Listening to President Obama’s second Inaugural Address yesterday, one might believe that the United States is currently living safely away from the rest of the world. The president said very little about foreign affairs and what he did say should seriously concern any American who knows a thing about history.
Sadly, few of our citizens have an even rudimentary knowledge of history these days. If it didn’t happen to Kim Kardashian, it’s not worth thinking about evidently. President Obama is clearly counting on the public’s combined ignorance and lack of interest as he pursues an extremely liberal domestic agenda.
The few lines President Obama did utter during his speech yesterday is reminding many political pundits today of a figure who historians recall rather unkindly these days—British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
For those of you who swear you’ve heard of him but can’t quite recall what he did, Neville Chamberlain is the Prime Minister who met with Adolph Hitler as the Germans began absorbing neighboring countries to see if something could be done to stop the land grab before the Germans planted a flag in London.
Together, Chamberlain and Hitler signed the Munich Agreement in 1938 whereby the poor souls who Hitler already absorbed were basically stuck, but thanks to Chamberlain’s “diplomacy,” Hitler promised not to invade any more of Europe than he already had. After the signing, Chamberlain proudly proclaimed “peace in our time.”
I hope everyone knows enough about history to know what happened next. Yep—I don’t think the ink had dried on that agreement before the German army rolled into Poland and Chamberlain was left with historic egg on his face.
Because these words hold such an unfortunate historical connection to what followed, namely World War II, it was quite shocking to hear Obama utter these same words, “peace in our time,” in his Inaugural Address.
Recently, I’ve been reading articles in the European foreign press. Evidently, they are quite concerned about the United States’ current foreign policy of essentially “leading from behind.” Under that policy, we’ll help in a crisis but we’re clearly not taking the lead anymore. Over the years, Europeans have invested a great deal of their GDP on building a strong social welfare state and counting on the United States to come to their aid in a military crisis. With the rise of terrorist affiliates in northern and western Africa, they are now expressing a bit of angst over our lack of interest in getting our hands too dirty going forward.
We all know (I hope) about the peril Iran poses to the Middle East and ultimately to the rest of the world. In his Inaugural Address, Obama alluded to the situation by strongly suggesting that he’ll seek diplomacy as the way out of the crisis. If he fails? Evidently, we’re just not going to think about that right now.
Obama has suggested that the United States may “pivot” its efforts towards Asia. Why, you ask? Well, there are energy rich islands the Japanese call the Senkakus Islands to which Japan and the Philippines lay claim. The problem is the Chinese also claim them. In our little E Entertainment News bubble over here, not many of us seem aware that the whole dispute could get very ugly very fast in the Pacific. After World War II, we entered into a treaty with Japan to defend them if attacked. Both the Chinese and Japanese are talking about increasing their military capacity and looking askance at one another in a saber rattling sort of way right now. If things deteriorate quickly, we could find ourselves in a military confrontation with wide economic repercussions.
While all this is going on, we’re currently looking at cutting our military capacity considerably. We did this after World War I, too. By the time World War II started, we were woefully unprepared. In fact, this lack of preparation was one of the reasons the Japanese found our base at Pearl Harbor so attractive. They figured if they could knock out what naval force we did have there, they could pretty much rule the Pacific for a very long time.
Here’s another little lesson from history (I’ve decided my blog will feature lots of these in the future so get ready), whenever one power retreats from a part of the world, it’s not long before another power sweeps in to replace it. The United States has acted since World War II as the world’s policeman in essence because we didn’t want to take the chance that another Hitler or someone like him would gain a foothold somewhere in the world.
Have we been perfect? No, but without a doubt we provide the best option for maintaining a more peaceful world.
The old saying “history repeats itself” is very true. If we adopt the kind of isolationist thinking Obama suggested in his address yesterday, we may very well be simply rolling back the clock to the 1920’s and 1930’s and sadly destined to relive the 1940’s all over again—only this time in a war with friend and foe alike using nuclear weapons.