The Real Lesson of the Rhineland

William Kristol, one of the big kahunas of neoconservatism, has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post criticizing the Obama administration for “accepting” Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. (Of course, Kristol doesn’t use the word “alleged.”) I don’t have time to respond to all his points, but his opening paragraph gives me an opportunity to repost one of my most popular columns from my early days at the Hazleton Standard-Speaker. Here’s the prompt from Kristol:

In March 1936, Hitler occupied the Rhineland. The French prime minister, Leon Blum, denounced the act as “unacceptable.” But France, Britain and the rest of the world accepted it. Years later, the French political thinker Raymond Aron commented, “To say that something is unacceptable was to say that one accepted it.”

Comparing Iran to Nazi Germany plays fast and loose with history to a dangerous degree, as I explained in May 2008:   Continue reading “The Real Lesson of the Rhineland”

The “Leverage” Meme Rears Its Ugly Head

This morning, I open the Washington Post opinion section to see this headline: “In Afghanistan, real leverage starts with more troops.” Coming as this does only a few weeks after we celebrated the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I will reprint part of a past post. I wish I didn’t have to repeat this message, but we fall into the same damn trap time and time again:

Sadly, it seems our government learned the wrong lesson when the Berlin Wall fell. Again, when it comes to American history, we have an uncanny ability to remember only what we want to.   Continue reading “The “Leverage” Meme Rears Its Ugly Head”

Yea, We Get It Already. Afghanistan = Vietnam. Now Can We Do Something About It?

In the umpteenth attempt to drain some forgotten lesson out of Vietnam and apply it to Afghanistan, the New York Times publishes an op-ed from retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Sorley. To Sorley’s credit, his analysis is carefully reasoned and more specific than most such comparisons. But Sorley suffers from the crucial leap of logic that Boston University military historian and former Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich keeps harping on: mistaking tactics for strategy.   Continue reading “Yea, We Get It Already. Afghanistan = Vietnam. Now Can We Do Something About It?”

The Somalia Syndrome Continues to Go Untreated

Jason McLure had a good article in Newsweek last week giving the history and latest sad news on Somalia:

An estimated 3.8 million need humanitarian aid (fully half the population), according to the U.N.’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia, which calls the crisis the worst since 1991–92. In the past six months alone, the number of people forced from their homes by fighting—between the country’s barely functional transitional government and Islamist insurgents—has grown by 40 percent, to 1.4 million. Most live in squalid camps that a new report from Oxfam calls “barely fit for humans.”

It is, however, easy to miss the bigger picture in McLure’s story. I call it “the Somalia Syndrome.” Here is how I explained it in the Hazleton Standard-Speaker in January:   Continue reading “The Somalia Syndrome Continues to Go Untreated”