Joan and I are vacationing in France, specifically in the Normandy region. Because we are with some of our kids and grandkids, we thought we ought to spend time in the Caen-Normandy Memorial and pay our respects at the Normandy American Cemetery. And of course we visited Omaha Beach. All very interesting, worth spending a day. It gives you a better look at what the Europeans experienced before, during, and right after the war, especially World War II.
One thing that struck me at the Normandy Memorial was the story of Britain’s prime minister signing a peace treaty in Munich with Adolf Hitler AFTER Germany had taken the western part of Czechoslovakia. The thought was that we needed to appease Hitler. We all know what happened to that. A year later Germany attacked Poland and World War II had begun. We in the U.S. didn’t do much better, wasting lots of precious time convincing ourselves that Hitler was indeed a monster and that our intervention was necessary to restore democracy. Who does indeed not want peace? “Imagine,” John Lennon sings, “all the people livin’ life in peace.” No wonder that song is consistently rated at the top. But, unfortunately, peace does not come free. We’re not “all people sharing all the world.” Not yet at least.
So letting Bashar al-Assad use chemical warfare on his own people and letting Vladimir Putin take the Crimea were clearly grave errors of judgement. It gave brutal rulers the green light to continue their behavior.
“Only fools and idiots want war,” Carl Sandburg once said (in the early 1940s), but sometimes the issue comes before a nation: Will you fight a war now or would you deliberately choose another later inevitable war — against an antagonist that may have become stronger and more confident of victory because of the refusal to fight earlier?
Are we never learning lessons from our history?