Skip to comments.The History Rhymes Enough to Justify Taking Comparisons to 1936-1938 Seriously
Posted on 03/07/2014 5:40:44 PM PST by No One Special
Historical analogies to current events can be illuminating, but dangerous. Even if strong similarities exist, difference do too, and therefore caution is required when using them.
This is especially true with analogies to Naziism and Hitler. Argudendo ad Hitlerum is fraught with peril, and is used far too cavalierly.
Hillary found out about the perils when she compared Putins incursion into Ukraine-and yes, Crimea is Ukraine-to Germanys actions in 1936-1938: the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss, the taking of the Sudetenland, and the eventual seizure of the rest of Czechoslovakia. Her remarks unleashed a storm of criticism.
Mark this day in you calendars. I am going to come to Hillarys defense, sort of. (As to why that is particularly remarkable, consider this bit of personal history.)
There are strong parallels between what Putin/Russia is doing in Ukraine now, and what Hitler/Germany did in 1936-1938. Most notably, seizing pieces of sovereign territory, using as a justification the imperative and right to defend fellow ethnics, and putting on sham plebiscites to justify the seizures.
Moreover, there are very strong parallels in the response of the European nations to Hitlers aggression and Putins: that is, no real response at all. A palpable fear to confront the aggression. A willingness to concede one flagrant violation of a sovereign nation if the aggressor crosses-his-heart-and-hopes-to-die that he will be satisfied with what hes taken so far.
There is also a parallel in the cravenness of many in the West (Britain and France in the 30s, Britain, France and Germany in the 2010s), particularly a call to recognize the aggressors legitimate interests. (This is epitomized in the current situation by this piece in Reuters. Complete apologetic BS.)
But the pushback comes: Putin isnt Hitler!
Well, Hitler wasnt Hitler in 1938. That is, we look back at events in 1938 seeing what transpired in the 1940s. In 1938, no one had any idea of the monster that Hitler was to become. In many ways, he was perceived like Putin is today. An aggressive advocate of his nations interests, redressing historical injustices. A reasonable, rational actor who would stop advancing once his nations legitimate interests were recognized, the historical wrongs reversed, and his co-ethnics protected. Hitler then and Putin now were also widely viewed as ridiculous figures, prone to bizarre public displays, and hence not really dangerous.
And thats exactly why making parallels to 1936-1938 are entirely appropriate. Those judgments proved horribly wrong, and the consequences were horrific beyond belief.
Putin neednt be anywhere near as evil as Hitler for the consequences of unchecked Russian aggression to be horrible indeed. Meaning that the lesson of 1936-1938, that checking an aggressor can forestall truly frightening consequences, is valid today. (And even Hitler could have been checked. He was virtually petrified with fear when he went into the Rhineland. It was the failure to stand up to him then which emboldened him in the years to come.)
Whats the downside of taking robust economic, non-military measures against Putin today? Some modest economic pain. Whats the upside? Deterring unpredictable, and potentially disastrous actions by an erratic autocrat emboldened by the weakness of his adversaries.
As insurance policies go, it seems like a very reasonable purchase. Yes, we dont know what Putin will do. We dont really know his ambitions. We cannot look into his soul. We dont know how his behavior will change if nations opposed to him cave at every turn.
But is precisely that uncertainty which makes paying a premium today a bargain. Hitler demonstrates what the tail risk is. Putin doesnt have to be nearly that far into the tail to be a grave danger to vast multitudes.
Better to take something of a hit now, in order to reduce substantially the risk of a future calamity.
Thats the lesson of the 1930s. And Putin doesnt have to be as evil as Hitler to make it imperative to take heed of that instruction.
Putin is a million times more dangerous than Hitler. Putin could destroy the Human Race with one command....he has thousands of nukes....Hitler had 0.
A bullet in both their heads would have been and would be ....a great idea.
Also, Putin isn’t “bat shirt crazy”.
If Eisenhower didn’t take action over Soviet brutality in Hungary nor LBJ over Czechoslovakia nor Reagan over Poland nor W over Georgia, I don’t think that Russian actions in the Ukraine need to put us in a panic.
if they had, we wouldn’t have this problem now. In fact, the Cold War would have been won quicker with less blood.
Hitler... Putin ... Hitler.... blah blah blah. Is that a good summary? The fact is the German people were nihilists, even those who didn’t vote for Hitler. Also I haven’t seen those massive rallies with people raising their right arm in the air.
I thought this article was about the United States...
Care to expnd on that thought or connect your dots?
Were there as many apologists for tyranny then spouting the tyrant’s propaganda on Free Republic as we have now on this forum?
Someone’s in a panic? Who could it be?
The German people were people who lost a terrible war and wanted to regain there self-respect. Hitler provided the vehicle and before the Germans realized what was really happening, it was too late.
I’ll let you destroy the obvious analogy that should come to mind if you have been following events going back say 25 years.
People are people. They do what they need to to survive.
The History Rhyme we need to pay the most attention to is the Spanish Civil War 1936-39.
For once, Hillary is at least partly right. The parallels between the arguments for Hitler’s takeover of the Sudetenland and Putin’s takeover of Crimea are very close. And so are the parallels between the responses of the Western leaders.
It’s more like Hitler marching into the Rhineland.
‘36 to ‘38 was before my time on FR ;-)
That part is not really true, Hitler didn't take them for a ride, they hopped on board willingly and denied all the bad parts.
Ill let you destroy the obvious analogy that should come to mind if you have been following events going back say 25 years.
It's not bad for an historical analogy but it's cherry picked from many possibilities. The basic problem with it is that the Russians are doing pretty well selling gas to Europe. Putin is not promising them to regain earlier Soviet glory nor or they signing up in droves for such a thing.
I was thinking of 1936-1938 as the time when Germany was consolidating and extending her brutal domestic police state.
Just like we’re doing here. Of course, I’m not sure that local German police departments were being issued fully automatic weapons, Tacticool Wehrmacht military dress, armored vehicles, and were expected to kill the dogs of the German peasantry as a matter of course.
I agree that a Russian seizure of the Eastern Ukraine would be like Anschluss - and I believe it would be just as popular.
Any Austrian who said in 1950 that he was against Anschluss in 1938 was probably a liar.
AFTER Hitler destroyed Germany, including German Austria, sure, it was seen in retrospect as a bad idea. But at the time? And without foreknowledge of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the insanity of Barbarossa?
Reunification of Donetsk and Kharkov to Russia is a good idea. As good, in fact, as reunification of Galicia to Poland and Slovakia. It does not necessarily imply NS-type ambitions to Putin, and in fact there is little evidence to support that interpretation.