President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have spent a lot of time citing laws and treaties that the Russians have violated by sending troops into Ukraine. Kerry said this sort of action could have been expected in the 19th century but has no place in the 21st century, in which diplomacy should be in the forefront and not the military.
I suspect their reading and understanding of history must be through rose-colored glasses.
The last century saw the most destructive wars in history, with two world wars leading the list. Like so many wars, World War I occurred because of the actions of smaller countries and their treaties with the great powers. Ancient times saw that occur frequently, especially with the Greek states and their allies, and the Roman empire with its entanglements. Afterward, the English and French thought that anything was better than war. The Germans believed that their politicians had sold them out in the Treaty of Versailles, which subjected them to harsh reparations. As Adolf Hitler assumed more power, the German military was rebuilt.
Although the French had the largest military in Europe, the overall strategy was on defense and thus they built the Maginot Line to prevent tanks from moving freely. The German military looked at the lessons learned from the 1914-1918 war and made corrections. German air power was improved, along with tanks and other weapons. Although this was in violation of the peace treaty, the Allies did nothing. Hitler sensed the weakness of will by the Allies and moved into other countries. He moved into the Rhineland in 1935 and the allies did nothing.
Hitler annexed Austria in early 1938 and the allies did nothing. He went into the Sudentland in Czechoslovakia, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet with Hitler. He returned with a treaty signed by Hitler and proclaimed, “Peace In Our Time.” Czechoslovakia ceased to exist. Only when he invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, did the allies finally act. France had a treaty with Poland and declared war when Hitler would not withdraw from Poland. The French could have rolled into the small German force but didn't. Hitler had gambled and won. What followed was almost six years of World War II, with the destruction of Europe, Japan, Philippines, and many of the Pacific islands leading to Japan.
Weakness of will and the belief that “nothing is worse than war” was an overwhelming feeling among the French and English, especially those who sacrificed so much during Word War I. Those countries that were overrun by the Germans or Japanese found out the loss of freedom is much worse than war. Most of the experts on war teach that one must “know your enemy.” Since we are such a special country, we assume that others think the same as we and want the same things. We must look at the enemy as he is and not as we would like him to be. Each of our potential enemies is taking aggressive action now because they see weakness, and it is not so much weakness in ability, but in will.
There are steps that can be taken to confront each of these potential enemies that do not include physical force, but that physical force must be available. Each of our potential enemies has weak points that can be tweaked. Until we show both our friends and our enemies that we will not be intimidated and start to respond, the aggressive actions will continue.
Donald Myers is a retired Marine colonel and regular contributor to Hernando Today. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.