Those that don’t read history are doomed to repeat it. Yet, those that do read history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everybody else repeats it. From a share by Vern Smith of a United Humanists facebook post.
When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna. Napoleon
I am reading Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War by Patrick Buchanan. Buchanan was an advisory and speechwriter for President Nixon and is way to the right of me, so I am a little surprised that I am reading him. I am even more surprised that I agree with him much of the time. Buchanan’s main premise is that World War I was unnecessary and that the draconian demands – by the Allies in a righteous fit – put on Germany after the War, led to World War II.
I half agree with him on World War I, after all, England’s king, George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert), was related to Germany’s king, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and they were both related to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. In many ways, they stumbled into a war that almost nobody wanted. Of course, very few people had any idea how horrific WWI was going to be and, when the carnage was over and the allies had won, the Allies wanted Germany to pay. But Germany didn’t think that World War I was all their fault and they didn’t really feel that they had lost as much as they agreed to stop fighting. Compared to northern France, Germany was relatively untouched, after all, and – in many ways – life in Germany, right after the war, went on as if nothing had happened.
However, at the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was stripped of 13% of her territory and 12% of her population. The Germans had lost the peace and were humiliated. They were seething. That seething provided the energy to bring Hitler to power, it became the motivator for Germany’s rise from their indignation. Instead of being the war to end all wars, World War I became the setup for World War II.
I think that the same thing happened when we won the cold war. Like Germany, Russia didn’t really think the Cold war was all their fault and that they were punished for making peace. The Russians thought that they had lost the peace more than they had lost the war. We stripped Russian of its buffer zone, moving NATO all the way to the Russian border. There are Russians living outside of Russia all around Russia – in Georgia, in Ukraine, in Estonia where one-quarter of the population is Russian, and in Latvia with about one-third of its the total population being Russian – and they had been betrayed by the peace.
By all accounts, Russians are thrilled with the way the Russian bear is roaring, they love Vladimir Putin. They think he is bringing Mother Russia back its dignity. Various politicians and pundits are worrying about the Cold War coming back if we don’t ________________ (insert your own theory). I think that they are almost right, except that the Cold War is already here and has been since Russia’s Duma recognized Abkhazia and the Russian Army rolled into Georgia in 2008 (during the administration of George Bush the Younger, for those with short memories).
Russia is pushing back just like Germany did when its troops marched into the Rhineland, and we will not like it, but there is not much we can do except move troops around and install sanctions. I don’t think that Cold War II will turn into a shooting war but I do think it will involve a lot of pushing around the edges and posturing. It will make it much harder to solve our mutual problems.