Saturday, August 16, 2008

Re, French could have preempted Hitler in 1936

Okay, I've now heard Lydia's comments. They avoid the question of why France and Britain, especially France were unwilling to enforce the Locarno Treaty and very likely prevent World War Two. They also avoid all of the points I made in my first note aside from an unsupported, “your historical comparisons are radically flawed,” some of which have implications for the present. As Goebbels said in his diary as he assessed the reactions to the Germany’s military acquisition of the Rhineland in violation of the Locarno Treaty, “The Fuhrer is immensely happy . . . The entry has gone according to plan . . . The Fuhrer beams. England remains passive. France won’t act alone. Italy is disappointed and America uninterested.”

Lets examining America’s disinterest: Isolationism is a thread that runs through the history of America’s Foreign Policy. At various times this view has been the predominant view of the American voters. Let Europe handle its own problems. What do European wars have to do with us? Americans by and large had no interest in European matters. We remember from Walter Russell Mead’s Special Providence, American Foreign Policy and How it changed the world that the Jacksonian Viewpoint which is our most warlike element is also the element most likely to be Isolationist. We’ll fight if we’ve got a good reason, but we don’t think rushing to the aid of some foreign nation is a good reason. Thus, Wilson had to educate the populace as well as the congress about the implications of letting Britain, France, etc go down to defeat in World War One. Frankly Wilson’s arguments haven’t held up that well. There wasn’t as much at stake as Wilson said there was. The world would probably have been better off, as well as avoiding World War Two if it had let the war wind down to a stalemate. It might even have been better off if Germany were allowed to have won World War One.

In any case, after World War One, when Johnny came marching home, America went back to its isolationism. That had better be the war to end all wars because we aren’t going to do it again.

Most Americans weren’t even paying attention when Germany reacquired their Rhineland in violation of the Locarno Treaty. Lydia doesn’t care about that, but she does care that America didn’t rush smartly to Britain’s defense in 1939. But the US remained largely isolationist in 1939. FDR had to engage in the same sort of campaign that Wilson did to get the Jacksonians off of their farms and into uniform. FDR saw the need to support Britain but the typical American didn’t. From page 589 of Kershaw’s Hitler, 1889-1936 by the way, we read that Britain and France would have been justified in chasing Germany out of the Rhineland – and they could easily have done it. France could have done it by itself.

So rather than returning to the US well-known reluctance to enter the war in 1939 because of its well-known isolationism (Our isolationism was clearly Foreign-Policy bungling, I’m not defending it), how about some attention paid to Britain and France’s less well-known bungling of Germany’s violation of the Locarno Treaty.

Also, it is at least interesting that after the US abandoned its Isolationism and was willing to slap down an incipient Hitler by means of a preventive war (I would put an astrersk after calling the resumption of the Iraq war a new preventive war, but many Europeans call it that), many Europeans would like to put the Genie back in the bottle.

My observation is that prior to WWI and WWII American didn’t trust the Europeans to stay out of wars. During these wars, the US had no confidence that our friends could win these wars without our help. And now that WWII is over, we have no confidence that the Europeans know when to take preventive action to avoid more serious wars.

We are a bit over-extended now in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, so we’re going to have to rely on NATO to take care of the Georgian problem and France to take care of Iran . . . pretty funny, huh?

Lawrence Helm

No comments: