President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have spent a lot of time citing laws and treaties that the Russians have violated by sending troops into the Ukraine. Kerry added that this action was similar to 19th century action and not the 21st century where diplomacy should be in the forefront and not the military. I suspect that their reading and understanding of history must be through rose colored glasses. We could go back to ancient times and travel up to the present to discover that aggressive actions by tribes, cities, states or countries have consistently occurred against other entities. There are very few times when a war was not occurring somewhere in the world.
The last century saw the most destructive wars in history with two world wars leading the list. Much like so many wars, the first world war occurred because of the actions of smaller countries and their treaties with the great powers. Ancient times saw that occur frequently especially with the Greek states and their allies and the Roman empire with its entanglements. Following World War 1, the English and French thought that anything was better than a war. The Germans believed that their politicians had sold them out and that resulted in an unfair armistice that subjected them to harsh reparations. As Adolph Hitler assumed more power, the German military was rebuilt.
Although the French had the largest military in Europe, the overall strategy was on defense and thus they built the Maginot Line to prevent tanks from moving freely. The German military looked at the lessons learned from the war and made corrections. Air power was improved along with tanks and other weapons. Although this was in violation of the peace treaty, the Allies did nothing. Hitler sensed the weakness of will by the allies and moved into other countries. He moved into the Rhineland in 1935 and the allies did nothing. The French had the largest Army, but the country was in a financial bind and mobilizing would have been a cost that they did not want to take.
Hitler annexed Austria in early 1938 and the allies did nothing. He went into the Sudentland in the Czech republic and the British Prime minister flew to meet with Hitler. He returned to England with a treaty signed by Hitler and proclaimed, "Peace In Our Time." The Czech Republic ceased to exist. Only when he invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 did the allies finally act. France had a treaty with Poland and declared war when Hitler would not withdraw from Poland. At this particular time, almost all of the German forces were in Poland and the French could have rolled into the small defending German forces in the west before reinforcements could arrive from Poland. Hitler had gambled and won. What followed was almost six years of World War II with the destruction of Europe, Japan, Philippines, and many of the pacific islands leading to Japan.
Weakness of will and the feeling that "nothing is worse than war" was an overwhelming feeling among the French and English especially those who sacrificed so much during WWI. Those countries that were overrun by the Germans or Japanese found out the loss of freedom is much worse than war. Most of the studied experts on war teach that one must "Know your enemy." Since we are such a special country, we assume that others think the same as we and want the same things. We must look at the enemy as he is and not as we would like him to be. Each of our potential enemies are taking aggressive actions now because they see weakness and it is not so much weakness in ability but in will.
There are steps that can be taken to confront each of these potential enemies that does not include physical force, but that physical force must be available. Each of our potential enemies have weak points that can be tweaked. Until we show both our friends and our enemies that we will not be intimidated and start to respond the aggressive actions will continue.
Donald Myers is a retired Marine Colonel and regular contributor to Hernando Today. Email him at email@example.com.