In the comments, reader Nurglitch seems to be confused by a reference I made some days ago regarding the advantage of being feared rather than loved on the international stage.
More than two thousand years ago, the Athenian historian Thucydides set down how nations deal with each other. It has nothing to do with morality, justice or sentiment, instead “the strong do what they have the power to compel and the weak accept what they must.”
Nothing has changed since he wrote that. For all the talk about “soft power,” the currency of international relations remains raw military power (Stalin’s “How many divisions has the Pope?” is a corollary to this). Military power has several components, the most important of which is the will to use it. That is what allows weaker aggressors to take the initiative.
Contra Nurglitch’s confusion, I thought it was pretty widely known that Germany was pathetically weak in 1933. With a puny army, no navy, no air force and its armaments industry in cold storage since 1919, it had very little leverage in foreign affairs.
In about five years, Adolf Hitler completely transformed the balance of power. He broke the Versailles treaty with impunity, annexed Austria, occupied and fortified the Rhineland, dismembered Czechoslovakia and then helped himself to the choicest parts.
A stand by France at almost any point would have resulted in Hitler’s overthrow. The Wehrmacht knew they were weak. In fact, when Germany marched into the Rhineland, the troops carried with them orders to retreat the instant France intervened. That would have been fatal to his government.
When Hitler threatened war over the Sudetenland, the Wehrmacht made detailed plans for a coup, moving loyal troops close to Berlin under the guise of a strategic reserve. Neville Chamberlain’s famous effort to mediate the conflict at Munich cut the legs out from under the generals.
I guess people have been conditioned to think any reference to Hitler means EVIL!!!11!! but here at the Posse we don’t get the vapors when studying history. Hitler’s diplomacy was masterful. He converted the Soviet Union form an implacable foe to a willing accomplice in the partition of Poland and also brought Italy over from the Stresa Front it formed with Great Britain and France.
All of this is widely known and well-documented. Winston Churchill wrote about it extensively. William Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” covered it as well.
The lesson is clear – an aggressive foreign policy can pay handsome dividends without war. The thing with Hitler was that he actively wanted war (because he was a lunatic).
Obviously ol’ Adolf comes with a lot of emotional baggage (particularly when idiot trivialize his crimes by comparing the deaths of 12 million people to Trump’s tweets), but I figured he was more accessible than Metternich or Renaissance Italian princes.
In the same vein, Vladimir Putin isn’t Hitler. He’s a Russian nationalist who has taken a weak hand and run rings around the feckless and weak-willed Obama administration.
His carrier strike group is an embarrassment (they’ve already lost two fighters to mishaps), but it’s enough to dominate the eastern med.
Trump’s decision to talk directly with Taiwan’s president is a great example of this. Much of the constraints placed upon the West are self-inflicted. Who put Communist China in charge of US policy? Our presidents talk to whoever they want!
I see the foreign policy establishment is claiming this is a huge disaster, but I think a greater one was when our ambassador to Libya was killed in 2012 and we did nothing about it.
Where was the liberal handwringing over that colossal blow to our prestige?
Trump’s move sends an early signal that the US will assert its interests. Though it may sound dangerous, it’s actually a lot more stable than what Obama did, where US threats and promises were completely meaningless.
Weakness invites challenges; strength discourages them. By offering a clear and unambiguous assertion of American power, Trump is letting the world know that if they don't want trouble, their best policy is to leave us alone. The alternative is one in which the world's bad actors constantly test our will and our defenses, trying to find out exactly when and where we will fight back.
It only seems like a paradox to leftists whose knowledge of history extends no further than 2009. For students of history, however, it is a welcome and calming development.