North Korea, Iran, and the Lessons of History

Comparing our foreign policy to the feckless behavior of England and France in the Thirties is often dismissed as an overused and simplistic historical analogy. But when one watches our government pursue appeasing policies toward North Korea and Iran that over and over repeat the very same errors and delusions of that awful decade, then as Juvenal said about writing satire, it’s hard not to make those comparisons.

One lesson from the Thirties is that appeasing an aggressor encourages not just that one, but also another. The key act of appeasement of that decade’s many took place in March 1936, when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland with 22,000 unseasoned troops and 14,000 policemen, violating both the Versailles and Locarno treaties. Facing them were nearly 100 French and Belgian divisions. Of course they did nothing, even though, as Hitler later confessed, “If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs.” With that daring move, Hitler had taken a huge step toward protecting Germany from Allied counterattacks when he invaded Czechoslovakia and then Poland, and acquiring Germany’s traditional launching pad for his invasion of France and air attacks on England.

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