)
The most ominous parallel for me is between the West’s currently flaccid response to Islamism and its previously limp reaction to German statism (in its early Twentieth Century incarnations).
As I watch American politicians try to extricate America from any Middle Eastern entanglements, I am reminded of America’s efforts to do the same in Europe with the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s.
At the time, the New York Herald Tribune characterized American policy initiatives as attempting to “preserve the United States from intervention in the war of 1914-1918.”
The same seems to be true now. Everyone is dissapointed with the results of the Iraq war. No one wants a repeat of that scenario, and Americans are so desparate to put the whole thing behind them that they are refusing to see the emergence of a much larger, truly evil threat.
Islamist Iran is the new Germany. That is obvious.
Israel has already grudgingly played the part of Czechoslovakia in permitting its rightful territory to be partioned, but that process is proceeding tortuously and will not go as smoothly as the previous notorious dismemberment.
America, which does not learn from history, will play the same role as before.
Russia may adopt its previous role as abettor of evil, although China may prefer the part in this context.
I wonder, who will be the next Poland?
I would not at all be surprised if the next time the West goes to war, it will be over a country that we do not intend to defend, but which, by our own incompetence, we become obliged to support out of shame for our refusal to see and failure to act.